Saturday 21 October 2017

Leicester fight back to breathe life into their season

Everton 1 Leicester 2

Leicester’s Ahmed Musa is congratulated by team-mates. Photo: PA
Leicester’s Ahmed Musa is congratulated by team-mates. Photo: PA

Goodison Park

Ahmed Musa scored twice to remind Leicester City that sometimes, still, everything can go their way as they came from behind to beat Everton.

It was at this venue last season that the thought that Claudio Ranieri's men could pull off the impossible first became a concrete reality.

Everton's Romelu Lukaku and Leicester City's Ben Chilwell tussle for possession. Photo: Reuters
Everton's Romelu Lukaku and Leicester City's Ben Chilwell tussle for possession. Photo: Reuters

Yesterday, in circumstances very different, this famous arena may again be the ground that convinces their fans that all will be fine this season.

A hard-working 3-2 victory here in December 2015 confirmed they were genuine top-flight contenders and although a lot has happened in the time since - including becoming the most wonderfully unlikely Premier League champions in history - a relegation battle seems an inevitably this season.

Yet Ranieri named a strong side, including new signing Wilfried Ndidi, as he sought to bring buoyancy and momentum back into Leicester's season. He was emphatically rewarded. Musa superbly sealed a fine comeback win and although the FA Cup might not matter in some corners, for others its rejuvenating properties may yet know no bounds.

While this victory might start rescuing Leicester's season - and boost their confidence is nothing else - Everton manager Ronald Koeman wanted the occasion to help him continue to rebuild Everton's campaign.

Leicester City's Ben Chillwell challenges Everton's Gerard Deulofeu. Photo: PA
Leicester City's Ben Chillwell challenges Everton's Gerard Deulofeu. Photo: PA

The club's majority shareholder, Farhad Moshiri, promised at the midweek AGM that the club would not become a 'museum' and it has now been nearly 22 years since a trophy was brought to this corner of Merseyside; a vast gap considering Everton's silverware-soaked period in the 1980s.

With that in mind, Koeman had promised to "go for it" in this contest and also selected his strongest possible XI. Yet the commitment to this competition shown by the respective managers did not translate into a classic. Far from it.

Two shots on goal - one apiece in the first half - underlined the abject standards on offer. Neither team erred or excelled, nobody brought disgrace nor delight. It was just one of those afternoons.

Everton youngsters Tom Davies and Mason Holgate were bright and honest while Romelu Lukaku and Enner Valencia also worked hard but highlights were non-existent and as the opening half progressed, Leicester settled into a counter-attack groove, interested in little other than the occasional optimistic foray forward via Demarai Gray and Leonardo Ulloa, before the latter was lost to injury after half an hour.

The 'magic' of the FA Cup this was nay.

Everton poked and prodded in the second half, helped by a Goodison Park crowd that finally awoke and the introduction of Gerard Deulofeu from the bench, but they could not truly hurt Leicester while one close-range header from Leicester captain Wes Morgan ominously showed that they could still offer the odd threat themselves.

Eventually, something of note happened after 63 minutes as the effervescent Deulofeu finally opened the visitors defence, sliding an inch-perfect pass towards Lukaku, who could not miss from a yard out for his 17th goal of the season.

Yet no sooner had Everton scored than Leicester were level.

Concentration has long been an Everton weak point and they were guilty of that here as Musa snuck through the home side's defence to bundle past a helpless Robles at the second time of asking.

Before Musa, Leicester or Everton knew it, the visitors were in front, as five minutes after his first, he carved his way through the home defence and calmly beat Robles to turn the match on its head.

It was some comeback and what it could do for Leicester's season - in both this competition and the league - remains to be seen. Could they beat the drop and win the FA Cup?

Who knows. Yet stranger things have happened; just ask Leicester.

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