Wednesday 25 April 2018

Chris Wood's equaliser disrupts Everton's momentum

Leicester City 2 Everton 2

Leicester City's Chris Wood celebrates after scoring a goal against Everton. Photo credit: REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Leicester City's Chris Wood celebrates after scoring a goal against Everton. Photo credit: REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Everton's Steven Naismith (centre) and Romelu Lukaku (right) stand dejected at the restart after Leicester City score their second goal. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Leicester City's Paul Konchesky (left) and Everton's Aiden McGeady battle for the ball. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Everton's Aiden McGeady (R) scores a goal against Leicester City Photo credit: REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Everton's Steven Naismith scores his side's second goal against Leicester. Photo credit: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

Ed Aarons

CHRIS WOOD'S equaliser ensured Leicester's return to the Premier League after a decade away began on a positive note, but the Everton manager, Roberto Martinez, will be wondering how this one got away.

Everton dominated and deservedly led through goals from Aiden McGeady and Steven Naismith, but a lack of urgency in the second half allowed Nigel Pearson's side back into the game when they had looked dead and buried.

As the Everton manager knows all too well, two points can be vital when it comes to the crunch in the race to finish in the top four, and, even at this early stage, they are already playing catch-up.

After the blow of losing Ross Barkley for up to two months with a knee injury earlier in the week, at least Roberto Martinez was able to call on new permanent signings Gareth Barry and £28m striker Romelu Lukaku, while the other fresh arrivals, Muhamed Besic and Christian Atsu, had to make do with a place on the bench.

Leicester had their own club-record signing leading the line in the form of Leonardo Ulloa - albeit for £20m less from Brighton.

The early signs were promising for the hosts, with Riyad Mahrez looking dangerous when he cut in on his left foot against an Everton defence missing Seamus Coleman. But, having matched their opponents, a cruel stroke of luck and a brilliant finish from McGeady give the visitors first blood in the 20th minute.

After a corner, a tame shot from 30 yards from Leighton Baines deflected straight to the unmarked Sylvain Distin. Kasper Schmeichel was out quickly to smother his effort, only for McGeady to curl an unstoppable shot right into the far corner.

To their credit, Leicester did not let their heads drop, and were level within two minutes. Ulloa rose highest to meet a corner from Anthony Knockaert, and was pleasantly surprised to see the ball fall for a simple finish.

Anchored by Barry and James McCarthy in midfield, Everton made most of the 
running. McGeady should have done better when presented with a golden chance to score his second, while Naismith's shot from distance missed by a foot.

But, having served warning of his goal threat, the diminutive Scot was not to be denied. On the stroke of half-time, John Stones' cross found Pienaar at the back post and the South African did well to set up Naismith to restore Everton's lead.

Despite an appearance on the pitch from world snooker champion Mark Selby at half-time, the hosts continued to find possession hard to come by as Everton dominated the middle of the pitch.

When their chance did finally come, it was a moment Jeffrey Schlupp will not want to remember in a hurry. The winger had only just replaced Knockaert when he was played in by Dean Hammond, but with just Tim Howard to beat, his first touch was lucky to land in row Z.

Other than that, there was little to worry the Everton defence, which was marshalled superbly by Phil Jagielka.

Having taken a theatrical dive that saw referee Mike Jones conned into booking Barry, Ulloa was withdrawn in favour of Wood, and immediately, Leicester looked more of a threat. Barry was then lucky to escape a second caution after blocking the run of Mahrez into space when the break looked on. The Algerian had the last laugh, however. With four minutes left, a jinking run left three players in his wake, before his shot deflected straight to the unmarked Wood in acres of space. The New Zealander made no mistake to draw Leicester level.

A superb clearance from Liam Moore at the other end denied Naismith what surely would have been the winner in the dying seconds of normal time, but Leicester held firm to secure what could be a very valuable point. Observer

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