Everton completed the double over champions Leicester as they ran out 4-2 victors of an entertaining clash. The Blues offset some abject first-half defending with three goals before the break. Thereafter, they took control of the game and shut Leicester down. Five error-strewn minutes aside, Everton were once again totally dominant on their own patch.

Tom Davies celebrates after giving Everton the lead against Leicester with just 30 seconds on the clock.

That’s seven home wins in succession for Everton. And in truth, Leicester ran them the closest of any of those beaten opponents. 2-1 up with nine minutes gone, and with Jamie Vardy and Demarai Gray’s pace to use on the break against two slow centre-halves, the game was there for the Foxes. The visitors exposed and exploited many errors in scoring their goals. They had to sit back and exploit them again. Such scenarios are generally food and drink for Leicester.

Despite Tom Davies’ sneaky 30-second opener, Everton had eight players within 40 yards of goal just three minutes later. Two missed tackles gave Islam Slimani all the time to calmly slot past the floundering Joel Robles. Once Vardy had turned Matthew Pennington and lulled him into a foul, Robles’ twitchy movements rendered Marc Albrighton’s whipped free-kick unstoppable and Leicester had a second. With 80 minutes remaining, they were hopeful of more.

At this point, Everton got their act together. In fact, the Foxes managed just a single shot on target after the 15th minute. The Toffees stormed back into the game, seized the lead then controlled the ball. In need of a catalyst, Ross Barkley stepped up. He bent his best ever cross around Leicester’s own slow centre-back duo with menace. Lukaku simply had to make contact to score. He didn’t disappoint. Once Barkley had settled, he began to run the game.

Phil Jagielka wheels away after scoring Everton's third in the 4-2 win over Leicester.

Phil Jagielka has been excellent since returning. Here he got his second goal of the week. After some Barkley naivety when almost past Kasper Schmeichel, Jagielka rose to glance home yet another goal from a corner. That was Jagielka’s second this week, Everton’s third in successive fixtures, with the decisive fourth arriving in similar fashion later on.

Minimising risk

Everton trailed after nine minutes despite scoring after 30 seconds. Leicester were behind at half-time despite that ninth-minute lead. So 3-2 at the break was open-ended: all three results were possible. Game awareness is a weakness for Everton, so too the focus on limiting opposition strengths and minimising risk. Here, they addressed all three weaknesses in admirable fashion.

First the tempo dropped. The ball was moved about the field in a manner approaching pure antagonism. 30-pass moves that opened up little but forced Leicester into frustrated chase. Perhaps allowing daydreams to drift to their Champions League quarter-final with Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, their early tenacity wore off. Once Lukaku had drilled in his 23rd league goal of the season, the second half was a breeze for the Blues.

Kevin Mirallas stands up to the absolutely massive Robert Huth during Everton's clash with Leicester.

It would have been Kevin Mirallas’ third assist of the afternoon had Jagielka not got the merest of glances. Still, Mirallas did not need that gloss to attract attention. He was excellent, first bursting forward to free Davies to score, before curling in an array of dangerous corners that ultimately gave Everton the win. After endearing himself to supporters during the week with a decent Scouse accent, Mirallas pushed the envelope here by grabbing Mount Rushmore-faced Robert Huth by the collar.

For the first time at Goodison, Koeman made just one substitution which was odd. An appearance from Ademola Lookman and Joe Williams would have furthered lifted the crowd. Both seemed feasible but Koeman decided otherwise, and to be fair, his judgement has Everton a game away from a Premier League record winning streak at home a year on from the worst home campaign in Goodison history. In front of his own supporters at least, Koeman really walks the walk.

Romelu Lukaku thanks Ross Barkley for a superb assist after drawing Everton level with Leicester.

Hired to balance attacking strengths with defensive improvement, Koeman has offered precisely this at Goodison of late. During Everton’s winning run, they have averaged 3.7 goals per game while the five goals conceded all occurred during 30 bad minutes against Bournemouth and during the five-minute lapse against Leicester. Errors still resurface but now only after lengthy spells of productive football.

Leicester had won all six matches under Craig Shakespeare. They were no pushovers. This was an opportunity for Everton to crumble, or for once to show maturity. With two youngsters in defence guided by Jagielka, two creative academy talents protected by Idrissa Gueye and Morgan Schneiderlin, and a razor-sharp target man leading the line, the Blues seized the latter. Yet important development as the club’s upward curve continues.
By Chris Smith
Follow me on Twitter @cdsmith789

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