Gylfi Sigurdsson’s wonderful long-range strike earned Everton a second Premier League win on the spin at Leicester City.
Sigurdsson brilliantly turned James Maddison and dispatched his shot into the top corner 13 minutes from time to ensure the Blues followed up last week's success over Fulham with another victory.
Everton led on seven minutes when Richarlison placed a precise finish past Kasper Schmeichel after meeting Bernard’s left-wing delivery on the volley.
Ricardo Pereira equalised for Leicester, who had captain Wes Morgan sent off for his second illegal challenge on Richarlison 18 minutes after half-time.
Even so early in the piece, it felt as if Everton’s breakthrough was coming. The Blues’ harrying was visibly discomforting Leicester, with the hosts repeatedly surrendering possession in the face of advancing trio Richarlison, Bernard and Sigurdsson.
Certainly, the minds of Pereira and Daniel Amartey appeared frazzled as elusive wideman Bernard jinked past the pair and lofted a cross to the far post where fellow Brazilian Richarlison steered in with his right foot.
Jordan Pickford had been called into action once by this stage, dropping onto a driven Kelechi Iheanacho cross, with Jamie Vardy set to pounce.
Maddison had a shot blocked by Michael Keane and Vardy glanced wide from Ben Chilwell’s lifted delivery.
But it was slim pickings for the hosts, Everton the side in the ascendancy and playing very much in the image of a Marco Silva team; which means expansive, fast and imaginative in possession – and working like stink without the ball.
On the counter, Everton were, on occasion, breathtaking.
Tom Davies and Theo Walcott funnelled the ball forward to Richarlison two minutes after the striker’s goal. He swatted a delivery across the box, with only a desperate piece of last-ditch defending preventing Sigurdsson from turning in his side’s second.
Sigurdsson and Bernard spearheaded the next raid, the duo who exist on the same exalted wavelength thudding the ball back and forth while progressing upfield. Walcott eventually took over on the left and took aim with an effort Schmeichel tipped over.
This was harum-scarum stuff, the type of competitive, express fare which makes the Premier League appointment-viewing in all corners of the globe.
Walcott was Everton’s driving force on 25 minutes, steaming down the right before the ball fell for Sigurdsson to sweep a strike destined for the far corner until the fully-extended Schmeichel intervened.
Chilwell’s desire for one touch too many on the half-hour gave Walcott all the encouragement he needed to nip in and speed forward. Walcott encountered Harry Maguire as he reached the penalty box. He darted beyond the England defender but crashed to the ground, his penalty shout going unheeded.
Leicester, lest we forget, are good on the counter, too. Masters of the art, in fact. Vardy raced away to poke wide under extreme pressure from Keane on 34 minutes.
But the home team’s next bolt over halfway ended with the scores level.
Sigurdsson’s corner – after the Icelander’s initial strike from Bernard’s pass deflected behind – sparked a melee in the Leicester penalty area.
Keane won the header, Walcott got the next touch, but Amartey frantically swiped the ball clear. Pereira injected the pace after the Foxes hit a roadblock in midfield.
The Portuguese passed infield and chased onto Iheanacho’s first-time return. He retained his poise in the area, manipulating the ball onto his left side to hit a shot which crept in at the near post.
Richarlison had a promising foray illegally halted by Morgan, booked for manhandling the Everton player on the edge of the box shortly before the break. When the free-kick was cleared the episode did not seem especially significant.
With the second half 18 minutes old, however, the gravity of the earlier moment became clear. Morgan was already treading a tightrope having been penalised for a clumsy tackle by the touchline when, in his eagerness to dispossess Richarlison, the defender tackled from behind, his studs sinking into the top of the forward’s boot.
He received his second caution and condemned Leicester to seeing out the game a man down.
The sides had traded chances up to this point in the second half. Left-back Chilwell faded a strike wide from distance, while Walcott could not apply enough power to his shot to trouble Leicester goalkeeper Schmeichel after controlling and spinning in one touch following Bernard's flighted pass into the centre.
Schmeichel shovelled out Lucas Digne’s 25-yard hit soon after Morgan’s dismissal, the ‘keeper reacting to save Davies’ effort down to his opposite side on the rebound, too.
Schmeichel was down to his left again on 72 minutes to push round a dipping strike from Sigurdsson.
There was nothing the ‘keeper could do when the same player got hold of his next shot, however.
Wearing the captain’s armband after Cenk Tosun had replaced Davies, Sigurdsson received a pass from Kurt Zouma.
There did not seem a whole lot on for the forward. He changed that impression somewhat with a sublime turn which baffled Maddison and opened up the pitch for Sigurdsson.
How he capitalised, travelling with the ball a yard or two, then whipping a fabulous strike from 30 yards into the top-left corner.
He was elated. So too his teammates and 3,000 Evertonians.
Amartey had a chance to pop the party going on among the away fans when he headed wide from yards out in stoppage time.
But Everton had done enough to claim three points. More than enough.
Two of Marco Silva’s calls dominated pre-match discussion at the King Power Stadium.
One hot topic was the selection of Bernard, the slender Brazilian winger who had hitherto wowed Evertonians in a string of cameos from the bench – and four days earlier as a starter against Southampton in the Carabao Cup.
His involvement from the off here saw Richarlison deployed through the middle, the position in which the 21-year-old livewire excelled on his introduction to Brazil’s national team last month. Silva has grown used to being quizzed on when Richarlison might play as a central striker for Everton.
He decided today was the “right moment”. And the manager’s judgement was looking rather astute even before Everton led on seven minutes.
Silva’s side exploded from the blocks here, the closing of Bernard, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson making life very difficult for Leicester’s defenders, trying to pass into midfield.
That trio’s hounding nearly opened up their hosts inside the opening couple of minutes.
No matter, no sooner were Leicester thanking their lucky stars than they were one goal behind.
Idrissa Gana Gueye reacted quickest to alight on a bouncing ball at the edge of the box and steer a volleyed pass left to Bernard.
The South American feinted to get rid of Ricardo Pereira, then skipped effortlessly past right-back Daniel Amartey to reach the byline.
His cross to the back post was beautifully measured for his advancing compatriot. Richarlison did not need asking twice, planting his right foot through the ball, sending it rearing off the turf and into the net.
Courage Under Fire
Marco Silva’s oft-repeated mantra demands his team plays with ambition and a complete absence of fear.
Courage comes in many different forms. Silva wants Everton to be brave in attack, to take chances in possession – even put the ball at risk on occasion.
To play football in the way Everton did here demands physical valour, too.
Opponents afraid of being sliced open by a team shifting the ball quickly will tend to barrel into tackles – ‘Apply the reducer’ as Ron Atkinson used to have it – to intimidate and discourage.
Ball players, those individuals who can hurt teams with one swerve or improbable piece of skill, are the targets for some heavy-handed treatment.
Often, the feet come flying in late on the likes of Bernard, Richarlison and Theo Walcott simply because they are too fast for their opponents.
Whatever the reason, the best players have to put their bodies on the line in order to prosper, remove the prospect of receiving a kick from their minds and just keep on doing what they do.
Richarlison showed for the ball time and again, regardless of whether his last involvement was curtailed by a rough challenge.
Bernard was on the end of a thudding tackle in the first half but did not once shy away from going back for more.
Big ambition and big bravery from this Everton side.
217 and counting
Marco Silva reflected with some satisfaction 24 hours before the match on the recalls to France’s international squad of Lucas Digne and Kurt Zouma.
The pair both missed out on their country’s summer World Cup success but have seen their respective stocks rise following moves to Goodison Park. After Richarlison won his first full international honours following a transfer to Everton – and Jordan Pickford went from England hopeful to established Three Lions number one as a Blues player – the Club is proving its ability to advance the careers of elite footballers.
Everton’s starting XI boasted a combined 217 international caps. The only two players in Silva’s team without full international recognition were Jonjoe Kenny and Tom Davies, mainstays of England’s Under-21 side.
The seven players Everton had in reserve possessed a combined 132 caps – making it 349 international caps spread through the matchday 18.
And, with a fair wind, this is the start of it for the majority of these players.
The average age of the XI who took the field at kick-off was 24.7, Everton equalling the record they jointly-held with Fulham for the youngest side sent into Premier League action this season.
The flip side, of course, is Silva will be down on numbers at USM Finch Farm during the next fortnight, while Digne, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson et al jet off to represent their nations.
On this showing, Bernard will be adding to his 14 Brazil caps sooner rather than later, too.
A lack of bodies on the training ground whenever the Premier League makes way for international football represents a challenge.
But it is a challenge every big club, every club with ambition, encounters at various points of the season. As such, it is a challenge Silva will welcome with open arms.