David Unsworth says Everton’s second-half display at Leicester showed “what we should be about” – and is challenging his players to “pick themselves up” ahead of key clashes with Lyon and Watford.
The Toffees were undone by goals from Foxes pair Jamie Vardy and Demarai Gray on Sunday. England striker Vardy thumped home following a lightning Leicester counter on 18 minutes, with Gray then benefitting from an enormous slice of luck when Jonjoe Kenny miskicked as he attempted to clear the winger’s cross and inadvertently helped the ball into his own net.
Unsworth made a double half-time substitution, sending on Oumar Niasse and Beni Baningime, and altered his team’s tactical shape for the second 45 minutes.
Everton subsequently enjoyed large swathes of possession and territorial hegemony, without being able to eat into their two-goal deficit.
“I wanted two strikers on and to give Leicester a problem,” Unsworth told evertontv. “I wanted to get some influence in the midfield. I felt in the first half in midfield we were way off it... way off dominating in there.
“In the Premier League, you have to dominate the centre of the park. I wanted an extra man in midfield and an extra man up front, so we went with a diamond (after half-time) and it certainly worked.
“Our first-half performance was not acceptable. I told the players that at half-time, in no uncertain terms.
“I wanted a reaction from them and the second half was what we should be about – but we cannot play in 45-minute spells. We dominated and created opportunities, without really creating the opportunities to get back into the game.
“We created openings against Chelsea – and did a little bit at Leicester. We just have to tuck them away and win a game of football.
“We stayed in there and dominated but we cannot only play for 45 minutes.”
Baningime followed his accomplished performance at Chelsea in midweek with another polished outing. The 19-year-old was powerful in the tackle, positionally astute and passed the ball intelligently.
Unsworth agreed the midfielder’s contribution at the King Power Stadium was worthy of recognition and also praised Kenny for the courageous manner in which he responded to his first-half lapse.
“Players make mistakes… young players make mistakes,” said Unsworth, who takes his team to Lyon for a Europa League encounter on Thursday before the Blues return to Goodison to face Watford in the Premier League three days later.
“We will not go on about that too much. He showed great resolve and great determination to put that behind him.
“I know his character inside out – and he has character in abundance.
“I have total faith in Beni. He is a top young player and for him to perform in a game and a half like he has done, in really difficult circumstances – he deserves a lot of credit.”
Vardy’s breakthrough strike came when Leicester hurtled forward after clearing an Everton-free-kick from their own box.
Gray raced over the halfway line before slipping a pass to Riyad Mahrez, who squared first time for Vardy to finish.
“We had spoken about that in our preparations, the counter attack from the set piece,” added Unsworth, who also admitted his frustration that referee Andre Marriner did not spot Christian Fuchs’ penalty-box trip on Aaron Lennon shortly after Leicester’s second goal.
“It is doubly disappointing when you highlight a strength in the opposition and you are not able to stop it.
“We know about that – but we know we have to pick ourselves up. We have to go again, we have a game on Thursday and a massive game on Sunday.”