Carlo Ancleotti says the spirit and resilience in Everton’s team underpinned the victory over Leicester City which sets up a “really important” clash with Tottenham Hotspur on Monday.
Everton raced into a two-goal lead against Leicester, Richarlison – who is expected to be fit to face Spurs after being forced off on 57 minutes after a blow to the ankle – ramming home Anthony Gordon’s 10th-minute centre and Gylfi Sigurdsson adding a second from the spot on 16 minutes.
Kelechi Iheanacho – one of two forwards introduced by Brendan Rodgers for the second half – profited from a stroke of fortune to cut Leicester’s deficit six minutes after the break.
Everton stood their ground, however, resisting a wave of Leicester attacks, with Michael Keane magnificent in the middle of defence.
Ancelotti’s side had opportunities to bury their visitors on the counter but nonetheless did enough to earn three points which put them on the coat tails of Arsenal in seventh and eighth-placed Spurs.
“[Being resilient] is important, not always can you play your best,” Ancelotti told evertontv.
“But what has to be the best, is the spirit.
“The spirit of the team is really good, they are showing a fantastic effort in training and games.
“In the first half we were efficient and had good control of the game.
“We had opportunities on the counter-attack and scored a fantastic goal, with a fantastic assist from Anthony Gordon.
“In the second half they changed their shape, we conceded a goal and the game was more difficult.
"We lost a bit of confidence but defended well.
“We had to defend more than attack and that was why we didn’t play the second half the same as the first.”
Ancelotti altered his formation in response to counterpart Rogers’ half-time tactical shift.
Richarlison was hurt by a tackle from Wilfred Ndidi but the striker’s replacement was a midfielder in Tom Davies.
Yerry Mina was introduced soon after as Everton switched to a three-man central defence and played with four in midfield.
Ancelotti’s manoeuvring paid off and Everton gained maximum reward for their explosive start.
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KEANE ON 'MASSIVE' STATEMENT MADE BY EVERTON
Gordon, on only his second senior start, dashed to the byline to square for Richarlison to thump home his 11th league goal of the campaign.
Ndidi was punished for handball in the box following a two-and-half-minute VAR review and the recalled Sigurdsson nonchalantly defeated goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel from 12 yards.
“Anthony showed motivation and strength on the pitch, he had confidence and gave support to the team defensively,” continued Ancelotti.
“It is important for him to show quality and above all to be confident to play.
“Usually when a young player comes in they are a bit worried.
“But Anthony has personality and did well in these two games.
“I am pleased for the team.
“Now we are going to recover other players – [Djibril] Sidibe and [Theo] Walcott – the physical aspect is not bad.
“Richarlison had a knock on his ankle and he will recover without a problem, we hope for Monday.
“The key game is against Tottenham
“They are really close to us.
“We have to fight like today in the rest of the games we play.
“We fought well in the first half and showed spirit in the second half.”
Everton are currently one point behind Spurs and two adrift of Arsenal.
Following next week’s date in north London the Blues return to Goodison to face Southampton on Thursday.
They have a further four games before completing this delayed campaign on 26 July.
“That is what we wanted from this game: three points, playing well in the first half, then it was more difficult in the second half,” added Ancelotti.
“But the points to continue the possibility of the dream we have.
“The next game will be really important but in the others we have to fight and be there.
“I am happy with the spirit the team has shown in these three games [following the Premier League’s resumption.
“Sometimes we played well but everyone was focused – we didn’t make mistakes.
“We can improve the quality of our play but the key reason for the good results is the spirit of the team.”