James Hits Stunner As Everton Forced To Settle For Draw

James Rodriguez scored one of the goals of this Premier League season but Everton ultimately had to make do with one point from a frenetic contest against Leicester City.

Carlo Ancelotti's side, then, have claimed four points this season from one of the division's strongest teams after winning in the East Midlands six weeks ago.

They probably won't be looking at it that way right now, because Everton led and were 23 minutes from claiming maximum points - Youri Tielemans' low strike drawing Leicester level.

Both teams had chances to score more and a draw felt about right. Everton, who defended stoically, remain seventh in the Premier League, six points behind third-placed Leicester with two games in hand.

James’ goal to unlock this game was the kind which makes you yearn for the return of supporters to Goodison Park.

The old place would have gone berserk as the ball cracked off the inside of Kasper Schmeichel’s post and diverted into the net after James despatched his right-footed strike on an angle from 20 yards.

A breathtaking moment stemmed from inauspicious beginnings.

Everton played their way out of a congested area in their own half, Mason Holgate, Tom Davies and Andre Gomes forming a neat triangle for the Portuguese to eventually send a ball raking across the field for the overlapping Lucas Digne.

His delicate touch found James, who initially opted for a cross.

Wesley Fofana cleared and must have cursed his misfortune when he lifted his head to see the ball travelling back to James.

The South American was never going to do anything other than take on the shot himself second time around, however much the odds were stacked against him.

Schmeichel could face 100 identical efforts and he’d save none of them. No one would.

Everton’s goal capped a 15-minute spell when they’d steadily worked their way into the match on an attacking front.

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01:19 Wed 27 Jan 2021


Midfielder reflects on Everton's 1-1 draw at home to Leicester City.

Richarlison, playing on the right, with James through the middle, had a header deflected behind off James Justin following Digne’s deep cross after 16 minutes.

Digne was playing on the left of midfield for the second straight Premier League game after excelling in the position in Everton’s win at Wolverhampton Wanderers a fortnight ago.

He prefers his usual left-back role, where he finished the night, but it was obvious here why Ancelotti likes Digne higher up the pitch.

His crossing is consistently excellent and he links intelligently and effectively with his full-back and the players inside him.

And against a team like Leicester, who attack in numbers and with imagination, Digne's defensive instincts lend Everton an especially solid look.

Davies – who shot over from distance after Schmeichel tentatively punched out a James free-kick – was accidentally caught in the face by Ayoze Perez as the game developed an edge.

Wilfred Ndidi drew blood when unintentionally landing an elbow on the nose of Michael Keane, too.

Harvey Barnes was front and centre of Leicester’s bright start.

Twice in two minutes, the forward glided forwards with the ball struck to his feet.

Barnes ended his first run with a pass slipped to Marc Albrighton, whose shot deflected off Ben Godfrey, with Perez unable to rein in the loose ball.

Yerry Mina checked Barnes’ next foray 20 yards from goal but Maddison – who would curl onto the top of the net from a rather more unpromising position four minutes later – dumped his free-kick into the wall.

There were fleeting signs of Leicester losing their way midway through the opening half.

Timothy Castagne walloped a backpass behind his own goal. The same player was involved as Dominic Calvert-Lewin robbed possession, locating Gomes for a cross which was intercepted by Ndidi, with Richarlison poised for a shot.

Ndidi was forced off injured on 42 minutes, replaced by Nampalys Mendy, by which time Leicester were behind but very much back on their game.

After the restart, they upped it a level again.

Jordan Pickford had been called only to make a routine stop from Albrighton when he got a strong hand to Barnes’ drive at his near post on 50 minutes.

Justin side footed wide from 18 yards on the follow up.

Pickford had been on the stretch four minutes earlier, worried Calvert-Lewin’s defensive header from a Maddison set-piece was dropping in and relived to see it land on top of his goal.

Leicester’s pressure was sustained and threatening, though.

Maddison put another free-kick into the wall and Keane did very well to jab out a leg and stop the same Leicester player shooting after Tielemans' perfectly weighted through ball.

Everton were blocked and closing space and winning tackles but the away team continued to probe and pass with purpose.

Leicester were seeing an awful lot of the ball and their set-piece count was mounting.

Their equaliser involved the influential Barnes, who drew a cluster of Blues shirt before laying off for Tielemans.

His strike zipped through a crowd of bodies, Pickford diving to his right to touch the ball onto his post but seeing it spin back into the net.

Pickford was equal to a Maddison effort which deflected off Godfrey with 15 minutes remaining.

But as Leicester went all out to win the game, they left spaces behind them.

Everton evidently had no intention of trying to sit on their point and the game began to to-and-fro.

Ancelotti sent on Alex Iwobi for Holgate, Godfrey switching to right-back and Digne dropping into his more familiar role.

James, with his left foot this time, sent a 20 yarder rushing past the post.

That was his last meaningful contribution, Gylfi Sigurdsson replacing James and duly plonking a corner on Richarlison's head.

The effort, though, was too high to concern Schmeichel. Equally, Calvert-Lewin's header from a Digne cross soon after didn't require the Dane to intervene, the ball skipping past his right post.

At the very last, the ball wouldn't come down fast enough for Gomes when Mina helped on Digne's inswing corner, Fofana reacting to clear his lines.

Mina's frustrated yelp into the sodden night at full-time was illustrative of what Everton really wanted from this game.

They've taken four points this term from a very good Leicester team nonetheless and remain within striking distance of the top four positions with games in hand.

James Blockbuster Product Of Collective Effort

James Rodriguez will rightly take all the plaudits for his quite beautiful goal to put Everton in front.

The Colombian can probably argue he should claim the assist, too, after James’ attempted cross arrived back at his feet via Wesley Fofana’s half clearance.

It didn’t look possible for James to score as he regained possession but if we didn’t expect him to shoot, we probably haven’t been watching closely enough.

Kasper Schmeichel didn’t have a prayer of getting anywhere near a jackhammer of a strike, let alone saving it.

The ball cannoning into the net off the inside of Schmeichel’s left post was good for the aesthetics, too.

This is what you get with a player of James’ rare quality.

Everton had resisted early Leicester pressure and there was nothing in the game at all.

A goal didn’t seem imminent but, again, with James on the pitch perhaps that last sentiment should always be sounded with a caveat.

There was more to Everton’s opening goal than the brilliance of one man, however.

Seconds before the ball flashed past Schmeichel, the home side were under the hammer.

Mason Holgate was under pressure as he steered a pass infield for Tom Davies.

Davies was hurried, too, and needed to be quick off the mark and aware of what was around him to punch the ball 10 yards forward for Andre Gomes,

The Portuguese knew Lucas Digne would be motoring down the left but had a quick look nonetheless.

Digne’s ability to pass the ball on the volley is an underrated skill.

He created a goal for Alex Iwobi at Wolverhampton Wanderers a fortnight ago by directing a ball on the full back into the box.

Here, the touch was more subtle, cushioned for James.

The South American served the ball into the penalty are but was quickly reunited with his best friend after Wesley Fofana’s unconvincing clearance.

James thought better of trying to cross a second time, seeing an opportunity few others did and scoring his fourth goal from 12 Premier League starts.

Midfield Duo Step Up 

With Abdoualye Doucoure suspended – and missing his first Premier League game this season – and injury still sidelining Allan, Everton’s midfield was manned by Tom Davies and Andre Gomes.

The pair sat resolutely in front of their back four, cutting off the supply line to Leicester playmaker James Maddison.

Davies never let Maddison out of his sight, keeping a close watch on a player capable of ruthlessly exploiting space in front of opposition defences.

Indeed, Maddison showed he’s very dangerous without any room at all when curling centimetres over from 25 yards.

Davies revealed earlier this season he’d been studying footage of Allan spoiling and intercepting and disrupting attacks.

And Allan would have been glad to call one Davies interception his own, the midfielder tracking back into his own box and preventing a Maddsion pass reaching Harvey Barnes in a dangerous spot.

Crucially, Davies and Gomes didn’t allow their defensive duties to become all consuming.

Davies was involved when Everton began feeling their way into the game as an attacking unit just past the quarter hour.

He fed a return pass for Lucas Digne to deliver a searching cross and moments later took aim with an effort which flew over the top.

Gomes, meanwhile, was poised to take advantage when Leicester cheaply coughed up possession close to their own goal.

The Portuguese’s cross was destined for Richarlison until Wilfred Ndidi stretched to intercept.

Top marks to Everton’s midfield duo in the lead up to James Rodriguez’s goal after 30 minutes.

They formed two-thirds of a triangle with Mason Holgate, enabling Everton to play their way out of a tight spot.

Gomes’ eventual pass for Lucas Digne travelled on an unerring 40-yard journey and landed perfectly for the Frenchman, who provide the final pass before James took over in his own inimitable style.

Davies’ passing was sharp and precise and progressive all night.

He was typically moving the ball from inside his own half, while Gomes came into possession higher up the field.

There were a few opportunities for Gomes to show off his close control and neat footwork and the final delivery was sound.

Gomes had a stirring run beyond Youri Tielemans and Nampalys Mendy as Everton tried to regain their advantage.

Davies, meanwhile, was regularly appearing in his own box to apply a vital toe and shut off avenues of attack.

Ancelotti Can Look To Good Future

Playing Leicester City at home amounts to one of the stiffest examinations the Premier League has to offer.

Brendan Rodgers’ side came to Goodison Park boasting the division’s second-best away record after claiming 22 points from their opening nine games on the road.

Of the 13 goals Manchester City have conceded in 19 league matches this term, five were scored in a whacking by Leicester at the Etihad Stadium.

Leicester won at Arsenal and Tottenham and scored four in victory at Leeds.

Everton nevertheless had memories of a consummate 2-0 win in the reverse fixture only six weeks ago to keep them warm.

Additionally, they’d won five of their past six league matches and this was an opportunity to keep breathing down Leicester’s neck, with two games in hand.

A pair of games falling foul to coronavirus meant Carlo Ancelotti’s side played only four times in the Premier League between their visit to Leicester and tonight’s return – an odd occurrence in this uniquely congested season.

They won three of those matches since 16 December, while Leicester were accumulating 14 points from six games, without losing.

In short, then, it was clear why manager Ancelotti viewed this as a fixture where he would learn about his team’s longer-term prospects for the season.

Everton would know more about their future, claimed the Italian, after this match and Saturday's home encounter with Newcastle United.

"I hope it can be a good future," laughed Ancelotti.

The first half of that double home date suggests Ancelotti can cast an optimistic glance forwards.

Leicester were every bit as difficult as anticipated, aggressive in terms of their rapier attacking and competitive streak.

They didn't buckle after falling behind and were never going to.

Everton matched their opponents, though, and twice at the end had chances to win it, Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin both off target with headed efforts.

Ancelotti's side has amassed 16 points from their past seven games and are very nicely poised to climb the Premier League table.

Their first opportunity to do that comes in fewer than 72 hours when Newcastle come to Goodison and Ancelotti will learn more about his side's prospects for this season.