Carlo Ancelotti says he recognised his Everton team again in Wednesday’s victory over Leeds United.
First-half goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin were enough for Everton’s seventh away win this season – despite Leeds rallying following Raphinha’s strike shortly after half-time.
Robin Olsen made a trio of fantastic stops and Ben Godfrey – who attracted more praise from Ancelotti – was imperious next to the resolute Yerry Mina in defence.
Manager Ancelotti conceded his side were missing their customary spirit and diligence and personality during Saturday’s defeat by Newcastle United.
But all those characteristics were evident in a win at Elland Road which lifted Everton to sixth in the Premier League, four points outside the top-four positions, with two games in hand.
“We needed this kind of performance after the defeat against Newcastle and we played a really good first half,” said Ancelotti.
“In the second half, we had more problems because we conceded an easy goal at the beginning and thought only to defend.
“They put more pressure on us but we had opportunities on the counter-attack and two or three times could have scored the third goal.
“The reaction and concentration of the team all the game was really good.
This video is for Season Ticket Holders, Official Members and 19/20 Hospitality Members
This content is available for free to Digital Members
Free Digital Membership will provide you with the best possible experience when logged into the website, including access to the latest digital content.
Digital members will receive a monthly newsletter and get access to exclusive videos and regular member competitions offering money can’t buy prizes.
Your Digital account will also enable you to buy any tickets on general sale, and if you’re an Official member or Season Ticket Holder, the same login will allow you to access and manage your ticketing account.
To view this content you need to be a Season Ticket Holder, Hospitality Member or Official Member.
CALVERT-LEWIN ON WHY LEEDS WIN IS 'MASSIVE' FOR BLUES
“I said simply [after Newcastle], we lost the fighting spirit, we thought with our quality alone we could win the game but it was not enough.
“I told the players to be back with the spirit we usually have in this kind of game and they were back.
“I am pleased because the reaction after the defeat to Newcastle was really good.
“The goal was to have three points and we won because of a really good first half.”
Everton led when Sigurdsson converted Lucas Digne’s ninth-minute cross – the Frenchman reaching six assists in his 12th Premier League appearance this season.
Sigurdsson dovetailed neatly with Calvert-Lewin all night and shouldered the responsibility of limiting Kalvin Phillips, the fulcrum in Leeds’ midfield.
Calvert-Lewin leapt to head his 16th goal this term after Godfrey helped on Sigurdsson’s 41st-minute corner from the left.
It was Calvert-Lewin first strike in the league since his equaliser in a draw at Burnley on 5 December.
Everton couldn’t claim to have been on easy street at half-time but they were distinctly in control.
Leeds hit back through Raphinha's low finish into the corner, though, and it required a concentrated and sapping defensive effort to keep Marcelo Bielsa’s team at bay.
Godfrey and Olsen were outstanding.
“Ben Godfrey played really, really well as a centre-back,” said Ancelotti.
“I am really surprised about his performances, he is always there, playing 100 per cent.
“He is fast and intelligent and strong, I am really pleased with him.
“Robin Olsen made some super saves, we knew it would be difficult.
“We won the game because we defended well and Olsen had a big part.
“He has confidence and we have confidence in him, he is an experienced goalkeeper and always ready.
“It doesn’t matter who scored. I was really pleased with Dominic, not because he scored but because he worked hard
“This is what I ask from the players all the time.
“The work he did with Sigurdsson defensively was more important, we needed this kind of work from our strikers – Richarlison and Alex Iwobi included.
“It was the plan we had for Sigurdsson, to have control defensively of Kalvin Phillips, he did really well and, offensively, supported Calvert-Lewin.”
Everton visit Manchester United on Saturday following a fourth straight away win – their best run on the road since a similar sequence midway through the 1985/86 campaign.
Of the 36 points Everton have gained from 20 matches this term, 22 have been claimed away from Goodison Park.
“The results of this season, all the teams have more possibility to win away because there is no crowd,” added Ancelotti, who revealed he is optimistic of having goalkeeper Jordan Pickford available for the game at Old Trafford in three days.
“We had a really fantastic run away and we have to be focused more at home because we lost a lot of games at home.”