Rafa Benitez says the intensity and character of Everton’s performance at a fevered Elland Road on Saturday was worth at least one point – and could have banked all three.
Everton twice led Leeds United, goals from Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Demarai Gray cancelled out by Mateusz Klich and Raphinha.
For Gray, it was a first Everton goal to cap a sparkling individual display, which manager Benitez insisted pointed the way for the 25-year-old’s attacking colleagues.
Everton had 17 goal attempts, sending eight on target, and created a handful of opportunities for a decisive strike in the closing stages.
“I think Leeds were pushing from the beginning, but we reacted well, especially in the second half – we had, little-by-little, more chances,” said Benitez.
"We had the chance to score the third goal and maybe we could be talking about something different.
“I am really pleased, because of the way we did in the first game, the reaction of the players [Everton beat Southampton after trailing 1-0], and today, the way we were pushing and working so hard from the beginning until the end.
“We were adjusting our position on the pitch to control the match better. Then, we had more chances, the positions were more dangerous, and we were maybe close to winning the game.
"But, overall, I think the result is fair
“We could see [against Southampton] how good our fans were for us.
“And we could see, today, how good Leeds’ fans were for them.
“In terms of the mentality, the way our team was battling against all the things around, I am really pleased with that.”
Calvert-Lewin put Everton in front when he picked himself up after being fouled by Liam Cooper to bury a penalty on the half hour.
The lead lasted only 11 minutes, Klich powering onto a pass from Patrick Bamford to steer an accurate finish beyond Jordan Pickford.
The visitors restored their advantage five minutes after half-time. Gray collected possession from Abdoualye Doucoure and evaded Stuart Dallas before drilling a low shot across goalkeeper Illan Meslier.
Calvert-Lewin twice came close to giving Everton a two-goal cushion but Leeds eventually equalised when Raphinha bent a strike into the corner from 18 yards.
“I don’t like to talk too much about individuals but I think he [Gray] is doing well,” said Benitez.
“The main thing he gives us is competition in the wide area and up front.
“That is good for the team. It will be good for him playing at this level but it will be good for the team because, the others, they have to push and see if they can do as well as him to be in the team.
“Dominic has a problem with his toe and has not been doing full training sessions in the past 10 days… you can see the quality he has but he is missing a little bit of stamina to finish the games in the way he wants.
“I am really pleased to see him making an effort and the partnership with Richarlison was really good.
"For me, that shows his commitment and desire to do well.”
Everton go to Huddersfield Town on Tuesday for a Carabao Cup second-round tie and resume their Premier League campaign at Brighton & Hove Albion next Saturday.
And Benitez, who made two changes to his team for the visit to Leeds – including bringing in Yerry Mina for Mason Holgate – expects his side to sustain the intensity demonstrated in their opening two fixtures.
“The way we have been training, I could pick anyone, and they would do well,” said Benitez.
“Training sessions are one thing, games are a different challenge.
“When you change the style and the way you want to play, when you compete against teams in the Premier League with the pace and the intensity we have today and last week – don’t forget Southampton is a team that pushes really hard and Leeds is the same – it is not easy for the defenders to adapt to these things.
“I think it is a learning process for us and, little-by-little, I am sure they will understand each other much better and the system and ideas we want to put in place."
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