MATCH CENTRE

The Verdict: Everton Draw Leeds Thriller

See below for a breakdown of the key talking points from Everton’s barnstorming 2-2 draw at Leeds United on Saturday, featuring exclusive insight from former Toffees midfielder Leon Osman…

Benitez Vision Apparent 

If Everton’s rousing second-half display against Southampton last week provided a glimpse of the intensity, commitment and attacking intent Rafa Benitez will demand from his side, then the Blues’ whole-hearted performance at Elland Road offered further evidence of the manager’s vision.

Leeds are renowned for their premium fitness and relentless energy under manager Marcelo Bielsa – but Benitez’s Everton matched them stride for stride.

The home team enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but the Blues created the clearest chances of the match.

Both sides had 17 shots during the match, but Everton had double the amount of Leeds’ efforts on target (8-4).  

Speaking to evertonfc.com, BBC pundit and Everton Academy graduate Osman said: “In the first two games of the season, I think the team has been everything we want it to be.

“It’s been good in attack with a lot of energy in the team and a lot of desire to get forward and score goals.

“We’ve created a number of chances.”

Indeed, with Everton 2-1 ahead, Dominic Calvert-Lewin twice went close to scoring a potentially decisive third goal, only to be foiled by fine saves from Illan Meslier.  

And when Raphinia’s 72nd-minute equaliser added further fuel an already vociferous home crowd, Everton stood strong and continued to carry a consistent threat, with Richarlison and Abdoulaye Doucoure seeing shots go fractions wide.

“That’s the type of football we want to see,” added Osman, who played 433 First-Team matches for Everton, placing him joint-10th with Dixie Dean on the Club's all-time appearance list.

“There’s a willingness to get crosses into the penalty area and to get players in there to support our strikers. We must have had 40 crosses across the opening two games and had lots of shots.

“We want to concede fewer, of course, but it’s been a very good start.”


Dynamite Demarai The 'Driving Force'

When 3,000 Evertonians are chanting your name in the midst of just your second game for the Club, it’s fair to say you’ve made a decent impression.

Demarai Gray was serenaded with gusto by the travelling support after his precision strike put the Toffees 2-1 in front, with his maiden Everton goal the exclamation point on a sparkling performance.

Gray was at the heart of Everton’s vibrant attacking play throughout the Elland Road contest, regularly putting the Leeds defence on the back foot with his skilful, direct dribbling.

He used the ball with ambition and accuracy, too, and sent in four of Everton’s 15 crosses during the game.

Gray's pass success rate of 92 per cent was best of any Everton player who completed the 90 minutes.  

“He was terrific,” said Osman. “I thought he was our driving force as an attacking team, the way he drove forward with the ball and was really taking the fight to Leeds United.  

“They struggled to cope with him at times. His goal was well deserved. He took it really well. His all-round display was really good, and I hope it’s the sign of things to come.  

“The way he travels with the ball...he does it better than most players in the Premier League.

“His end product since he joined Everton has been very, very good. You’ve got to make sure you effect the game, and that’s what he has been doing.  

"Hopefully Rafa Benitez is seeing what makes him tick and how you get him to perform, because there’s no doubting his talent.”


DCL Leading The Pack

Rafa Benitez spoke of Dominic Calvert-Lewin as one of Everton’s emerging leaders earlier this week – and against Leeds the Blues’ number nine showcased the attributes and mentality befitting of such a description.

He led the line with skill, intelligence, physicality and industry throughout – and displayed nerves of steel to fire Everton ahead from the penalty spot.

The penalty was awarded after a VAR check by referee Darren England following a foul by Liam Cooper on Calvert-Lewin, meaning the striker was forced to wait for four minutes to take the kick while the referee reviewed the decision on his pitchside monitor.

The home crowd then made a deafening noise in a bid to distract Calvert-Lewin's rhythm before he stepped up to the mark. The 24-year-old responded by hammering home an unstoppable penalty into the far right corner.

Speaking in his post-match press conference, manager Benitez revealed Calvert-Lewin has been unable to take a full part in training over the past 10 days due to a toe injury.

He paid tribute to the striker’s professionalism and hunger to help the team in spite of his lack of optimal preparation.

“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 to finish the games,” Benitez said.

“He is someone who wants to train and to play. He couldn’t train normally, so I am really pleased to see him making the effort.  

“For me, that shows his commitment and desire to do well.” 

<%= PULSE.I18N.lookupKey( 'label.modalClose', '' ) %>

This video is for Season Ticket Holders, Official Members and Hospitality Members

You need to log in to watch.

If you already have an Official Membership or 22/23 Season Ticket, just login to watch the video.

If you are interested in an Official membership, you can find out how to buy one here.

Also check out our streaming FAQs.

<%= PULSE.I18N.lookupKey( 'label.modalClose', '' ) %>

This content is available for free to Digital Members

Login or register to access

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.

Login to watch or click below to buy an Official Membership

As well as access to live pre-season matches, Official Members receive a range of other benefits, including exclusive content and welcome pack.

MORE INFO - BUY A MEMBERSHIP - STREAMING FAQs

02:10 Sat 21 Aug 2021

BENITEZ REACTS TO EVERTON'S LEEDS DRAW

Blues claim Elland Road point.