Claude Puel off to a flyer as Leicester increase Everton woes
Jamie Vardy scores the first goal of new era as Toffees remain camped in bottom three
Jamie Vardy scored Leicester City’s opener against Everton. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty
Demarai Gray scored one and made the other as Leicester beat Everton 1-0. Photograph: Darren Staples/Reuters
Leicester City 2 Everton 0
The Claude Puel era is up and running at Leicester City and any dissenting voices about the Frenchman’s appointment will soon be silenced if this proves to be a sign of things to come. Inspired by the outstanding Demarai Gray, Leicester attacked with pace and penetration, with the wonderful breakaway goal that Jamie Vardy converted to set them on their way to victory arguably the best possible riposte to any concerns about Puel’s playing style.
It was counterattacking football at its very best and featured a splendid darting run from Gray, who produced the sort of performance that will leave many wondering why the winger never featured more often under Craig Shakespeare and Claudio Ranieri. Gray was the best player on the pitch by a distance and was also credited with the second goal – rather dubiously – after Jonjoe Kenny sliced the England Under-21 international’s cross into his own net.
It was that sort of day for David Unsworth, who did nothing to improve his chances of getting the job on a permanent basis as Everton slipped to a ninth defeat in their last 13 matches. Unsworth’s decision to start with wingers was scrapped at half-time and for all their possession in the second half, Everton rarely looked like scoring. The sight of Wayne Rooney raising his arms in bewilderment when his number came up as he prepared to take a corner rather summed things up for a club who appear in serious trouble.
The warning signs had been there for Everton long before Vardy opened the scoring. Gray had already sprinted behind a static, plodding Everton backline on a couple of occasions before he set off on the wonderful 60-yard run that turned defence into attack in the blink of an eye after Leighton Baines’s free-kick was cleared.
Tom Davies was the first to suffer as Gray skirted around the outside of the Everton defender, deep inside the Leicester half and close to the touchline. Idrissa Gueye then came across but Gray sidestepped him with the minimum off fuss and pulled away from Rooney. It would have been easy for Gray to go for goal himself at that point but instead he kept his composure and played a perfectly weighted pass on the run that released Riyad Mahrez on the right. Mahrez looked up and sent in a low centre that Vardy was never going to miss from about six yards out. It was a brilliant goal that highlighted the blistering pace in one team and the total lack of it in the other.
Everton looked all over the place in the opening 25 minutes. Leicester’s attacking triumvirate of Vardy, Mahrez and Gray were causing the visitors no end of problems and it was no real surprise when they scored a second.
There had been a reprieve for Everton moments before when Vardy, running on to Wilfred Ndidi’s header and sprinting clear of Phil Jagielka, tried to pick out Mahrez with a cross that the Algerian drilled into the arms of Jordan Pickford.
Everton were not so fortunate just before the half-hour mark. Gray, drifting out on to the left flank, delivered an inswinging cross that looked harmless enough until Kenny swung his boot at the ball and wildly miskicked, sending it spinning backwards, beyond Jordan Pickford and into the far corner of the net. It felt cruel on the 20-year-old right-back, who was making only his second Premier League start, and will come as little comfort to him that it did not end up going down as an own goal.
Unsworth’s side badly needed a route back into the game from somewhere and they should have had one via the penalty spot when Christian Fuchs clumsily brought down Aaron Lennon from behind. It was the second time that Lennon had got in behind Fuchs – a lovely pass from Rooney created an earlier chance that came to nothing – and only Andre Marriner, the referee, knows why he failed to give a penalty.
Lennon and Kevin Mirallas were given their first league starts of the season here, yet the experiment was short-lived as both were withdrawn at half-time. Unsworth discarded his 4-4-1-1 system, brought on Beni Baningime, who was making his Premier League debut, at the base of a narrow Everton midfield and introduced Oumar Niasse as a second striker. Niasse could – and should – have pulled a goal back early in the second half but his first touch let him down badly after Rooney had found him with a fine floated pass. Thereafter Everton saw plenty of the ball without seriously threatening Kasper Schmeichel as Leicester coasted to a win that lifts them up to 11th place.