Ever­ton keep their dream of Europe alive as Leicester fail to im­press again

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Chris Bas­combe at Good­i­son Park

For Carlo Ancelotti the “dream” of Europa League foot­ball is gath­er­ing pace at Ever­ton. For Bren­dan Rodgers, so too is the de­spair­ing prospect of Leicester find­ing them­selves in the same com­pe­ti­tion.

You would have been of­fered long odds on that prior to lock­David down. It is a re­flec­tion of the stan­dards against which Rodgers has en­sured his team are judged that any­thing but the Cham­pi­ons League will seem a dis­ap­point­ment.

He was hon­est enough to ad­mit his side are not play­ing well enough to pre­serve their po­si­tion and need a “men­tal re­set”.

The coach was com­forted by Leicester’s sec­ond-half per­for­mance, which would have earned more had any of a se­ries of op­por­tu­ni­ties been taken. That did not dis­guise his dis­tress at a slow start that made such a re­ac­tion nec­es­sary, and the self-harm that put the vis­i­tors two down after 15 min­utes. Wilfred Ndidi will need to be cre­ative to ex­plain why he han­dled in the penalty area to do­nate a sec­ond goal to Ever­ton.

Once Leicester played with pace and pur­pose, aided by the in­tro­duc­tion of James Mad­di­son, they looked ca­pa­ble of cre­at­ing at will. Too late, Rodgers ac­knowl­edged.

“Too many times I have to de­liver a half-time talk to get a re­ac­tion,” he said. “If you want to con­sis­tently com­pete at the top of the ta­ble it is about mind­set. We have to have a re­set men­tally if we are to achieve what we want to achieve. If we fin­ish out­side the top four, we’ve not been good enough.”

It was as if Rodgers asked his play­ers at half-time if they re­ally wanted Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball. For 45 min­utes it did not show. The same could not be said after the in­ter­val, Kelechi Iheana­cho set­ting up a thrilling sec­ond half with a for­tu­itous goal as Ma­son Hol­gate’s clear­ance struck the striker’s chest.

Only Michael Keane’s goal-line clear­ance pre­vented a scruffy equaliser, spar­ing the de­fender and Jor­dan Pick­ford’s em­bar­rass­ment after what was al­most a calami­tous mis­judg­ment in the six-yard area.

Ancelotti will jus­ti­fi­ably ar­gue his team’s ap­pli­ca­tion was worth the three points that take his side within a win of a Euro­pean qual­i­fy­ing po­si­tion. “It con­tin­ues the dream,” the Ital­ian said.

What a turn­around, given Ever­ton were in the bot­tom three when Marco Silva was sacked in De­cem­ber. Ancelotti’s side are more ro­bust, his op­tions strength­ened by An­thony Gor­don’s emer­gence.

His cross for Richarli­son gave Ever­ton a 10th-minute lead and Dominic Calvert-Lewin should have given Gor­don his sec­ond as­sist of the first half, a gor­geous first­time pass send­ing the striker in a foot race with the Leicester de­fence that re­quired a late in­ter­ven­tion from Caglar Soyuncu. That would have put Ever­ton three-up long be­fore Leicester’s re­sponse after Gylfi Sig­urds­son eased in the penalty. Ndidi was ad­judged to have han­dled after a long Var ad­ju­di­ca­tion. “A harsh de­ci­sion,” Rodgers said.

Ice cool: Ever­ton’s Ice­landic mid­fielder Gylfi Sig­urds­son calmly nets from the penalty spot

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