Everton’s saving draw with Leicester, but the Foxes break out of the bottom three

Everton’s Alex Iwobi saved a 2-2 draw against relegation rivals Leicester, but it was the Foxes who climbed out of the bottom three in the Premier League after Monday’s decisive showdown.

Iwobi equalized in the second half at King Power Stadium after James Maddison missed a chance to put Leicester 3–1 up when his penalty was saved by Jordan Pickford.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin gave Everton the lead by converting an early penalty before Leicester hit back with goals from Caglar Soyuncu and Jamie Vardy.

Leicester, who have won one of their last 12 league games, are out of the relegation zone on goal difference.

The Foxes, the 2016 Premier League champions, are battling out of the league for the first time in nine years.

“We missed a penalty at 3-1 but we were second in scoring in the first half for a long time,” said Leicester boss Dean Smith. “We knew that today’s result would not determine what would happen. We’re out of the bottom three, but there are four more games to go.”

Everton, who last played in the Second Division in 1954, remain in 19th place.

Sean Dyche’s side are one point behind safety, with the bottom five clubs each with four games left.

Everton narrowly avoided relegation last season under Frank Lampard, but this season their struggles have again led to the appointment of Dyche in January.

The Toffees beat Arsenal and Leeds in two of Dyche’s first three games but have since won only one in 11 games, prompting furious protests from fans against the club’s hierarchy.

“We kept our composure, kept trying to create something, and overall it’s a good performance, even though we didn’t score three points,” Dyche said. “I didn’t come here for a walk in this part. I knew it would be a challenge. The only offense today was two very soft goals, but the mentality is what we need.”

Despite the rebellious spirit of Everton’s traveling fans, they took the lead in the 15th minute.

Timothée Castagne conceded a penalty in vain, recklessly shoving Calvert-Lewin as the striker tried to control Seamus Coleman’s pass.

Calvert-Lewin scored from the penalty spot, scoring his first goal since October and just his second in an injury-plagued campaign.

Leicester needed an answer and they decisively scored two goals in 11 minutes.

A cross from Harvey Barnes in the 22nd minute deflected a shot from Wout Faes on goal, and Soyunku landed a half-volley that eluded Jordan Pickford’s weak save attempt.

In the 33rd minute, Everton’s creaky defense was exposed again.

Iwobi lost possession too easily, and Vardy quickly rolled back the years, reaching Maddison’s pass and rounding Pickford for a steep finish.

Everton were in disarray from behind and Michael Keane conceded a first-half stoppage time penalty when he blocked Barnes’s cross with an outstretched arm.

But Maddison took the penalty straight to Pickford to give Everton new hope.

The save was also a tribute to England goalkeeper Pickford’s training.

Television cameras showed an image of his water bottle at the back of the net, detailing Leicester’s potential penalty takers, including the note: “James Maddison – Stay – 60 per cent in the centre”.

“I did my homework. I called him this morning where would I go. He’s a good player and he expected me to move, but I bluffed him twice,” Pickford said.

Iwobi made Maddison pay for his miss when the Everton midfielder equalized in the 54th minute with a 10-yard shot past Iversen after Calvert-Lewin crossed a McNeil cross.

In a tense final, Vardy headed James Tarkowski, while Iversen hit the ball at the feet of Calvert-Lewin, and then deflected a rocket from Abdoulaye Doukur.

© 2023 AFP