We came, we saw, we let in soft equalisers.
Everton are back, bitches.
Before the kick-off at the rubbish-named King Power Stadium – it will always be Filbert Street, a ground that holds many mixed memories, from The Duncan Ferguson strangle, the Anders Limpar screamer, Muzzy Izzet throat-slashing gestures and, for a select few, an absolute arse-ragging in the Zenith Data Systems Cup when one beacon-cheeked drunken teenager in the Everton section might have screamed for handball during a ‘crowd scene’ only for both sets of supporters to hysterically reply in unison: ‘It was the goaly’ – there was the news that veritably rocked Evertonians, that Ross Barkley is set to miss a fair chunk of the season with a knee injury.
Now, Barkley’s far from the finished article, but he is developing all the time and he offers something completely different from the other midfielders at the club: Roberto Martinez has seen his options reduced considerably with this ill-timed turn up.
The show must go on though, and Barkley’s injury means an opportunity for Steven Naismith, a player who showed his worth during the second half of last season. The Scot picked up where he left off too, scoring a goal on the cusp of half-time that looked for a good while as if it was going to be the winner. It was created by some old-school left wing magic between Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar – they are like Morecambe and Wise in that you’ve seen their interplay a million times but it still never fails to raise a smile – and when the little South African eventually poked the ball into Naismith’s path near the penalty spot he instinctively cracked a shot home off the underside of the crossbar.
A very Everton goal.
Unfortunately Leicester’s goals had a touch of ‘typical Everton about them too. Their first on 22 minutes came when Sylvain Distin, off-balance and using his wrong foot, ‘Yoboed’ a clearance straight at home debutant Leonardo Ulloa – his three brothers are apparently policemen – and the former Brighton striker smashed home the Foxes’ first equaliser of the afternoon.
That jammy strike came less than two minutes after the opener from Aiden McGeady’s absolute pearler – the best thing he’s done in an Everton shirt by some distance. The home side looked as if they had dealt with the worst of the danger when, following a corner, Baines’ deflected shot fell to Distin. Kasper Schmeichel did well to smother the Frenchman’s close-range effort, and even though the loose ball fell to McGeady the keeper had five defenders back behind him on the line.
Undeterred, the little Irishman curled his shot over them all and in off the angle. There wasn’t even a postage stamp to aim for, in all honesty. The target was so small you could actually say that the shot was franked. And you don’t see many of them.
Everton were deserving of their lead at the interval, but with Romelu Lukaku failing to make an impact throughout and visibly flagging in the second half, they failed to do enough to see the game out. At some point Leicester were going to take some risks and this Everton side, though it’s good at controlling large portions of games, always looks susceptible to conceding a goal to some crude or unorthodox manoeuvre as opposed to being punished by slick, attacking football. A manky set-piece for instance, or a straightforward welly right up the middle looks as if it can undo 89 minutes of well-rehearsed training ground professionalism. You either have to starve the opposition of the ball altogether, and really crush their spirits, or you go forward and you score more goals, and as the match wore on the Toffees didn’t quite looked capable of either.
As the game got really messy in the closing stages, and Everton were guilty of some lazy passing when under no real pressure, the home side looked to have spurned their chance of a point when substitute Jeff Schlupp – not to be confused with his brother Mick – ran unhindered through the heart of the defence but smashed his shot somewhere over Ashby de la Zouch. They did get another chance though, on 85 minutes: half a tackle by Baines, a tentative challenge from recently booked Gareth Barry and then a tackle from Phil Jagielka that broke to the unmarked Chris Wood. He would have struggled to miss.
A bit of a ‘pisser’ then, as they say in UEFA coaching circles. To throw away two points like that, from a winning position away from home, is at best careless, at worst maybe an indication that we still lack a certain mentality or ruthlessness that the real top teams possess. Maybe even cynicism.
The next two games are at Goodison, which is positive, but big things are expected of both Chelsea and Arsenal this season following heavy investment in their squads over the summer. Points against those two will be as difficult to find as the really ill-advised diary that the police appear to be looking for in Sir Cliff Richard’s bachelor pad.
‘Had lunch with Una then the funniest thing happened. Met a lovely young lad. We had a little struggle cuddle. Pretty sure I got away with it though. Played a couple of sets with Sue afterwards, still can’t used to this new racquet…’