GYLFI SIGURDSSON was the iceman who sent a chill down Brendan Rodgers spine as he scored from the spot to clock up Everton’s longest unbeaten run for four years.
The Icelandic international hasn’t exactly had much penalty practice recently as Everton have endured a 38-Premier League game wait for a spot kick.
But you wouldn’t have guessed it as Siggi gave Kasper Schmeichel ‘the eyes,’ before calmly stroking the ball home from 12 yards to hand Everton a two-goal lead, which Leicester just couldn’t come back from despite a much improved performance after the break.
Rodgers knows all about Sigurdsson’s quality having signed the midfielder for Reading and Swansea in his time.
But with friends like him, who needs enemies, as the Foxes gave the chasing pack hope of catching them as they leaked three vital points.
Yet to win a game since lockdown ended, anxious Leicester fans must be asking: ‘Will the real Jamie Vardy please stand up?’
Remember during the Foxes’ title-winning season when postman Lee Chapman became an overnight national figure – cutting about Leicester in full club-kit as a Jamie Vardy lookalike?
Right now there is a suspicion the postie has swapped places with Vardy and taken over from the Premier League’s 19-goal top scorer before lockdown as the iconic striker again looked weighed down as he remains stuck on 99 Premier League goals!
In contrast, Carlo Ancelotti couldn’t have wished for a smoother start as his Toffees raced into a two-goal lead within 16 minutes.
It would have been even quicker had it not taken VAR official Craig Pawson and his assistant Simon Long two and a half minutes to award Everton their first penalty of the season as the Foxes buckled.
Having survived an early wake-up call when Lucas Digne blocked Vardy in front of goal, Everton took the lead with their first serious attack.
Mason Holgate fired the ball out to the left touchline where Digne was waiting to nod the ball down to young Anthony Gordon, making only his second Premier appearance.
The 19-year-old took off down the left before cleverly pulling the ball back to just outside the six yard box. Richarlison beat Ben Chilwell in the sprint to get to the ball first and the Brazilian expertly beat Kasper Schmeichel to leave Leicester wondering what had hit them.
Dennis Praet tried to respond with a snapshot which deflected off Andre Gomes for a corner but Leicester were rattled and Everton took full advantage when they made it 2-0 from the most unlikely of places … the penalty spot.
Ancelotti’s men must have wondered what they had done to offend the men in black and the boys in the VAR booth at Stockley Park after failing to win one spot kick all season.
However VAR ref Craig Pawson changed all that when he spotted a handball match official David Coote hadn’t called – even though co-commentator Jamie Carragher’s yells from the TV gantry could probably be heard on the pitch.
It was a close one though, which took a string of replays to decide.
Kelechi Iheanacho bagged a freak reply for Leicester but it was no consolation for a costly defeat at ghostly Goodison Park[/caption]
Digne, so dangerous with his deliveries, swept a free kick into the box and Wilfred Ndidi and Michael Keane both rose together. The ball clearly struck a hand – the big question was who did it belong to?
After much deliberation, Stockley Park declared that the ball had indeed bounced off Ndidi’s raised arm and then on to Keane’s hand in a fraction of a second.
Leicester must have felt aggrieved that none of the officials spotted Dominic Calvert-Lewin smashing into Caglar Soyuncu to wipe-out their Greek colossus.
But none of that concerned Sigurdsson who expertly swept home his spot-kick with the kind of nonchalance which leaves goalies livid.
Having won their first penalty of the season Calvert Lewin then tried his luck, going down in the box in an attempt to gain another.
But Coote rightly decided Caglar Soyuncu had legally battered him with a good-old fashioned shoulder-charge.
Brendan Rodgers did some straight talking during the water-break and to be fair, his players responded.
Seamus Coleman defended brilliantly to nod away a Praet cross as Harvey Barnes steamed in at the back post on his shoulder.
SUDDENLY GAME ON
Then Jonny Evans was blocked by Jordan Pickford who used his legs to defy the defender, before James Juston curled a left-footer just wide.
Rodgers had seen enough and helped himself to a large double at half-time, sending on James Maddison and Kelechi Iheanacho for Praet and Barnes.
Schmeichel did well to frantically keep out a deflected Digne cross just after the break as it threatened to creep in at his near post.
But within six minutes of changing his team to play with twin strikers, Rodgers earned a speedy pay-off as Iheanacho snatched a lifeline.
Tielemans found Vardy in the box and when Holgate attempted to clear the ball smashed off the Nigerian and landed in the net behind a startled Pickford.
Suddenly it was game on and, with Maddison pulling the strings Leicester were in command.
Pickford gave them encouragement, allowing a bread and butter Albrighton cross to squirm through his gloves.
The ball bounced off Michael Keane’s left toe and was headed goalwards, until the defender underlined his man of the match performance with a stunning goalline clearance.
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Pickford was at it again as he missed a simple cross, allowing Vardy to head down to Iheanacho. His sidekick brilliantly flicked the ball over Keane, only to slash his finish wildly over.
With 16 minutes left the Everton keeper was booked for time-wasting which summed up the Toffees’ desperation. However despite late scares when Chilwell volleyed over and sub Ayoze Perez failed to nail a Vardy set-up, they survived to grab three valuable points.
As for Leicester?
Unless Vardy grabs that milestone 100th Prem goal, the longer their agony will continue.