LEICESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) – Kelechi Iheanacho was the unlikely hero as Leicester came from behind to beat Everton 2-1 and close the gap on Liverpool at the top of the Premier League to eight points.
The Nigerian had not played a single minute of Premier League football this season prior to being summoned from the bench just after the hour mark, but Iheanacho teed up Jamie Vardy’s equaliser before scoring the winner deep into stoppage time.
“The best teams have spirit,” said Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers of his side’s fightback. “This is a team that is so strong together. Kelechi is a wonderful demonstration of someone who trains with a great attitude every day.
“It was about giving him the confidence and reinforcing his role. The rest was him. I’m absolutely delighted for him.”
Richarlison had given the visitors a shock lead at the King Power as Everton produced a performance that may do enough to save manager Marco Silva’s job ahead of the Merseyside derby tomorrow.
Silva was reportedly on the verge of losing his job earlier in the week after a shocking 2-0 home defeat to Norwich.
Another defeat leaves the Toffees hovering just two points above the relegation zone with Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal to come in their next four league games.
“A really harsh result for the players and the club. We deserved more from this game,” said Silva.
“No one can say anything about the players’ commitment, attitude or desire.”
Silva responded with a change of formation and his switch to a 3-5-2 worked to perfection for the opening goal.
Djibril Sidibe broke upfield from right wing-back and his cross was bulleted home by Richarlison with a diving header.
Leicester had already seen two half-hearted appeals for a penalty waived away for challenges on Ayoze Perez by the time that referee Graham Scott did point to the spot for Mason Holgate’s apparent trip on Ben Chilwell.
However, a lengthy video assisted referee (VAR) review concluded no contact had been made and the Foxes were frustrated once more.
Leicester laboured in the search for an equaliser, but the introduction of Iheanacho as a substitute just after the hour mark provided the much-needed spark.
His first effort was too close to Jordan Pickford, but he got in behind the Everton defence again moments later and squared for Vardy for score his 13th goal of the season at the back post.
“Kelechi caused a few more problems for the defenders, he got us into space and he got the winner which he deserves,” said Vardy. “He thoroughly deserves this.”
Just as Leicester were turning the screw, Everton were inches away from retaking the lead in spectacular fashion as substitute Moise Kean nearly scored his first goal for the club with a curling effort that hit the side-netting.
Silva’s men appeared to have weathered the Leicester storm, but deep into added time Iheanacho collected Ricardo Pereira’s pass, turned inside and found the bottom corner.
A nervous wait ensued with the linesman’s flag raised, but a VAR check ruled the former Manchester City man onside for his first league goal since September 2018.