Monday’s chaotic Premier League contest at King Power Stadium allowed Leicester to move out of the relegation zone but left Everton fans singing at full-time.
“England’s number one, England’s England’s number one,” was the chant the travelling supporters serenaded goalkeeper Jordan Pickford with after the 2-2 draw.
The 29-year-old’s penalty save from international team-mate James Maddison in the first half may prove crucial in Everton’s bid for survival, with a major helping hand from some cunning planning.
A camera close-up of the goalkeeper’s water bottle by the side of the pitch picked up a graphic attached to it showing Maddison tends to go down the middle with 60% of his efforts, and to ‘stay centre’.
After feigning to go left and right, Pickford did just that – and managed to bat away Maddison’s penalty which was struck as anticipated.
“I did my homework,” Pickford told Sky Sports. “I called it this morning where I would go. He is a good player and he would’ve expected me to move, but I double-bluffed him and got one up on him.
“Madders needs to learn his lesson. Don’t play poker.
“It was a big moment and I’m happy to save it – it’s what I’m there for.”
Despite Everton’s perilous league position, Pickford pledged his future to the club in February by signing a new deal which would keep him at Goodison Park until 2027.
In a game where both goalkeepers shone, Pickford made the crucial stop to deny England team-mate Maddison.
It was his fifth penalty save in the Premier League – the first in four years since keeping out a Matt Ritchie effort at Newcastle in 2019 – and could well be the most important.
A lucky supporter also got to take home a souvenir having held up a sign pleading for Pickford’s shirt, and the goalkeeper obliged before pumping his fists and heading down the tunnel.
“From the fans’ perspective it was a good game to watch,” said Pickford. “We created a lot of chances and their goalkeeper made some good saves. We missed chances, but created the most since the new manager has come in so it was a plus, but also a negative.
“I thought we were brilliant, it was just those final details with the delivery. Small details win games, but we didn’t get beat.”
Former Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said of Pickford’s water-bottle tactic on Sky Sports: “It seems to be common but something I have never done.
“It is a trend at the moment but I have a different process and I’ll tell you when I retire. It looks strange not to move and is incredibly brave, especially when everything is on the line. At 3-1 it is probably game over.”
Asked whether Maddison will keep taking penalties for Leicester, manager Dean Smith said: “We will see. We will have a look at it in training.”
The eventful game played in an electric atmosphere saw the league’s lowest scorers Everton have 23 shots at goal, their most in a top-flight match this season.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin gave the Toffees the lead with a thumping penalty, but Caglar Soyuncu and Jamie Vardy turned the game around for Leicester with the veteran striker also hitting the crossbar.
Maddison’s penalty miss proved critical in the end, as Alex Iwobi’s guided finish earned a point for the visitors.
Leicester moved out of the bottom three on goal difference, while Everton remain in 19th place, one point behind 17th-placed Leeds with four games remaining.
Smith told Sky Sports: “We were second best for long periods. It became a basketball game. We wanted a game where we could have control.
“The challenge is what we thought it would be. We knew today’s result wouldn’t define what happens. We come out of the bottom three. Four games to go, 12 points to play for.”
Toffees boss Sean Dyche said: “I am more pleased with the performance [than the result]. We came here to get all three. A lot of the play was very good from us tonight.
“It’s another point, a positive point for many reasons. That’s the performance level we need to keep working to and eradicate some of the negative details.
“All games in the Premier League are tricky.”
Everton, though, could have scored more but found opposition goalkeeper Daniel Iversen in inspired form, making six saves.
Despite stunning stops to deny Iwobi and Abdoulaye Doucoure late on, one came from Calvert-Lewin’s incredible miss from a couple of yards out when the Everton striker mis-hit a shot.
“He missed one but he is in the right areas,” Dyche said of Calvert-Lewin’s performance. “He is looking fitter and stronger with his all-round game. I had the goal of getting him truly fit for the last bit of the season. He is running with the ball powerfully.”
The Toffees face a tough task in the last four games of the season, with away trips to Brighton and Wolves and home games against league leaders Manchester City and then Bournemouth on the final day.
“It’s about focusing on the job in hand and performing collectively,” former Premier League striker Chris Sutton said on BBC Radio 5 Live.
“Sean Dyche admitted Everton were a bit nervy before this game and I’m not sure if that was the right thing to say.
“I think they are in massive trouble. They have a tricky run-in and they are building this new stadium. We know what happens from a player’s point of view, they will want to jump ship.”