Puel has instant impact at Leicester; Brighton held at home
LONDON (AP) — After seeing the instant impact of Claude Puel at Leicester, Everton might be looking to appoint a permanent manager sooner rather than later.
Leicester was reinvigorated on Sunday by Puel’s altered team selection and tactics, as it produced a devastating counter-attacking goal on its way to a 2-0 victory over Everton in the English Premier League.
The recalled Demarai Gray went on a stunning run from the edge of his own box to help set up Leicester’s first goal by Jamie Vardy, before adding a slightly fortuitous second himself.
Former Everton player David Unsworth is in caretaker charge of the Toffees following Ronald Koeman’s dismissal, but his side’s display against Leicester will have done little for his aspirations to land the role on a permanent basis.
A fourth game without a win, three of which have been losses, saw Everton stay in the relegation zone with eight points from its opening 10 games.
Also, Puel’s former side Southampton drew 1-1 at Brighton, extending both sides’ unbeaten runs in the Premier League to three games.
Unhappy at making just nine Premier League starts last season, Gray almost left Leicester during the summer. The Foxes will be relieved they turned down significant transfer offers to keep hold of the 21-year-old.
Despite that show of faith, Gray had started just one league game this season under Craig Shakespeare, who was fired by Leicester earlier in October.
In his first game in charge, Puel adjusted Leicester’s shape, moving Riyad Mahrez into a more central position to make space for Gray on the wing. It took the England under-21 international just nine minutes to reward his new manager.
Gray picked up the ball on the edge of his own box, using his pace to evade Tom Davies before skipping past the challenge of Idrissa Gueye and releasing Mahrez with a perfectly weighted pass down the right side.
Mahrez matched Gray’s precision as he crossed into the path of Vardy, who was never going to miss from close range.
Just before the half-hour mark, Gray cut in off the left flank to unleash a goal-bound cross, which was deflected in via a clumsy attempt at a clearance from Jonjoe Kenny.
Everton fought hard to get back into the game after the break, but Leicester captain Wes Morgan produced some timely interceptions to preserve his side’s lead.
Leicester is up to 11th and is now unbeaten in four Premier League games.
Southampton dismissed Puel at the end of last season despite an eighth-place finish and run to the League Cup final. There has been little evidence so far to suggest the club is significantly better off under Mauricio Pellegrino.
A 1-1 draw at Brighton’s AMEX Stadium saw both sides extend their unbeaten runs in the Premier League to three games.
Neither Pellegrino nor Brighton manager Chris Hughton could complain at the final whistle, with a goal in the seventh minute of either half fairly reflecting an even encounter.
Steven Davis gave Southampton the lead as he reacted quickest to head into an empty net after James Ward-Prowse’s curling free kick rebounded off the post.
Brighton was struggling in attack but finally built up some impetus in the closing stages of the first half, which it was able to maintain after the break.
Pascal Gross produced his fifth assist of the season as he crossed to the back post for Glenn Murray, whose header beat Fraser Forster with the help of a deflection off Cesar Soares.
With two goals to his name, Gross has now been directly involved in seven of Brighton’s 10 league goals this season.
Southampton has scored just nine goals, continuing its lackluster attacking form from last season, where it was the lowest scorer in the top half of the table.
Despite sitting a point behind ninth-place Southampton, newly promoted Brighton will be happier with its start to the season.