Leicester beats Everton 3-2 to ensure top slot in EPL
LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Leicester’s fairytale run at the top of the English Premier League continued with a 3-2 win over Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday.
Riyad Mahrez converted the first of his two spot-kicks a half-hour in after Ramiro Funes Mori brought down Shinji Okazaki in the area, only for Romelu Lukaku to equalize five minutes later by finding the net in his seventh consecutive league match.
Mahrez’s second successful penalty came after Tim Howard clipped Leicester striker Jamie Vardy as he tried to round the goalkeeper after an hour.
Vardy set up Okazaki for Leicester’s third with a shot into the bottom corner, while Kevin Mirallas pulled another goal back for Everton near time.
The victory set a Premier League record as Leicester became the first club to have been bottom of the table on Christmas Day in one season - and then top of the standings the following Christmas Day.
More importantly, it also added to Leicester’s chances of achieving the seemingly impossible task of winning the title. Five of the last six teams to top the table on Dec. 25 went on to become champions, with Liverpool being the only exception in 2013-14.
Leicester broke the deadlock in the 28th minute when Christian Fuchs’ throw-in was flicked on by Vardy to Okazaki who did not appear to be offering a serious threat to Everton’s goal when Funes Mori brought him down.
Mahrez tucked the spot-kick just inside Howard’s right-hand post but Lukaku quickly replied with struck his 52nd goal in 102 Everton appearances.
Ross Barkley was denied by goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and had his follow up blocked on line by Andy King, allowed the Belgium international forward to hammer home the rebound.
In the second half, Vardy bent an effort past the far post, the closest he would come to scoring. But he had a more direct influence in winning the penalty when he was tripped in the penalty area by Howard as he ran onto Mahrez’s through-ball.
Mahrez went to Howard’s left this time to register his 10th goal in nine away league matches this season.
“I wasn’t nervous before my penalties - you choose a corner and shoot,” Mahrez said.
Substitute Mirallas set up a tense finish when he fired home at Schmeichel’s near post but Leicester held on, with Leonardo Ulloa forcing Howard to save with his legs in added time.