Should Gareth Southgate ignore the England claims of James Maddison yet again on Thursday the only conclusion to draw is that it must be personal. Everton were the latest to succumb to the playmaker’s creative charms as the Leicester revival continued in solid and spectacular fashion.
Youri Tielemans added another superb goal to his rich catalogue and Harvey Barnes rounded off a flowing counterattack as Brendan Rodgers’ team propelled themselves out of the relegation zone with a highly accomplished away display. Maddison supplied the pass for both goals, his third and fourth assists of the season, struck a post and spread fear throughout the Everton defence with his speed of thought and footwork.
It is almost three years since the 25-year-old made his one and only appearance for England as a substitute against Montenegro. Since then, nothing. On this form it is beyond comprehension. “I would be lying if I said it was not in my mind because the World Cup is nearly here and that is the pinnacle,” Maddison admitted.
Rodgers was effusive in his praise for the midfielder as the Leicester manager savoured his first Premier League win at Goodison Park, a third victory in four matches and another demonstration of his team’s defensive improvement. “The boy has been like this for 18 months,” said Rodgers. “He is one of the best players in this league, who just happens to be English, and we are talking about a league full of world class superstars. He is a superstar. What a player. You would pay just to watch him train every day. This boy is built for a World Cup.”
It was remarkable the game remained goalless until Tielemans’ fabulous strike on the stroke of half-time. Patson Daka just failed to connect with a Maddison shot in front of Jordan Pickford’s goal with only 22 seconds gone and forced the Everton goalkeeper into a fine low save moments later. Frank Lampard’s team should have led from their first attack when Idrissa Gana Gueye dispossessed Boubakary Soumaré outside the Leicester penalty area. Dominic Calvert-Lewin sent Alex Iwobi scurrying into space behind Wout Faes but the midfielder placed his shot inches wide of the far post. The roles were reversed early in the second half when Iwobi played Calvert-Lewin through on goal. Danny Ward was off his line smartly to smother, and the striker’s troubles deepened when forced off with a hamstring injury on the hour. His outside hopes of going to the World Cup may have departed with him.
“We missed two of the better chances in the game at crucial moments,” lamented the Everton manager. “But we have to respect Leicester, they are a fantastic footballing team. We competed to a big extent but we were beaten by a very good team.”
The breakthrough was worth the wait. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall released Barnes down the left with a fine first time ball. From his low cross Daka had a shot blocked by James Tarkowski and Conor Coady under-hit an attempted clearance, allowing Maddison to tee up his captain 25 yards from goal. Tielemans controlled on his thigh before sending a superb volley arching over Pickford and into the top corner.
Maddison was inches away from doubling Leicester’s lead when beating Dwight McNeil before hitting a post with a shot from the edge of the area. Lampard introduced Anthony Gordon, Neal Maupay and Nathan Patterson in a bid to inject fresh energy into Everton’s play but they were unable to break a resilient Leicester defence that preserved a fourth clean sheet in five games. With five minutes remaining, Barnes started and finished a devastating counter attack in which he received Maddison’s pass inside the area, spun away from Abdoulaye Doucouré, and swept an emphatic finish beyond Pickford. “It was a fantastic performance,” said Rodgers.