Football Features

“Are you watching, Gareth?” – Winners and Losers as exciting Everton hold lacklustre Leeds

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 17:42, 21 August 2021

In an exciting afternoon of football, Leeds and Everton played out a pulsating 2-2 draw at Elland Road.

Who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Did you know that Dominic Calvert-Lewin didn’t play a single second of the Euro 2020 final? Did you also know that England’s three forwards didn’t manage a single shot on goal in that final? And that England missed three penalties in the shootout?

Anyway, in completely unrelated news, Dominic Calvert-Lewin banged in a penalty today against Leeds and has now scored two goals in two Premier League games so far this season. His run-up was unorthodox but his finish was emphatic as he drilled it beyond Ilan Meslier.

Calvert-Lewin played well all afternoon, and indeed he won the spot-kick himself before stepping up to convert. He’s an incredible striker with an incredible eye for goal in incredible form. With Harry Kane only just back in training, and with England games coming up soon, the question has to be: are you watching, Gareth?

Loser: Liam Cooper

Every good story needs a villain, and this afternoon’s villain of the piece was Leeds captain Liam Cooper. While Calvert-Lewin was the hero, Cooper cast himself as the bad guy by fouling Calvert-Lewin to concede the penalty that allowed Everton to take the lead.

It was a foul born of need, but brought about because Cooper let Calvert-Lewin get goalside. And frankly that he was only punished with a yellow card was a surprise given that had he not fouled Calvert-Lewin, the striker would have gotten a clean header on goal.

Cooper played well besides the error, but the error defined all.

Winner: Mateusz Klich

The Polish attacking midfielder was really poor against Manchester United in gameweek one and as a result, Leeds were really poor. Klich is so important to the way Leeds play because he adds vertical threat and progressive passing.

Today we saw both of those things, as Klich created a team-high 3 chances with his passes but was also the man to most embody Bielsa’s principles of movement off-the-ball. With Bamford running slightly off centre and vacating the striker position, it was Klich who raced into that gap and so when Bamford reverse the ball, Klich picked it up and finished with unerring confidence.

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Winner: Rafa Benitez

Many Everton fans didn’t want the Spaniard in charge given his past with Liverpool, so it was going to be up to him to deliver convincing results on the pitch to win them over. And well, so far so good?

After going 0-1 down at home in their first match, they roared back to a 3-1 win. Then this afternoon, his side battled Leeds on their own turf in a spectacularly entertaining game and came away with a draw. And alright a draw is not a win but the Toffees were the better side and unlucky to not come away with a win.

Winner: Demarai Gray

The Evertonians were upset about so much this summer, and one of them was the signing of Demarai Gray, viewed as tremendously underwhelming in an area where Everton wanted serious reinforcement. But Gray suits Benitez’s 4-4-1-1 perfectly and today was fantastic, chipping in with 3 clearances, 2 interceptions and, of course, a goal.

Gray’s goal was a true thing of beauty. The way he moved on the outside of the attacking, staying unmarked, and then had the confidence to drive it down onto his left and pop it into the back of the net before Meslier could even react.

If Gray can keep this kind of form up, maybe the Everton fans will finally cheer up.

Loser: Marcelo Bielsa

Two games played three goals scored against Everton and Manchester United isn’t that bad for Marcelo Bielsa. However seven goals conceded is pretty god damn bad and the way that his Leeds side defended at times was quite simply not good enough.

It’s obviously far too early to doubt a master like Bielsa, and you would expect Leeds to get going once they can hit a rhythm, but they have started the season in horribly wonky form where they look capable of scoring with most attacks but they are remarkably flimsy at the back. And without a solid defence, their open and attacking style of play will see them get caught all too often.