Everton beat Leeds in pulsating encounter

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin's winner is his 12th Premier League this season Everton
Dominic Calvert-Lewin's winner is his 12th Premier League this season

Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin both scored to give Everton a hard-fought 2-1 win at Leeds United to take the Toffees fifth in the Premier League.

The visitors took a ninth-minute lead when Lucas Digne’s excellent low cross from the left flank was steered first time into the net by an unmarked Sigurdsson.

Leeds came close to equalising but Ezgjan Alioski volleyed against the post and Pascal Struijk’s header was acrobatically tipped over by Everton goalkeeper Robin Olsen.

England striker Calvert-Lewin then grabbed his 12th Premier League goal of the season with a close-range diving header after Ben Godfrey had flicked on Sigurdsson’s left-wing corner.

But Leeds were the better side in the second half and Raphinha pulled one back with a calm finish from Patrick Bamford’s pass, although the hosts could not grab an equaliser.

The victory moves the Toffees, who started the day eighth, above Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham, although the Hammers will regain fifth if they beat Aston Villa in a later game on Wednesday.

Everton’s revival under Ancelotti continues

Everton had to work hard to claim their 11th league win of the season and the result continues their impressive revival over the past 14 months.

In December 2019, they were in the bottom three when Marco Silva was sacked, with caretaker boss Duncan Ferguson taking them up the table before Carlo Ancelotti got the job.

Ancelotti guided them to 12th last season and they have built on that in 2020-21 and are now in contention to qualify for European football after a three-season absence.

Calvert-Lewin has been key to Everton’s success and he made a return to goalscoring form after seven league games without a goal.

“Sometimes you just have to keep plugging along and I didn’t stop believing that the goals would come again,” said Calvert-Lewin, who has played five times for England.

“They [Ancelotti and coach Ferguson] have just told me to continue the belief I had in myself and it has worked wonders and gave me the confidence to keep going.

“We’ve frustrated ourselves when we have dropped points and we want to stay in contention for the Champions League.”

Only Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, with 15, has scored more league goals than Calvert-Lewin, who netted his 12th in 19 league matches with his diving header from Sigurdsson’s corner late in the first half.

Iceland midfielder Sigurdsson had earlier put Everton ahead as he got free of his marker to finish from eight yards after Digne’s brilliant cross from the left.

With Leeds pushing for an equaliser, Calvert-Lewin had a chance to score his second of the night after a quick counter-attack, but could not beat home goalkeeper Illan Meslier, although the miss did not prove costly.

Ancelotti handed a late debut to Joshua King, the Norway striker signed from Bournemouth on transfer deadline day, and he helped his team see out the victory.

This win means Everton have picked up 16 points from their last six away matches and only Manchester United and Leicester have won more games away from home.

Back-up keeper Olsen frustrates Leeds

Leeds were playing at home for only the second time in seven matches and were doing so on a newly-installed pitch, which had been bought for £300,000 from Tottenham.

However, they fell behind after only nine minutes and had chances to equalise but were repeatedly denied by a brilliant performance from Everton goalkeeper Olsen, who was only playing as England’s Jordan Pickford was ruled out with a rib injury.

The Sweden international saved efforts from Mateusz Klich and Struijk, although Olsen was relieved when the post came to his rescue to keep out Alioski’s brilliantly-struck volley from 20 yards direct from a deep corner.

Leeds had only conceded six goals in their past six league games and boss Marcelo Bielsa will be angry with his side’s defending, which gave Everton a generous two-goal lead at half-time.

Bielsa’s attacking, entertaining side were back in it within four minutes of the restart as Raphinha passed the ball into the net after being set up from Bamford.

Raphinha has now scored four times for Leeds since his £17m move from Rennes in October
Raphinha has now scored four times for Leeds since his £17m move from Rennes in October

But once again Leeds could not get a leveller with Olsen making three superb saves in the space of two minutes, to keep out a deflected effort, Raphinha’s follow-up and a well-hit 20-yard strike from Jack Harrison.

Top goalscorer Bamford, with 11 Premier League goals to his name in 2020-21, had a chance to get his side a point but his looping header went just over on a frustrating evening for Leeds.