Everton find a hero who can save the season despite concerns over Goodison Park ‘moment’

Three hours before kick-off, Richarlison tweeted his scoring record. Taking center stage on the chart, which showed how many he had scored for club and country, was Everton’s famous crest.

As he, or whoever was running his social media accounts at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, marked his exploits, a dazzling, unattainable milestone was within his grasp: his fiftieth goal for the Blues.

This has been far from a classic season for the 24-year-old. Few will walk away from this campaign without regret. But in recent weeks, as Everton have needed a hero, he has emerged.

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Against Newcastle United, he bit and growled at the resurgent Magpies centre-backs, causing them no end of trouble until, tired and bruised, they allowed Alex Iwobi to pierce through the heart of their defense and send Goodison Park into ecstasy.

At Burnley two weeks ago, he razed the home defence. A danger every time he received the ball, he fought for possession, shone with his skill and showed his pace as he left defenders, and great striker Wout Weghorst, chasing his shadow.

Everton snatched a devastating defeat from the jaws of victory at Turf Moor undermining such an impressive performance even without his coolness from the spot.

And then, at Manchester United, it was the Brazilian who played a crucial role in Anthony Gordon’s winning goal.

In truth, Richarlison fought tonight. He missed two stunning chances, one in each half and both from close range.

However, while fighting for influence, he kept fighting. With Anthony Gordon, another who has enjoyed better nights, he spent the last 15 minutes looking for the ball and drawing defenders to commit fouls.

*Damage YOUR Everton player ratings here

It was Richarlison who chased down an opponent to win a corner that should have been scored. It was Gordon who won the late corner that Salomon Rondon agonized over the goal.

In those final minutes of a game that seemed lost, Richarlison pressed on.

After Seamus Coleman failed to capitalize on a glorious opportunity when the ball landed unmarked on the back post, it seemed that was it.

However, it was not. Somehow, Dele Alli had time left to get the ball to the near post and when Rondon – a useful nuisance after his introduction – let it run down his body, he fell on that man.

His ending was messy. He was scratched. It was diverted. But it didn’t matter. It is questionable whether Everton deserved any of this.

The night started badly for the hosts with the news of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s latest injury in a season that he and his team-mates have suffered too much.

As the starting eleven took to the field, the spotlights were overshadowed by the spring sun. However, this was not a post-Easter revival story for Everton’s season.

Leicester City had played three times since Everton’s confidence-boosting win over Manchester United.

They showed no signs of tiring, immediately finding their rhythm. Local fans hoped that Brendan Rodgers would rest his stars and save them for his European exploits. Instead, Harvey Barnes and James Maddison led a team that had traveled to Merseyside to play football. For the first 25 minutes they danced around a desperately waving Everton team.

Richarlison and Iwobi led aggressive pressing and initially made Kasper Schmeichel nervous in front of his own goal. Such was the confidence of the Foxes, however, they kept the men forward and, once the press was beaten, the extra men had room to exploit.

Just six minutes into the upbeat Gwladys Street was silenced as Maddison found too much space down Everton’s left and returned the ball to Kelechi Iheanacho. He should have scored but missed his shot. He touched Barnes, who was not wrong.

Minutes later it should have been 2-0, Maddison taking a direct shot at Jordan Pickford after Leicester pushed through the hosts with ease. After just a dozen minutes, the away crowd chanted “ole”.

Everton failed to find control but were offered a way back into the fray as the game grew more frenetic. Richarlison missed the target from eight yards out when hitting him seemed so much easier then, as the first half drew to a close, Demarai Gray went wide after a training ground corner grind. But it was too little, too late. It was a credit to the home fans that the players walked off the field to a handful of applause and muffled cheers rather than a chorus of boos.

Everton showed more of a fight in the second half. Buoyed by a crowd desperate to applaud anything that represented progress, they got better.

Richarlison took 65 minutes to get his first shot on goal, but Leicester’s midfield were unable to repeat the dominance they enjoyed in the first half.

Everton remained vulnerable, relying on Pickford to deflect a wide shot and, in truth, lacked penetration as their opponents taunted them with the ball.

That was until the frantic final minutes when Richarlison, Rondon and Coleman had a chance to snatch that unlikely point.

The big noise as Richarlison’s historic goal crossed the line to secure the equalizer was fueled by relief. It was another great moment for Goodison Park in a season that relied too heavily on them.

This was a missed opportunity for Everton to move six points clear of relegation and drag Leeds United back into their orbit. But it is nonetheless another crucial point. And that, for now, is all that matters.

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