Football: Cadamarteri becomes the catalyst

Leicester 0 Everton 1
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At the bottom, even the smallest glimpse of hope counts for something. Everton have not scored a goal from open play in nine hours and 35 minutes of Premiership football so it is hardly surprising that their manager, Howard Kendall, is keen to emphasise the merits of three consecutive clean sheets.

"Maybe when we meet Manchester United on Boxing Day we will not be the rank no-hopers everyone expects us to be," Kendall said. One sensed, however, that he no more believed in his own brave optimism than anyone else in the assembled company.

Kasey Keller had to make only two saves on Saturday, neither of them difficult. He almost stopped Gary Speed's decisive last-minute penalty, which Leicester would have seen as justice in an ill-tempered match neither side deserved to win.

So far as Martin O'Neill was concerned, the award of the spot kick, which gave the Merseysiders their first away win for more than a year, capped a miserable performance not only by his team but by the referee, Jeff Winter. The Stockton official issued seven yellow cards, the most contentious of which was to Leicester's Emile Heskey for alleged cheating.

The young striker could hardly complain. An atmosphere conspicuously lacking seasonal goodwill was getting out of hand and after a series of dramatic as-if-shot collapses by various players, Heskey was deemed to have made one Oscar-seeking tumble too often by the 15th minute of the second half.

This was a matter that perplexed O'Neill, who was keen to exonerate Heskey, who claimed he had been head-butted, but conceded in the same breath that attempts to win free kicks by deception are becoming all too commonplace.

"It is becoming increasingly difficult for referees to tell the difference between the genuine foul and the dishonest one," he said. "There is so much at stake these days, it is becoming a feature of the game, regrettably."

Indeed, it was at the root of Winter's struggle to keep raw tempers under control. Just before half-time, Leicester were pointing the finger at 18-year-old Danny Cadamarteri, who was knocked down roughly by Steve Walsh, the Leicester captain, and then dropped to the ground dramatically when Spencer Prior's hand made contact with his face.

Walsh, guilty in the first instance, gave Cadamarteri the benefit of his opinion in the second, which was not the example a captain should be setting. He spent much of the remainder of the match scowling at opponents or else ear-bashing the referee. In time he was booked for his protests at the penalty award - as it happens, when Cadamarteri was brought down - and confronted the official again after the final whistle, an action for which O'Neill branded him "a dope."

In a match which will not survive long in the memory, the Everton youngster made the brightest impression, whatever Walsh thought of him.

Charged with leading the line in the enforced absence of Duncan Ferguson, he created the only chance of the first half for Nick Barmby and forced Kasey Keller's only save in the second. And it was his pursuit of Neil Lennon's headed back-pass that ended with Keller clumsily crashing into him a yard inside the penalty area.

Goal: Speed pen (89) 0-1.

Leicester City (5-3-2): Keller; Kamark (Wilson, 76), Prior, Elliott, Walsh, Guppy; Savage, Lennon, Izzet; Fenton (Claridge, 45), Heskey. Substitutes not used: Arphexad (gk), Parker, Watts.

Everton (5-3-2): Myhre; Barrett, Short, Watson, Tiler, Hinchcliffe; Oster (Ball, 90), Farrelly, Speed; Cadamarteri, Barmby. Substitutes not used: Gerrard (gk), Jeffers, Grant, Thomas.

Referee: J Winter (Stockton-on-Tees).

Bookings: Leicester: Savage, Heskey, Prior. Everton: Speed, Tiler, Barrett, Barmby.

Attendance: 20,628.

Man of the match: Cadamarteri.