Leicester foiled by Gascoigne

Table-topping ambitions of Taylor's side are thwarted as reformed Everton midfielder sets up Unsworth's equaliser
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The Independent Online

For 37 long years, since the first flush of Beatlemania and the last days of the Kennedy presidency, Leicester supporters had waited to see their club's name at the top of the League. Ade Akinbiyi's early goal left Manchester United's tenure looking tenuous yesterday, only for David Unsworth's equaliser to make it a case of so near, yet so far.

For 37 long years, since the first flush of Beatlemania and the last days of the Kennedy presidency, Leicester supporters had waited to see their club's name at the top of the League. Ade Akinbiyi's early goal left Manchester United's tenure looking tenuous yesterday, only for David Unsworth's equaliser to make it a case of so near, yet so far.

Everton deserved their point for the drastic improvement in their performance after half- time. It will surprise many who witnessed his patchy showings in their previous matches that the slimline 33-year-old Paul Gascoigne was the heartbeat of their revival, teasing Leicester with his distributive talent and lasting the pace better than he ever did in his miserable sojourn with Middlesbrough.

For a time, though, everything seemed to be falling into place for Leicester as Peter Taylor's team attempted to emulate the side featuring Gordon Banks and Frank McLintock which briefly headed the table in August 1963.

They had much the better of the first half, both Akinbiyi and Darren Eadie bringing desperate saves from Paul Gerrard before Everton buckled in the 23rd minute. The move had its origins in the home half, where Matt Elliott resisted the temptation to launch the ball by stroking a short pass under pressure to Robbie Savage.

Further first-time touches by Savage and Neil Lennon worked the Northern Ireland international into a position to drill a low pass towards the six-yard box. Richard Dunne stood off Akinbiyi just enough for the £5m newcomer from Wolves to double his tally.

Everton had their moments, although at that stage Savage was policing Gascoigne so effectively that they were few and far between. Savage was over-zealous, however, and in the 35th minute he was cautioned for an accumulation of fouls on his prey. That, allied to an injury to Andrew Impey which forced Taylor to switch Savage to the right of midfield, proved the turning point.

Leicester's lead lasted only seven minutes of the second half. Gascoigne set the ball rolling, literally, by finding Niclas Alexandersson on the right before sprinting into the penalty area for the return. A clever adjustment of the feet sent Lennon the wrong way and enabled him to flight a cross which Tim Flowers could only parry under challenge from Kevin Campbell. Unsworth seized on the loose ball to volley the first goal against Leicester from open play this season.

Most of the drama thereafter was condensed into the last 10 minutes. Richard Cresswell saw his header from Steve Guppy's corner beat Gerrard but not Alexandersson on the line. Stan Collymore, on as a substitute, then outjumped David Weir but this time the ball clipped the crossbar.

Gascoigne, fittingly, almost had the final say in stoppage time, picking out Thomas Gravesen with the game's best pass. Unfortunately for Everton, the Dane went for glory, volleying wide when he had time to bring the ball down.

Walter Smith, the Everton manager said afterwards: "That's as well as Paul has played since he came in the summer. He is regaining his fitness, sharpness and appetite for the game. I don't know about England - that's for others to decide - but the important thing is that he continues to display the desire he showed in the second half."

Taylor, while hailing the "wonderful skills and tricks" Gazza had produced, wondered aloud why his players lost confidence in their passing game. But his parting shot put Leicester's disappointment into perspective. "Seven games gone and we're joint top with United," he said. "I'll settle for that."

Goals: Akinbiyi (23) 1-0; Unsworth (52) 1-1.

Leicester City (3-5-2): Flowers; Rowett, Elliott, Taggart; Impey (Collymore, 53), Savage, Lennon, Izzet, Guppy; Akinbiyi (Gilchrist, 67), Eadie (Cresswell, 67). Substitutes not used: Davidson, Royce (gk).

Everton (3-5-2): Gerrard; Dunne, S Watson, Weir; Alexandersson, Gascoigne, Gravesen, Nyarko, Unsworth; Jeffers (Moore, 85), Campbell (M Hughes, 85). Substitutes not used: S Hughes, Cleland, Simonsen (gk).

Referee: A Wiley (Chester-le-Street).

Bookings: Leicester: Savage, Eadie, Taggart. Everton: Watson.

Man of the Match: Gascoigne.

Attendance: 18,084.

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