Everton responded to Merseyside derby disappointment with a 2-0 win at Leicester on Boxing Day as manager Ronald Koeman saw his players end a run of four successive defeats on the road.
In a match low on quality and goalmouth incident, the two Everton goals came from long balls downfield. However, after six winless away games dating back to September, the three points are the main thing to take from this fixture, especially as the Blues suffered a heavy defeat on their last visit to this ground.
A first clean sheet in eight matches represents a timely boost for a team smarting from the late Liverpool concession last week. Despite Leicester's troubles this season, this remains a tough test away from home. In a changed formation and with 20-year-old Mason Holgate making his first start since August, the visitors limited the home side with comparative ease.
Whatever the limitations of this squad, the style of play adopted in recent weeks remains an ongoing concern. Everton were clinical in front of goal but that merely distracts from the shortage of clear-cut chances. For the fifth time in eight games, the half-time whistle sounded without the Blues having had a single shot on target.
Frustratingly, though there was no finish at the end of it, the football prior to Idrissa Gueye's glaring miss in the second half showed the quality at Koeman's disposal when properly applied. Overly direct football suits none of the attack-minded players in this squad.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- The involvement of Mason Holgate and Tom Davies was a pleasing show of faith toward two talented youngsters waiting patiently for their chance. Creative issues remain but there are signs Everton are adapting to Koeman's methods without the ball.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Joel Robles, 8 -- A clean sheet and an assist capped an assured display. Caught high balls well and brought calmness to the defence by commanding his penalty area and claiming crosses. A clean sheet in both of his league starts this season is a pleasing statistic for a player intent on reclaiming the No.1 position.
DF Mason Holgate, 7 -- While one slight error led to a Leicester chance and showed his inexperience, the youngster exhibited remarkable composure and continues to look at home at this level whenever called upon.
DF Ashley Williams, 8 -- Flanked by the two other centre-backs and playing almost as a sweeper, the 32-year-old shone in central defence, making interceptions and vital clearances. One excellent tackle instantly halted a dangerous attack in the first half.
DF Ramiro Funes Mori, 6 -- A panicky and erratic nature with the ball at his feet undermined a generally sound defensive display. Seems more comfortable as part of a three-man defence.
MF Seamus Coleman, 6 -- There was no faulting his endeavour in the taxing wing-back position but there was a lack of quality when it mattered. Often found time and space deep in Leicester territory but failed to turn these openings into chances.
MF Idrissa Gueye, 7 -- Measured against the high standards set throughout this season, this was a relative off-day. Dispossessed more than any other player and missed an easy chance, but did counter this with game-high returns on ball recoveries and tackles won.
MF Gareth Barry, 6 -- A subdued display on his return to the starting XI. A lack of movement and width in front of him was a factor but Barry was unable to influence Everton's passing game in his usual manner, which perhaps accounted for his early withdrawal.
MF Leighton Baines, 6 -- Some bright moments in attack hindered by a narrow system as Baines tried to inject some purpose and quality into Everton's football but found it difficult from such a deep starting position.
FW Aaron Lennon, 5 -- Again, while the little football that materialised tended to arrive down his side of the pitch, there was plenty of involvement but not enough creativity. In fairness, operating in a narrower role does not play to his strengths.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 7 -- Deserves immense credit for his match-clinching strike, especially at the end of another game in which he was largely deprived of service. The well-taken goal was Lukaku at his rampaging best but his teammates need to provide more chances of this ilk, playing the ball into space ahead of him instead of an aimless long ball or something to feet that leaves his back to goal.
FW Kevin Mirallas, 6 -- Scored for the third successive match against Leicester, albeit aided by a slight deflection, as his run and finish for the opening goal offered a reminder of the quality Mirallas possesses. The hope is that the confidence boost kick-starts his season.
MF Tom Davies, 7 -- Slotted seamlessly into midfield and backed up his growing reputation with a lively all-round performance in the middle of the park.
MF Ross Barkley, NR -- Productive cameo returned an assist and saw him involved in the build-up to Gueye's miss.
MF Tom Cleverley, NR -- Shored up the midfield in the closing stages.