REUTERS - Champions Leicester continued their slide towards a New Year Premier League relegation fight as they were beaten 2-0 at home by Everton on Monday despite dominating the match.
Goals from Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku condemned Claudio Ranieri’s side to their second home league defeat of the season to leave them in 16th place, three points above the drop zone.
With a dreadful away record having badly undermined their season, it was no wonder Ranieri was gloomy as he reflected on how a side who collected the Premier League title in May have fallen away so badly.
”Nothing is right, nothing is easy but we must continue to work hard and be very attentive in the little detail,“ the Italian said. ”Only the little details make us down. We have to react as soon as possible.
“What a year. Everything was right for the first six months and now everything is wrong. We have to fight.”
After 18 games last season Leicester had 38 points.
This time they head into a new year with a mere 17 and the spectre of relegation can no longer be dismissed.
“We have to work and react that is our medicine. We will try to do our best again,” Ranieri said. “We have to stay together.”
Last season’s PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez was on the bench on Monday and with Jamie Vardy suspended Leicester lacked teeth in the final third of the pitch.
Vardy at least joined in the festive fun by donning one of 30,000 Jamie Vardy masks produced by the club and worn by fans in protest at his ban following a red card.
But there was nothing much to smile about for the home crowd.
Everton, still stinging from their stoppage-time derby defeat by Liverpool last week, created almost nothing until Mirallas ran on to a long clearance from goalkeeper Joel Robles and scored with a deflected shot six minutes after halftime.
With the hosts committing men forward Everton were increasingly dangerous on the break and Idrissa Gueye blazed over the bar before Lukaku finished off another counter attack with a crisp shot to make it 2-0 in stoppage time.
Everton’s first win on the road since beating Sunderland in early September lifted them to seventh.
“We did a good job today,” Everton boss Ronald Koeman said. “The team was aggressive, we defended well, we were compact in the second half.”
Reporting by Mitch Phillips and Martyn Herman , editing by Ed Osmond