LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – Japan’s Shinji Okazaki won a penalty and scored the winner in Leicester’s 3-2 win at Everton on Saturday, making sure the Foxes head into Christmas at the top of the English Premier League table.
“I had the desire to score today and am relieved that bore fruit,” said Okazaki, who controlled Jamie Vardy’s pass inside the box and placed home with his weaker left foot on the 69th minute to make it 3-1.
After two scruffy goals at West Ham and Newcastle this season, Okazaki’s third also came away from home but it found its way straight to the net this time, nicely dispatched beyond the diving Leighton Baines and keeper Tim Howard at pouring Goodison Park.
“I wasn’t worried about making mistakes and focused solely on facing forward,” said Okazaki, who also won a penalty earlier on the 27th minute. The 29-year-old got the better of Ramiro Funes Mori on the left side of the box and the Argentine bundled him over, with Riyad Mahrez converting the opener.
“I could instill the impression that I’m someone who can be counted on,” said Okazaki, who started for the first time in three matches and put in a full 90 minutes for the first time in almost four months.
“I’m only thinking about scoring whether I’m starting or coming off the bench.”
The first-half lead lasted only five minutes as Romelu Lukaku volleyed in following two blocked shots by Ross Barkley, but Leicester went back ahead in the 64th minute thanks again to Mahrez’s penalty. The Algerian threaded a pass behind the Toffees’ backline for the league’s top scorer Vardy and onrushing Howard brought him down.
There was a nervy end to the game following Okazaki’s third as Barkley set up Kevin Mirallas for Everton’s second a minute from time, but Leicester hung on for its 11th win of the season. The Foxes top the table on 38 points, five and six ahead of Arsenal and Manchester City, respectively. The two teams face each other on Monday.
In Germany, Shinji Kagawa also made his first start in three games and played the whole game as Borussia Drotmund lost 2-1 to Cologne after conceding two goals in the last 10 minutes.
“I wanted to finish the year off with a win. I’m really frustrated,” said Kagawa, who played in the attacking midfield but saw his side’s four-game winning run come to an end in the Bundesliga. “I couldn’t get the feeling we could score today, it was difficult to receive the ball and become the focal point of the attack.”
Japan captain Makoto Hasebe helped Frankfurt to its first win in eight games as his club beat Werder Bremen 2-1 at home, while Hiroki Sakai’s Hannover lost 1-0 against leader Bayern Munich at home, while Gotoku Sakai’s Hamburg went down to Augsburg in the same fashion.
In Spain, Takashi Inui came on in the 23rd minute for Eibar but could not help his side in a 2-0 away defeat at Deportivo La Coruna.