Review by Richard Foster (Twitter: @rcfoster)
The big question hanging over Monday’s encounter at Goodison Park was raging on social media throughout the day. No, it wasn’t whether Palace could secure a hat-trick of 3-2 away wins against Everton; nor was it will a Palace striker ever score a goal? The one issue that the whole social media world wanted to know was who was going to be Gary Neville’s replacement on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football. Surprisingly, Jamie Carragher’s new partner was a dapper-looking Craig Bellamy. Even more surprisingly, the spiky Welshman was pretty accomplished and may even prove to be a long-term replacement for the new Valencia manager.
A few other issues were settled on Monday: Palace love Merseyside. Since losing to Liverpool in October 2013, the Eagles have secured four wins in a row either side of Stanley Park. One of the key figures in Palace making the city of Liverpool ‘a home from home’ has been the impressive Scott Dann. Against Everton, Dann was excellent alongside the equally resilient Damian Delaney and repelled a vibrant home team, which had been averaging three goals a game.
Palace showed early signs of their own confidence. Yannick Bolasie delivered a series of good quality crosses, one of which was headed powerfully by Wickham, only for it to strike Tim Howard’s body from close range. Through the tricky Gerard Deulofeu and the muscular Romelu Lukaku, the home side were a threat, and indeed the latter was unlucky with a left-foot shot that hit the post and then cannoned across the goal to safety. Although it was an open game in the first half, there were few clear-cut chances and Palace’s proud record this season of never being behind at half time in the Premier League, remained intact.
Everton upped the pace from the very beginning of the second half, and the pressure on the Palace defence was mounting. Possession was being conceded too often for comfort and Wickham looked increasingly isolated, as well as clearly tiring. As ever, Yohan Cabaye showed his class in both breaking up Everton’s mounting attacks and finding inch-perfect passes to relieve the pressure, and the odd counter-attack did offer some threat to Everton’s goal.
Finally, the breakthrough came after Cabaye was initially denied by a series of tackles, only for Jason Puncheon’s strike to be pushed behind by Howard. The resulting corner led to Dann heading into the net, securing Palace’s place as the set piece kings – scoring highest proportion (45% of their goals from set pieces). The Liverpool-born centre back was at it again (this was his third Palace goal on Merseyside) and celebrated with understandable gusto in front of the noisy band of Eagles fans. Everton responded with vigour, and within five minutes were level, when almost inevitably Deulofeu crossed for Lukaku to tap in for his sixth goal in five games.
The last ten minutes were mainly spent around the Palace penalty area, with the odd foray into Everton territory. Substitute Jordon Mutch was unlucky not to get at least a free kick, if not a penalty at the death, when Ramiro Funes Mori brought him down. Wayne Hennessey and his back four performed creditably, and the 1-1 draw proved to be a hard-earned point and pushed the club up to sixth. Alan Pardew was certainly pleased by his team’s performance: “We showed tonight we have quality.”
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