Everton 1-1 Palace
Crystal Palace continued their unbeaten run at Goodison Park since returning to the Premier League in 2013, earning a well fought point on Monday Night Football. After consecutive 3-2 victories for the visitors in the past two seasons over the hosts, it looked like yet another three points would be heading back south from the blue half of Liverpool as Scott Dann scored on Merseyside for the second time in two away games for the Eagles - giving Alan Pardew’s men the lead in the 76th minute. Everton found an equaliser five minutes later, however, with Romelu Lukaku scoring his 50th goal for the Toffees.
The match was a high paced affair with Everton dominating possession and creating chances with it, meanwhile Palace countered well and forced Tim Howard into several saves. Both teams were guilty of picking the wrong final ball on several occasions, notably Bolasie in the second half as he decided to take on an extra man instead of squaring to the unmarked Jordon Mutch in the middle.
Lukaku struck the woodwork in each half, with a Connor Wickham header striking the underside of his own crossbar as he tried to clear a crossed free kick in between. Wayne Hennessey also had to be at his absolute best to deny a Tom Cleverly shot from the edge of the penalty area – credit where credit is due, this is one top stop from the Welsh number one:
At the other end, Howard got his positioning just right to deny Wickham his first Crystal Palace goal. The big centre forward got onto the end of a Yannick Bolasie cross but his header could not find a way past the American stopper. In the second half Howard excelled twice more, saving expertly with his feet from the rampaging Bolasie and with his hands from Jason Puncheon.
Palace had big penalty appeals waved away at 0-0 and 1-1 but the result was probably a fair one, even if the refereeing decision were not.
The Penalty Decisions
I don’t think that much discussion is needed around the Gareth Barry shirt pull on Mile Jedinak. It is a stonewall penalty and even Gareth Barry admitted it in his post match interview:
The Jordon Mutch one falls under the category of ‘you’ve seen them given’. The slide in from the defender is laughable. He gets nowhere near the ball and is only saved the penalty decision by a terrible final touch from Mutch. If the substitute keeps the ball under control and then goes down under the contact then it is hard for the officials to not award the spot kick. The poor touch, however, could have either put it in the officials’ mind that the player took the ball or that Mutch was never going to be able to get to the ball.
Is it given at the other end? I’ll let you decide that.
Pardew and the Substitutes
Pardew made two substitutions immediately after Dann had given Palace the lead, although they were already preparing to come on prior to the centre back finding the back of the net. One worked perfectly, the other was baffling.
Mutch served as a great outlet, hurried Everton into several errors and made stuff happen in advanced areas of the field. He was just what we needed for that last 15 minutes.
Dwight Gayle, however, was a disastrous choice for me. If you are going to play him through the middle then fine, but to put him out on the left wing and Bolasie up top was suicidal and cost us the win. Gayle got his positioning all wrong in the build up to the Everton goal and allowed Gerard Deulofeu the freedom of the right side and he was not going to let the opportunity pass him by as he laid on the goal for Lukaku. If Bolasie stays on the flank and Gayle plays as the lone forward, there is a good chance we are two points better off today as Deulofeu doesn’t get that much time on the ball and we have the opportunity to hold out for the win.
The Jason Puncheon Debate Continues
Due to the suspension of Wilfried Zaha, Punch was pushed back out wide with James McArthur moving higher up the pitch in his place and Mile Jedinak stepping in alongside Yohan Cabaye. Several times the Palace number 42 was caught in possession through not recycling the ball quickly enough, but at other times he produced some brilliant passes.
He laid on 6 key passes in the match, 2 more than anyone else on the field (which is an astronomical effort considering how much of the ball Everton had in the second half), he set up the goal with a perfectly drilled in corner and could have easily come away with a goal if it was not for a very good save from Howard.
The green shoots of returning form were there for Puncheon in this one. He is still not close to his best but as the New Year draws in (where his form has shown significant upturns since he has played for Palace) he looks like he might be starting to approach it, which could help Palace comfortably pick up a best league finish since 1991.
Connor Wickham Can’t Buy a Goal
After Howard had pulled off a point blank save to deny him I really started to feel for the front man. His hold up play was largely exceptional and he battled away for the duration of his game but it just looks like he wouldn’t be able to buy a goal at the moment. I even made that joke when he struck his own crossbar – keeper is beaten all ends up but it hits the crossbar and bounces away to safety.
Keep plugging away big man, it will come.
Man of the Match: Scott Dann
His goal means that he takes the accolade way from Bolasie and Damien Delaney who could have easily taken it with their performances. The centre back pairing took a while to get to grips with Lukaku, who was actually the best player on the pitch on the night, but once they did they mixed it well with the big man up top – oh if only we could have him at Palace!
We joked in the crowd that it is a shame that Dann wasn’t born in London as he loves to score in his home town!
Up Next: Southampton
Prior to the match Palace drew Southampton in the FA Cup for the second season running. Last year Palace came away from St Marys with a surprise 3-2 win in the fourth round but it is without doubt a tough test for Palace in the third round this season. First we must face each other in the league, however, and fingers and toes are crossed that we can build on the mullering of Newcastle in our last Selhurst Park fixture.
Come on you Palace!