Palace 0-1 Everton
A sixth loss in seven Premier League games saw Crystal Palace slip into the relegation zone for the first time this season. The hosts looked to have done enough to earn a point against in-form Everton, but a controversial late winner from Seamus Coleman left Sam Allardyce still searching for his first points at home as Palace manager.
Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku both struck the woodwork, but the half belonged to Wayne Hennessey who brilliantly denied the visitors on three occasions before the break. Not to be undone, Everton stopper Joel Robles flew away to his right to deny Scott Dann late on in the second-half before Coleman found the back of the net in the 87th minute. This defeat was the third in the last four home games that Palace have lost to a goal scored in the 87th minute or later.
The Controversial Winner
For me, it is as clear as day here that the referee, Anthony Taylor, got this wrong. However, the fact that I have had to argue with Palace fans who believe he got it right suggests that it is not so clear cut. Here is why I believe that we were robbed.
When Jeffrey Schlupp goes down with cramp, he is off the field. Joel of Everton takes the goal-kick, and the visitors start to build. Arguably, this could be considered as bad sportsmanship on behalf of Joel. I have no problem with them playing on from this point. As far as Joel knows, Schlupp could easily jump straight back up and run on the field.
On Match of the Day, the commentator suggested that Schlupp re-entering the field of play without the referee’s permission is a “cautionable offence”. That is wrong. He is not off the field injured. He is down with cramp. He does not need permission to come back onto the field here.
The key thing in the whole incident, an incident that Match of the Day neglected to show and even the BBC match report failed to acknowledge, is that the ball goes out of play again before Everton score. At this point, Schlupp is down on the field, has been down for almost and minute and the ball has left the field of play. As soon as the ball goes out for that throw in, Taylor has a care of duty to go and check on Schlupp. He is clearly not faking an injury. We are trying to earn a first home Premier League point in six weeks, are you telling me that Taylor thinks that Schlupp is prepared to fake his plight for that long? six-yard Schlupp couldn’t get to his feet, couldn’t get treatment and then had to be substituted – so Taylor deeming it as “not serious” has to be discounted.
Taylor knew he had screwed up as well. When the goal went in, he returned to the halfway line and sheepishly waited, refusing to go over to Schlupp, or even look in his direction. As soon as the ball hit the back of the net, he should have been sprinting to the other end of the field to check on the player.
Of course, we could have defended better in the situation. Hennessey shouldn’t parry into the six yard box, Joe Ledley should clear the ball into touch and Damien Delaney should pick up Coleman. Arguably, the bench should have acted quicker to get a substitute ready to make before Everton could take the throw in. However, if Schlupp were in a position to play, the initial shot and then the Coleman shot would have been unlikely to happen as he would have been in the hole that the Everton full-back exploited.
Some people suggested that I was making excuses for the players in offering this point of view. I am not. I just find it unjust that after such a period of terrible form, we were finally in a position to end it with a solid point against a good team, only to be cheated out of a point by poor refereeing.
Oh, and did I mention that Coleman was offside? Regardless of Alan Shearer saying to the contrary on Match of the Day. His right foot was offside and he scored with his right foot. That makes it offside, you twat.
How’s your luck when you’re struggling at the wrong end of the table?
Three at the Back
I think that playing three at the back definitely helped us. I think that this was most noticeable in the performance of the midfield three of Puncheon, Cabaye and McArthur. They were able to play with more freedom knowing that the cover behind them was always in place and Puncheon and Cabaye both shined as a result.
The problem with the back three, however, is that it is a tough formation to implement and they struggled at points, allowing Everton some big chances that would have gone in on and another day. The question is, do we play this formation for the rest of the season? If we do, I think that we will see a more settled defence, but what happens when Wilfried Zaha returns? Do we really want to play him at right wing back? If we can find a way to fit Wilf into the system and have him remain effective, we should stick with it. If we stifle him within the formation instead, I am not sure that it is the right way to go.
Man of the Match: Jason Puncheon
Wayne Hennessey seemingly had this wrapped up at half-time, only to spill four shots in the second-half and yet again parry a ball right into the middle of his goal. It was undoubtedly his best performance for some time, but the sooner he is out of the goal, the better for me.
As for Puncheon, I thought that he was tremendous. He kept the ball well, displayed time and again outrageous feet to dance around pressing Everton midfielders and caused Everton problems. He must have been extremely frustrated what was in front of him. Remy, while looking promising, is rusty and has the first touch of a non-league player at the moment. As for Benteke, if it is not a cross into the box that he is attacking, he looks abject at the moment.
Yohan Cabaye also deserves a mention in this section. The fact that he was knackered and had to be replaced showed how hard he had worked during his time on the pitch. Hopefully, Allardyce will be able to get more out of him than Pardew ever did.
Up Next: Manchester City FA Cup
Weird things happen in the FA Cup. Wigan made the semi-final the season after winning the Cup, beating City en route to the semi-final, where they lost on penalties to Arsenal. At a time when all we crave is Premier League points, a win against City in the Cup followed by a 5-0 trouncing when we face them in the league in May would not surprise me.
Realistically, avoiding a hammering in this is key. If we go for five plus, it could spell the end of any chances of gaining the confidence that we need to get out of this mess.
Come on you Palace!