Palace 2-2 Everton
A combination of poor Crystal Palace defending and shocking refereeing saw Everton escape Selhurst Park with a point. Twice the visitors came from behind as the hosts dominated, but could not shake off the sticky Toffee's.
Roy Hodgson’s men came racing out the blocks and were ahead inside a minute. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who recovered from his back spasm that saw him withdrawn in the first half of the England vs Brazil game in midweek, saw his shot parried by Jordan Pickford straight into the path of the returning James McArthur who quickly adjusted his feet to volley home into the open goal.
The lead lasted just four minutes. Oumar Niasse broke into the penalty area and then hurled himself to the ground as he brushed shoulders with Palace skipper, Scott Dann. Referee, Anthony Taylor, pointed to the spot to the shock of everyone in the stadium. Leighton Baines converted the penalty, meanwhile, Niasse, who almost signed for Palace on transfer deadline day, was booed for the rest of the game.
On thirty-five minutes, the Eagles soared back in front with the best team goal scored since Christian Benteke’s goal at Southampton last season. I counted 16 passes on the highlights I saw, but these did not show the entire move that ended with Joel Ward putting in the perfect low cross that Wilfried Zaha tapped home from close range. I said that Barcelona would be proud of the goal and I stand by it.
Unfortunately, with seconds remaining in the first half, Julian Speroni had Palace fans remembering his home debut against Everton back in 2004. He dribbled past Niasse but got past the Everton striker unlike against Kevin Campbell 13 years ago, however, the stopper then passed short to an unsuspecting Dann when he should have hammered the ball downfield where it would have been greeted by the half-time whistle. Dann was caught in possession and two passes later the pantomime villain, Niasse, was in on goal and easily slotted home the equaliser.
Everton made two changes and switched to a 4-4-2 right at the start of the second-half and the switch almost caught Palace cold. One of the substitutes, Calvert-Lewin, found himself free in the six-yard box after a cutback, but Speroni redeemed his first-half error with a brilliant reaction save to his right when he was going the other way.
That was all she wrote for the visitors in the second half as Palace quickly re-established their dominance. The only response that Unsworth’s men had was to kick lumps out of the Palace players.
Christian Benetke made his long-awaited return from injury and was presented with a golden opportunity to score the winner. Zaha was gifted possession deep in the Everton half, and he released Benteke with a first-time pass. The big Belgian’s first touch was perfect. He flicked the ball with his heal to put it perfectly in his stride only to scuff his left-footed effort embarrassingly wide. We will need him to take those chances going forward if we are going to dig ourselves out of this mess.
Anthony Taylor’s Performance
The referee’s display was up there with one of the worst I have ever seen.
Firstly, the penalty decision:
"It was a dive, 100 percent a dive,” said Phil Neville, who used to play for Everton, on Match of the Day.
"Anthony Taylor is in such a good position, look at him there. There was a bit of contact with Scott Dann, but he goes down trying to win the penalty, I think it was a soft penalty and I think Crystal Palace are really unlucky.”
"I think it is a clear dive, but I feel he won't be punished for it because there is a little bit of contact” continued Alan Shearer. “I think it is a clear dive and he should be punished for it, but I do have a feeling he will get off with it."
When an ex-Everton man and Alan Shearer are siding with Palace, you know it’s bad.
Ask yourself this. If that was Wilfried Zaha. Would it have been a penalty or a yellow card for diving?
Secondly, Everton committed 23 fouls in the game and received just three bookings. Niasse, when on a yellow, fouled Yohan Cabaye from behind just as he was about to cross from the by-line. It was a textbook yellow card, but the referee lets him off with a warning. He then got away with yet another foul as the refereeing refused to book him for an accumulation of fouls.
Tom Davies, who came on in the second-half, flew into a tackle and fouled his man and was booked. Seconds later, he mullered another Palace player on the edge of the penalty area, preventing a shot and the referee let him off a yellow. Later, Taylor let him off yet another foul.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Five fouls. The highest in the game. He only played 45 minutes. No yellow card.
Meanwhile, Luka Milivojevic was booked for his first foul and if that was a yellow then Davies, Niasse and Calvert-Lewin should all have been sent off for the visitors.
It is amazing that we managed to produce such a dominant display against 12 men.
Man of the Match: Ruben Loftus-Cheek
In a game that we can dominate, he is so good. I still have reservations about him when we are penned in our own half, but when we have the ball his ability is outstanding and his potential uncapped. I do wish he would shoot thought. There were several scenarios in which a dig at goal would have been more effective than passing.
Up Next: Stoke City
I am off to Mexico on honeymoon for the next two weeks, so the match reports for Stoke, Brighton and West Brom will be written by James Howland and Sam Hesketh respectively. We will not talk about the fact that I am missing Brighton away. I’ll never get over it.
As for the game, it is another big one. As I am away, I am positive that it will be the game that kick starts a run of victories that see us climb out of the relegation zone.
Come on you Palace.