Remember the very beginning of the Premier League season? Fun times. Everton were undefeated and dreams of Europe were not only realistic but expected. Ronald Koeman had instantly changed the culture. This was a “BIG” club with equal aspirations. Yeah. The Blues now have one point from two games and have smashed back to earth after drawing 1-1 with Crystal Palace at Goodison Park on Friday night.
The first half was all about the hosts. They bossed possession, played some beautiful football and seemed to be miles ahead. But they could only manage one goal and it came off of a set piece.
It was an odd case as Romelu Lukaku came up to strike the ball. He is not typically the one on free kick duty, but he had laser focus in his eyes. There was no way Ross Barkley was taking this away from him. He stepped up, hit a brilliant strike and froze Steve Mandanda, Palace’s keeper, as he watched it smashed into the back of the net in the 35th minute.
GOAL: Lukaku free kick [@everton_ar] pic.twitter.com/A8A11rUED4— EFC Feelin Blue (@EFCFeelinBlue) September 30, 2016
Lukaku’s goal was the cherry on top of a good opening 45 minutes for Everton. Ross Barkley was excellent, creating chances all over the shop. Yannick Bolasie looked lively against his old club. And we know that a fully-fit midfield of Idrissa Gueye and Gareth Barry is always great.
The problem with the first half was that the Toffees only scored once. Against a team with proven threats like Christian Benteke, Wilifried Zaha and Andros Townsend, it is a gamble to only go up one goal. Of course, it proved to not be enough.
Benteke opened the second half with a really lovely goal for the Eagles. The striker was matched up with little Seamus Coleman (not ideal for Everton). A ball was played into the box and Benteke simply out-jumped Coleman and snapped a header far post and past Maarten Stekelenburg. To me, it looks like a fantastic goal, but to others there was some question as to whether Stekelenburg could have done more. Watch the highlight and you be the judge.
INSTANT REPLY: @chrisbenteke shows his Belgium teammate Romelu Lukaku that he can also deliver goals. #PLonNBC https://t.co/j7emKeHBeX— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) September 30, 2016
Minutes later, Palace nearly went ahead. Damian Delaney knocked in a header of his own and the Eagles celebrated, but it was disallowed on account of a player being offside. It wasn’t Delaney, but rather James McArthur. After Delaney headed the ball, the offside McArthur made an attempt at the ball. He didn’t make contact, but it is in the rules that you cannot do that from an offside position. Thank the old gods and the new for that.
The rest of the second half was exciting and fast-paced. Both teams created chances, but no one scored. Palace had about 50 corner kicks and each one made Everton look more and more shaky while defending them, but it all worked out.
The best chance for the Blues came from Gueye, of all people, in the 52nd minute. Bolasie did most of the work on the left wing and then found Gueye in front of an open net, but a Palace defender made a last-ditch dive to block the shot away.
That is the whole of it tonight. Everton didn’t play bad, and Palace is a quality club. The work rates of Bolasie and Lukaku were encouraging. At times, Stekenburg and Bryan Oviedo could be questioned, but no one was especially terrible. However, it will leave a bitter taste in the Toffees mouth. It feels like they should have won and maybe they were the better team. But a draw is probably a fair result.
Everton’s next game is two weeks from tomorrow, an October 15th trip to Manchester City (gulp). As for now, the Blues are in third place in the league, but that will almost surely change over the weekend.