Everton had suffered three losses in a row heading into the game against Crystal Palace. Those losses came against three teams who are currently in the top six and two of those games were away. Evertonians have not been happy with the toothless attack which had not recorded a shot on net in the last two matches. Will the Blues dig deep in their lockers and find their shooting boots?
In his pre-match comments, Frank Lampard addressed the difficulty of those fixtures and the need for improvement in the final third:
“We’ve clearly had a tough run of games on paper [against Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United] It’s probably shown us the reality of where we are at, generally, and in-house the reality of things we can do a bit better. The coming games are a good opportunity for us to show that [we can improve].
Our last home games, against West Ham and then in the second half against Manchester United, we were crossing and creating opportunities… In the West Ham match, we were playing deep into their half, which our crowd wants to see. We have to be a team that makes crosses and chances and stays in the opposition half.” [EFC]
Surprisingly, Lampard has stayed with the XI that was beaten by Newcastle last week. The calls for fresh legs or a new approach had been turned down.
Crystal Palace started the day in 11th place on 13 points and were unbeaten in their last three matches. Last year, Everton lost to Palace twice away from home including the FA Cup quarter final. The home fixture was the memorable night that Everton secured their Premier League status with the dramatic come from behind victory.
There were two changes to the Crystal Palace team who beat Wolves 2-0 in their last Premier League game. Jeffrey Schlupp dropped to the bench and Cheick Doucoure missed out through suspension. Jordan Ayew and skipper Luka Milivojevic were recalled to the team.
In front of a crowd of almost 39,000, Everton started the game with a 4-3-3 formation and were attacking the Gwladys Street End. Both teams started the game using the long angled pass from the back to the wingers. Out of possession, it was good to see Everton pressing the ball all over the field with Iwobi leading the charge.
Everton recorded their first shot on the net on 9 minutes and they took the lead in the game with a fine finish from Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The goal was started by DCL himself, sprinting back and winning the ball before feeding Gray who saw Iwobi in space. Iwobi’s pass was brilliantly flicked past Guehi by DCL into space, and the striekr finished with aplomb and the noise around Goodison was rapturous.
Gordon was bossing the game and much of Everton’s joy was down the right side. The first twenty minutes was all Everton as they played with energy and confidence. Pickford was finally called into action and took the ball out of the air on a threatening cross that was headed for Zaha. Anthony Gordon then put his laces through the ball and forced Guaita into a fine save.
Palace had their first corner of the match on 28 minutes but the solid defending snuffed out any threat. Everton continued to press forward and defend admirably. At one point it was Calvert-Lewin crossing and Alex Iwobi on the end of the cross. Iwobi’s all action play summed up the first 45 minutes. Could Everton keep it going and continue to control the match?
The second half started with Palace attempting to break the press by going over the top. A fine tackle from Coleman nullified the threat from Wilfred Zaha. Palace were controlling the play in the opening five minutes and had a couple of opportunities to level the score with no success. Everton were sitting back and were willing to counter attack. The referee, Simon Hooper, let the play go and probably should have given a couple of yellows to settle down the game which started to get more physical and chippy. At the hour mark, Palace made a double switch and brought on Jean-Philippe Mateta replaced Michael Olise. and Jeffrey Schlupp replaced Luka Milivojevic.
Immediately after the switch Everton played out from the back and a sequence of fine passing found Mykolenko in space to shoot. Guaita was only able to slow the trajectory of the ball for Gordon to slot home but the offside flag was up. A check of the goal on VAR brought a tumultuous cheer from the home fans as the decision was overturned and the goal stood. “Oh, Anthony Gordon” rang out from the supporters.
Emotions boiled over as Zaha went in wildly on Gordon after Calvert-Lewin had been sliced down by Guehi. Both Palace players received yellow cards and James Tarkowski received a card for the afters. The game was getting very physical and in the 72nd minute Gray was replaced by Dwight McNeil.
The final fifteen minutes saw Everton take off both Calvert Lewin and Amadou Onana. The change was probably done with an eye to the busy upcoming fixture list. Maupay and Garner joined the match and it was certainly like for like switches.
The final goal was a beautiful piece of interplay between McNeil and Iwobi. The backheel from Iwobi was sublime and the finish by McNeil was comprehensive. Immediately after the goal Everton replaced Gordon and Gueye with Doucoure and Davies coming on. Everton gave up a chance in injury time but Eze skied the ball over the net.
The 4-3-3 formation remained from last week but the big change was the pressing and the use of the cross-field ball from the back up to the wingers especially in the first half. Gordon was far more involved in the game and he showed the attacking play that made him such an important player last year. The goal was well earned and was the reward that he deserved for his performance. Perhaps this game will finally put his mind back in the game and not on how much Chelsea want him!
The opening goal by Calvert Lewin emphasized his importance to the team. His hold up play was critical throughout the game. Alex Iwobi was immense in the first half. The success of this team over the next few weeks will be dependent on keeping these two players fit. Iwobi will have a good rest over the World Cup break as Nigeria did not qualify. It will be interesting to see if Calvert-Lewin can squeeze his way into the England team. Gareth Southgate was in the stands and he is probably between DCL and Ivan Toney. It would be great for Calvert-Lewin but more chances for him to get injured.
The back four have done their job with aplomb and deserved the clean sheet. Coleman and Mykolenko may not add much to the attack but they showed again that they are able to nullify the wide play of the other team. The one time that Mykolenko did go forward resulted in the Gordon goal. Coady and Tarkowski had another fine day and deserved the clean sheet too.
In the end, it was a comprehensive victory. The win moves Everton up to 11th in the Premier League and they can now look forward to the away trip to Fulham.