The Everton fans once again showed up in numbers with their voices and smoke bombs to welcome the Blues to Goodison Park, hoping to drive their side to a win that would guarantee Premier League safety.
Instead, what they got was Frank Lampard sticking with his two-man midfield in a 3-4-3 against Crystal Palace in a 4-3-3, who had handily beaten the Toffees twice already this season. We also got shambolic defending as first Vitalii Mykolenko lost his man from a freekick to concede the opener, and then the entire backline including Jordan Pickford contriving to let two Palace players somehow score when facing six blue shirts to make it 0-2 just past the half-hour mark.
Everton went into the break looking a beaten and dejected side. The Goodison crowd, after singing their hearts out week after week, seemed just as down.
<skrrrrt record scratch>
Lampard gave his side a speech and a half at the break, because between the change of putting Dele Alli on for the ineffective Andre Gomes and switching to a 4-3-3 from the 3-4-3, the team came out for the second half a completely different side. This recap will reflect that 180 degree flip as well.
The Blues started the second half the hungrier side, with the significant difference of having Dele in the middle giving the home side more possession and more intent when they had the ball.
The sense of urgency had just started ramping up when a deep freekick into the box was headed back into the area by Mason Holgate, and Michael Keane stabbed the ball home with an expert finish less than ten minutes into the half. Game on!
Palace proceeded to take the sting out of the game holding possession and continuing to pose a threat on the counter every time the Toffees lost the ball in the opposing half, which happened quite often.
On a counter, Seamus Coleman overbaked a chance to cross, turned back and floated a ball into the box with his left book. It was overhit and came to Dele, who tried to drill the ball back into the box. It got deflected and fell to Richarlison who turned and shot and the deflected ball bounced over Jack Butland to nestle in the far corner and the Blues were level!
Still Palace came on, trying to get the winner. Everton themselves weren’t posing much of a threat unless they were lofting long balls into the opposing half, until with about five minutes to go, Zaha conceded a foul in his own half and Demarai Gray stepped up to take the freekick. The substitute’s delivery was impeccable as Dominic Calvert-Lewin laid out flat with a spectacular diving header to score the winner!
Bedlam ensued as the fans mounted a pitch invasion with time still left on the clock. The Everton players pleaded with the fans to get off the field while Patrick Vieira debated pulling his side off. Sanity prevailed a couple of minutes later, and the Blues successfully navigated the seven minutes of time added on to secure safety and there was another pitch invasion as thousands of Toffees the world over were finally able to sigh in relief.
What a season it’s been. There will be time for analysis and looking back, but for now, just get a good night’s sleep, that is our earnest wish to all you Blues out there.
If ever there was a time to bring back out the famous quote from Howard Kendall — “let the Gwladys Street suck the ball in the net” — this was it. Thrice in the second half the Blues lofted the ball into the opposing half and in some fashion or the other, got the ball into the goal in front of the positively insane fans in the Gwlady Street Stand. Incredible.
What a game from Dominic Calvert-Lewin. His doubters, even among the ranks of the Blues, still remain, but if there ever was a striker in royal blue better suited to chasing long, high balls all game long after Duncan Ferguson, than DCL is it. His aerial prowess made all the difference today, and the winner was just a cherry on top.
Lampard finally made a proactive change, and it wasn’t like he had much choice. With the game seemingly lost at the break, he finally reverted to the three-man midfield bringing on Dele Alli to partner Alex Iwobi ahead of Abdoulaye Doucoure and immediately Everton became a lot more dangerous. The former Tottenham player can most certainly be credited for sparking an incredible comeback, the first ever from a two-goal deficit at halftime by Everton in Premier League history.