Sean Dyche went back to his preferred starting lineup with all three doubtful players starting — Amadou Onana, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Jarrad Branthwaite — for Everton away at Crystal Palace. For the hosts, ROy Hodgson welcomed back Eberechi Eze to the starting XI and Michael Olise on the bench for the first time this season.
What a flying start to the game for the Blues. We all wondered how Everton would respond after the whole possession debate following the 1-1 draw at Goodison Park last weekend against Brighton & Hove Albion. Well, rest assured they put it behind them. Vitaliy Mykolenko had a crack at goal with less than a minute played, the ball was recycled wide by Abdoulaye Doucoure, and before most fans had even gotten comfortable Myko rose highest to head home powerfully from Jack Harrison’s pinpoint cross!
The action didn’t end there as the resplendent Eze danced through the Everton left and was fouled in the box by Jarrad Branthwaite, the defender dangling his leg out invitingly. No doubt that was a penalty, and Eze coolly wrong-footed Jordan Pickford in the Everton goal to make it 1-1 in a frenetic start to the game.
Eze continued to pose a threat as Amadou Onana looked out of sorts on his return to the starting lineup, but the two sides went into the halftime break on level terms. Odsonne Edouard was a handful for the Blues backline, and the Eagles were combining with short, quick passes interspersed with well-timed runs.
Dyche knew he needed to make a change at the break and did so, pulling off Onana for Idrissa Gueye. Gana’s impact wasn’t immediately visible as Eze continued his wily ways early in the second half before the Blues got a second almost out of nowhere. A corner was only partly cleared, and Gueye — a la Kevin de Bruyne — teed up Myko for a volley from outside the box. The shot cannoned off the far post and with 21 players rooted to their spots, Doucoure reacted quickest to ping home the rebound to make it 2-1. The Everton midfielder had been played onside by a trailing Palace player, and VAR confirmed the goal.
At that point Everton just retreated into their defensive shell and let Palace have the ball with the possession number up to 80% for the hosts in the second half. That the Eagles equalized for the second time was not a surprise, but the manner certainly was. A high ball over the backline was surprisingly let go by Tarkowski, who had no idea Edouard had ghosted in behind him, and by the time Pickford could adjust and come out, Palace were level 2-2.
With just over 15 minutes to play, the hosts were in the ascendancy and it would have taken a brave bettor to go against that. The insertion of Michael Olise ramped the pressure on the Blues so it came as a bolt from the blue when Gana collected the ball from Harrison in the opposing half, and played a give-and-go with Doucoure to find himself behind the backline. From a falling position the midfielder was able to find the near post past Sam Johnstone’s despairing dive with less than five minutes to play, driving the raucous away support into raptures.
The ref added eight minutes to play with the number of subs, goals and VAR reviews playing their part. The Blues however held firm and didn’t give up any more big chances, and could have even sealed it with a smart finish from Beto that went just wide.
In the end, a big, big win for the Blues as they continue to climb away from the relegation zone with their sixth win in nine games, and second consecutive away win for the first time in three years.
Sean Dyche is proving to be all about the consistency. He wants his Everton team playing a certain way, and as long as they’re not making silly mistakes to let their opponents back into the game, they’re going to keep picking up points.
Idrissa Gueye had said to the coaching staff this week ‘I’m ready when you need me’ - he proved to be exactly that today, popping up with a surprise winner. Gueye lining up to shoot from outside the box is usually met with groans of despair, but today his finish was taken with aplomb. Dom would have been proud of that.
Dwight McNeil and Jack Harrison haven’t necessarily been in form, but Dyche continues to persist with the pair. Maybe he’s hoping they can play themselves back into some sort of form, and both had better moments today, but their inability to hold on to the ball and create meaningful possession is certainly tilting the pitch against the Toffees.
Myko! After the criticism he’s taken from the fanbase for his limited support in the attacking half, he seems to have taken that to heart. He picked up his second goal in two games and really should have an assist as well on Doucoure’s goal too. Defensively he wasn’t as good as he had been against the likes of Bukayo Saka and Mohamed Salah, but he did enough today. To be fair, the twitchy speed of Eze and Olise would give any defender a hard time.
A bit of an off-day for the backline pairing of Tarkowski and Branthwaite, who made a few more mistakes than normal. They do have the international break to sort things out before they host Manchester United at Goodison Park.
Jordan Pickford continues to show his importance to Everton. he was on his game today, bright and alert throughout and prevented a comical own goal late in the first half as well.
Man of the Match for me would have to be Mykolenko, capping off another excellent performance at left back with a goal and an assist.