Everton went into their FA Cup Third Round replay tonight against Crystal Palace with a couple of injury worries, and manager Sean Dyche chose to rest both Abdoulaye Doucoure and Seamus Coleman, given that the Blues are about to enter their winter break.
Jordan Pickford was once again rested to give Joao Virginia a second start of the season, with Nathan Patterson replacing the club captain out on the right and Andre Gomes in the middle of the park in Dyche’s favoured 4-5-1 formation. Dominic Calvert-Lewin kept his spot in the starting XI despite his recent struggles.
The Blues started off with purpose, with the midfield looking strong on the ball. Andre Gomes in his last start was very good in the middle, picking out passes and dictating play, and started the game off in the same vein. James Garner — as he has been recently — was everywhere the ball went.
For all that intent though, Everton’s passing was not up to par and more often than not they failed to play that decisive ball in the attacking third. Palace for their part weren’t showing too much intent here either.
However, led by Eberechi Eze, the Eagles got back into the game and created a couple of shooting opportunities, with Jefferson Lerma and Jeffrey Schlupp the biggest culprits.
With the minutes ticking by in a dour game though, Andre Gomes produced a bit of magic. Picking himself off the ground after he was fouled about twenty five yards away from goal, he curled home a fantastic freekick to raise the roof at a frigid Goodison Park crowd numbed by the below-freezing temperatures.
The second half started with Palace the hungrier of the two sides as they sought the equalizer. Lerma wasted another golden opportunity before Roy Hodgson rang the changes. With a game against Arsenal this coming weekend, he withdrew dangerman Eze along with Nathaniel Clyne and Tyrick Mitchell.
The changes didn’t shift the balance of the game as much, but as they continued to commit players forward the Blues had more chances to hit the visitors on the counter, and wasted them all.
Odsonne Edouard and Dominic Calvert-Lewin traded chances while once again Joachim Andersen got away with another blatant foul on the Everton striker, before Dyche took off the forward and sent on Beto and Lewis Dobbin.
There was enough time for another couple of big saves from Virginia and a wasted counter attack with four Everton player bearing down on two defenders before the final whistle.
In the end it was a game that for the most part was best not seen on television, with little quality on display. The Blues sealed their passage into the fourth round where they will now host Luton Town, with the game to be played on the weekend of January 27th.