Brief Summary…Not quite the fireworks of last week, but a workmanlike performance by Everton capped by a Robles super save and Coleman strike saw them take three vital points from Selhurst Park to close the gap on the top six.
Looking to build upon the morale boosting crushing of Manchester City, Everton travelled to leafy south London for a match-up against a Crystal Palace side still looking for their first Premiership victory since Sam Allardyce replaced Alan Pardew in the Selhurst Park managerial hot seat.
Ronald Koeman selected the same eleven who began against Man City: Robles, Baines, Funes Mori, Williams, Holgate, Coleman, Barry, Barkley, Davies, Mirallas and Lukaku.
Palace selected an attacking line-up including new signing from Leicester, Schlupp a front two of Remy and Benteke, the full eleven sent out by the large and rotund Sam Allardyce: Hennessey, Tomkins, Delaney, Dann, Ward, Puncheon, McArthur, Cabaye, Schlupp, Remy and Benteke.
The man in the middle was Anthony Taylor.
In a steady opening on a bright but cold afternoon, neither side could take advantage of early free kicks in dangerous areas and then Benteke failed to get anywhere near a right wing cross from Remy. Benteke though was in position to escape the attention of Williams to get to a cross from McArthur on eight minutes, Everton grateful for the crossbar woodwork to keep the scoreboard idle.
Good work from Ross saw him fire in a left foot shot that Hennessey turned away for a corner and the Palace keeper followed it up with a fine save from a shot on the turn by Mirallas.
Everton were getting into their stride and a left wing cross from Baines was laid into the path of Barkley off the chest of Lukaku, Hennessey tipping the curled effort over the top for another corner.
Mason Holgate picked up a yellow card for a challenge on Cabaye on 25 minutes, but the home side failed to make any impression on the Blues defence from the ensuing free kick.
Palace forced three quick corners with their aerial threat causing some concerns in the Everton rearguard before a Barkley break led to a Lukaku shot coming back off the post for Ross to net, only for the linesman flag to signal he was offside.
Good work from Coleman forced a fourth corner for the Blues, from which Hennessey again came to the rescue for Palace denying Williams on a header and a Funes Mori shot destined for the top corner.
The final few minutes of a first half the Blues had had the better of ebbed away and both teams went to the locker room with the honours even.
Half Time: 0-0.
Everton were straight back on the front foot with Hennessey saving from Mirallas and then Davies releasing Barkley down the left flank with his cross shot beating the Palace keeper but going across the face of goal.
From another corner, Barkley fired a hard, low cross into the near post, but Hennessey saved with no pressure on him Palace went down the other end and from their corner, Dann saw a powerful header blocked and cleared to safety.
Coleman was next to test Hennessey who spilled the shot but again, no Everton forward was close in to pick up on the loose ball. Ten minutes had elapsed and the game was crying out for a piece of genuine quality that would surely produce a goal.
Gareth Barry won the ball in midfield and set Barkley going down the right flank and again, his shot went agonisingly wide of the far post.
A purposeful offensive dash by Holgate ended with Lukaku putting a header over the bar ahead of Morgan Schneiderlin entering the fray on 58 minutes at the expense of Gareth Barry. Palace countered by withdrawing Remy to bring on Lee Chung-Yong on the hour mark.
Lukaku won the ball in his own half and sent Davies away down the right only for the youngsters return pass fail to reach the Belgian striker. Lukaku was working hard and getting the better of Delaney, but Dann was marshalling Mirallas effectively.
Joe Ledley and Ademola Lookman joined the action on 71 minutes for Cabaye and Mirallas respectively – Ledley to seemingly help Palace protect the point, Lookman to hopefully help the Blues to all three. And the youngster was straight into the action taking a nice feed from Lukaku before seeing his shot easily dealt with by Hennessey.
Lookman was again instrumental in the next Everton attack that ended with Coleman sending a cross to the back post that Baines just failed to get a telling contact on. Puncheon fired in a speculative shot that didn’t trouble Joel Robles as the game entered its final 15 minutes.
McArthur conned the referee for a free kick from which Robles made a huge save full length to his right hand side to deny Dann with the home sides’ first effort on goal of the game.
Fine work by Williams denied Schlupp on a through ball from Lee as the game entered its dying minutes. Everton were staying patient and working the ball around to find the telling opening and it came with a little over three minutes to play. Davies played the ball into the path of Seamus Coleman who took one touch to control the ball before blasting high into the roof of the Palace net for his fourth marker of the season.
Palace immediately threw on Andros Townsend for Schlupp who’d gone down ahead of the Everton move for the goal, for the last ditch effort to force an equaliser.
Somehow, four added minutes were signalled and Phil Jagielka came on to bolster the defence with Ross Barkley withdrawn to a warm round of applause from the travelling support.
Robles played safety first in tipping a late Benteke header over the bar and superbly claimed the resulting corner kick to secure a massive three points for the Blues.
Final Score: 0-1.
Everton dominated this game without reaching the heady heights we’d really like to see. The 3-5-2 formation worked well again with Palace, for all their aerial height and threat, massively ineffectual. Joel Robles had a fairly easy afternoon, but when called upon, produced a stunning save to deny Scott Dann, and Everton finally got their just desserts with a late winner from the 60-grand man.
As a result, Everton maintain their seventh place whilst narrowing the gap on Man Untied and the teams in the top six.
As for Man of the Match, Tom Davies again caught the eye, but good shouts for Ross and Robles for maintaining his concentration on a quiet, cold afternoon.
On Ross, I’m beginning to think that the regular inclusion of youngsters Holgate and Davies is helping him accept that he is now a senior player as his game is looking more stable in recent weeks… and the recent run of results for sure is helping him and indeed everyone build confidence for the second half of the season.
And with Swansea winning at the pit, feel free to launch into a rendition of “I never felt more like signing the Blues, when Everton win and the RS lose…”