A bright start by Everton fell apart with the loss of Andros Townsend to injury and Palace took control on first half goals from Guehi and Mateta before a third late on from Zaha sealed the Blues fate, and Hughes rubbed salt into the wounds crashing home a rebound after a stunning save by Pickford.
The irresistible allure of a date at Wembley, despite the despicable scheduling of the game for 12.30pm on a Sunday, saw another tremendous turnout of travelling Blues fans descend upon leafy south London as Crystal Palace hosted Everton in the ¼ final of the FA Cup at Selhurst Park. Palace under Patrick Vieira sit in a respectable mid-table position in the Premier League but, have only won the same number of games as Everton and with the Blues mentally boosted by the win over Newcastle on Thursday, predicting a winner to take a semi-final berth was a tough ask.
Palace are on a five game unbeaten streak and reaching the last eight of the cup has been a decent return for the former Arsenal star Vieira and he reflected saying, “There is a positive vibe around the football club at the moment. We know how challenging it is and how difficult it is to maintain performances or win games against Premier League teams. We try to be really consistent in our behaviour and mood. We keep working well, try to improve in training and have a clear idea about what to achieve on the pitch, I’ve been really pleased with the attitude.”
Looking forward to the cup clash he noted, “There is no time to relax. This is a huge game for us and we want to do well, to go as far as we can. We are really close to the semi-final, with a home tie to give ourselves the best chance to go to the next round. It’s a really exciting game and it’s going to be exciting for Everton as well. They’re one game from Wembley and we know how difficult it’ll be, especially after the win they had yesterday [1-0 v Newcastle United]. We know how they are as a team and it will be difficult, but we’re ready for it. We’re going to play a strong team and want to go to the semi-final.”
While James McArthur and Nathan Ferguson were still unavailable, Vieira was able to consider Martin Kelly, Will Hughes and Luka Milivojevic as pondered his team selection before settling on a starting line-up of: Butland, Clyne, Andersen, Guehi (c), Mitchell, Kouyate, Gallagher, Eze, Olise, Mateta and Zaha.
After the euphoria of the much-needed win against Newcastle, Everton and Frank Lampard needed another squad re-shuffle with Dele Alli, Anwar El-Ghazi and Donny van de Beek all cup-tied and midfielder Allan suspended after the shocking VAR decision that saw him dismissed on a straight red card on Thursday evening. The boss was hoping Jordan Pickford could recover in time to feature and stated, “In terms of injuries, it’s probably a bit more of an assessment of how the players are. It’s a really quick turnaround. We haven’t been helped by the timing of the game being at 12.30pm. I think the broadcasters picked the ‘big boys’, as they see it, to get bigger numbers later on in the afternoon, which would have been better for us, but we have to dig in and handle that. We’ll assess the players over the next 24 hours, the rest of the squad is as it was [before Newcastle].”
Merging the win over Newcastle with looking forward to the cup tie, Lampard commented, “When you have a night like we had on Thursday, it’s important you take the benefits from it, which is an understanding of what winning feels like. The winning feeling and the togetherness and effort that goes into that is an important thing to move forward with. I don’t want to lean on that too much, though, because since I’ve been here, we’ve had some good wins and good performances that we haven’t backed up.”
And on the opportunity provided by the romance of the FA Cup he added, “It’s a real big challenge for us, I’ve watched Palace a lot. They’re a hugely talented squad and I thought they recruited brilliantly in the summer. They’re well coached and have a lot of threats in their tea. We’re aware of the task ahead of us, but it’s an opportunity for us to get to Wembley. I’m a believer in momentum. This club has a really rich history in this competition, and I know that means a lot to the fans. It’s very important and we must approach the game in that way.”
With a trip to Wembley at stake, Frank Lampard set his stall out to win the clubs 47th quarter final appearance by naming an expected 3-4-3 formation and his starting eleven: Pickford, Holgate, Keane, Godfrey, Coleman (c), Doucoure, Gomes, Kenny, Townsend, Gordon and Richarlison.
Our referee was the idiot who was on VAR duty on Thursday, the ever unpopular Stuart Attwell.
Everton in their white away strip won the first free kick as Richarlison was impeded, giving Townsend the chance to swing it in and find Michael Keane who his miskick was just too far in front of Godfrey. And the Blues called for a penalty as Richarlison went down over the leg of Guehi and surprise, well no surprise really, VAR ruled in favour of Palace.
It was a promising start by the Blues as Townsend won a 4th minute corner that came to nothing but, the pressure was maintained and a Coleman cross was put behind for a second corner that reached the head of Holgate who was unable to direct his header on target.
First rhetorical question of the day – why on earth was Zaha wearing gloves ?
A great turn by Gordon took him away from his marker to feed the ball into the right channel for Richarlison who was a fraction offside despite being caught by Guehi again. Townsend was dumped by Mitchell for another free kick in a dangerous area near the right corner flag, Richarlison with the header that went over the crossbar… a very positive opening ten minutes from Everton.
Townsend took another tumble following a tackle and it didn’t look good for him as he stayed down holding his left ankle, and both Demarai Gray and Alex Iwobi immediately began to warm up. A stretcher was called for and inside 15 minutes, Everton were forced into an early change as Townsend was replaced by Demarai Gray, the former Palace player choosing to hobble off assisted by two trainers and getting warm applause from both sets of fans.
A clever pull back cross from Gordon found Holgate for a shot that was deflected out for another Everton corner that Gordon took but, didn’t beat the first Palace defender. The first real foray forward by Palace saw Zaha find Eze for a shot on the turn that had neither the power nor direction to trouble Pickford. Gomes appeared to catch Gallagher with a high boot but, referee Attwell sensibly chose a quite word with the Everton midfielder rather than brandishing a card.
A giveaway by Richarlison allowed Gallagher the chance to set Palace going forward and Olise won a corner off Gomes and Pickford had to be alert to punch the cross away for a second that saw Olise find Guehi in space for a header that bisected the gap between Pickford and Godfrey to find the far corner of the net and completely against the run of play, Palace led in the 26th minute.
A foul by Mitchell on Gordon left the Everton forward in some pain and he limped away as the free kick was taken by Gray only for Holgate to be caught offside. The goal had impacted upon the way Everton were playing, the early pressing replaced by a more passive approach and that allowed Palace to counter at pace with a Kouyate cross from the right finding Zaha who put his near post shot just wide of the upright. Another foul on Gordon gave the Blues the chance to get forward and won a corner on the right that Gray sent to the back post where Godfrey couldn’t direct his header on target.
Coleman with a good tackle then sent a long ball perfectly for Richarlsion to get on the end of, the effort with the outside of his right boot on target but easily held by Butland. However, five minutes before the break, Palace struck with devastating effect to double their lead as Eze got free on the left to find Zaha and his first time cross into the area found Mateta for a low shot that beat Pickford to set Everton a mountain to climb.
Gordon was lectured for a foul on Gallagher, the first sign of frustration creeping in at his side having conceded twice and some of the attention he’d been on the end of. Four added minutes were signalled and it needed a latch-ditch tackle from Seamus Coleman to deny Mateta as he burst into the area to get on the end of a header from Olise.
A very disappointing scoreline from a half of two halves – Everton playing confidently and pressing hard to dominate the opening 25 minutes, and then failing to react positively to going behind and handing the impetus to Palace who took full advantage.
Half Time: 2-0
Frank Lampard made a tactical change for the second half with Dominic Calvert-Lewin replacing Jonjoe Kenny to hopefully provide a spearhead and/or foil for Richarlison.
Olise with some close control gained the Everton area to win a corner off Gordon that he took and JP punched clear – Palace with the two goal cushion able to relax and play the game at a tempo they could control, and their next attack saw Zaha win a corner on the left that Everton cleared long downfield. Ten minutes went by with very little of any note coming from Everton, if they were to find a way back into the tie, they needed to dramatically increase their effort and work rate which, had been pedestrian since the restart.
Kouyate went down after an aerial challenge with DCL but was okay to carry on and we reached the hour mark with the home side in control and Everton needing something inspirational to re-ignite their hopes. Anthony Gordon was booked for a pull back on Olise, a card that would prevent him from playing in the semi-final, should Everton stage dramatic turnaround.
Gomes was next to see yellow as he blocked Olise as Palace looked to counter quickly after a cross from Coleman had been cleared. Everton showed a moment of spark as Coleman got free on the right and found Gray who turned sweetly away from two defenders and smash a shot from just outside the area that flew just wide of the far post. Richarlison partially charged down a clearance from Butland but, the Blues didn’t pressure the Palace defence with any real belief and as Palace again looked to counter at pace, Holgate impeded Olise.
On the 70-minute mark, Palace made a double change, Eze and Mateta replaced by Milivojevic and Edouard respectively, and former Celtic forward Edouard did well to find Olise who curled a wild effort well wide and high of the target. Alex Iwobi replaced Seamus Coleman for the final 18 minutes plus added on time.
A decent move saw Doucoure find Richarlison, onto DCL and into the path of Iwobi for a cross to the back post that came out to Gordon who disappointingly wasted his chance to cross back into the area. Everton came again with Richarlison finding Gordon to play Gray in on the overlap, his low cross too close to Butland who gathered easily. Palace countered and Zaha got away from Godfrey but delayed his shot and that allowed Holgate the chance to block and clear the danger.
The game was put beyond Everton in the 79th minute as Zaha played in by Edouard picked out Oloise whose curled effort came back off the post and Zaha was perfectly placed to make it three-nil and game over.
Gomes was fortunate not to pick up a second yellow for a crude challenge on Olise.
Gray tested Butland with a low effort that the former Stoke goalie dealt with easily and Benteke replaced the impressive Olise for the final seven minutes. A foul by Gordon on Zaha saw Godfrey head the Gallagher cross behind for a Palace corner that saw Godfrey clear. Pickford with a tremendous save denied Gallagher found by Edouard but, Hughes was on hand to bury the rebound and complete a miserable afternoon for Everton.
Two added minutes were signalled and the final whistle came as something of a relief after another cruel exposure of the Blues defensive woes and lack of quality to find a way back from a setback.