Another superb London awayday for Everton as they led three time at Selhurst Park to seal back-to-back wins for the first time this season. A first minute strike from Vitalii Mykolenko, a second lead from Abdoulaye Doucoure and the unlikeliest of winners from Idrissa Gana Guye made it three wins from three visits to the capital.
Selhurst Park on Armistice Day saw Crystal Palace host the Blues who were looking for a third victory on the road against London-based opposition. Palace started the day in mid-table and four points better off than the visitors who had been building some team confidence and momentum with recent performances and results.
Both managers – Roy Hodgson and Sean Dyche – had some selection doubts prior to submitting their respective team sheets; Palace hoping to include Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze from the start but, definitely without Dean Henderson and James Tomkins, while Dyche was hopeful that both Amadou Onana and Jarrad Branthwaite would recover from minor knocks picked up against Brighton and that Abdoulaye Doucoure was over a bout of sickness.
Passing the 2pm press embargo, we learned that veteran manager Hodgson had named his starting line-up: Johnstone, Ward (c), Andersen, Guehi, Mitchell, Hughes, Lerma, Ayew, Eze, Schlupp and Edouard.
And keen to continue their good form in the capital, Sean Dyche selected his Everton starting eleven that read: Jordan Pickford, Ashley Young, James Tarkowski (c), Jarrad Branthwaite, Vitalii Mykolenko, Jack Harrison, James Garner, Amadou Onana, Dwight McNeil, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
On a sunny but cool November afternoon, our referee was Sam Barrott.
Another excellent observance of respect for the fallen as players, officials and fans of both Palace and Everton remained silent for the evocative and poignant Last Post bugler that never fails to bring a lump to the throat.
Everton in the predominantly grey away kit kicked off and went straight on the attack and blow me down, it was none other than Vitalii Mykolenko gleefully heading home a perfectly chipped cross from Jack Harrison with only 52 seconds on the clock!!! What a start!!!
Two minutes later however, Eze cut inside Mykolenko to gain the Everton area and went down under a very light challenge from Branthwaite and VAR reviewed the referees decision to confirm a penalty to Palace. Eze placed the ball and after an idiotic stuttering run-up slid the ball into the bottom right corner for 1-1.
Doucoure and Ayew went down in midfield and both needed treatment before DCL won a corner on the right that Johnstone punched clear with Everton shutting down a potential breakaway attack by the home side. Onana and Tarkowski combined to block a shot from Edouard and the opening ten minutes had simply flown by.
The pace of the frenetic opening eased somewhat with Palace looking to pass the ball around and building extraordinary pressure on the Everton penalty area before a cross from Ayew was finally put behind by Tarkowski for the first Palace corner than the skipped headed clear as well. The Blues countered with a deep cross from Young finding McNeil but, his first time volley was easily held by Johnstone in the home goal.
A good move started by Mykolenko spreading the ball wide to Young and the eventual cross aimed at DCL saw Ward defend well to win a goal kick… and we passed the midway point of the first half level and with both sides looking to attack at every opportunity. Eze again went down in the area only this time referee Barrott immediately brandished a yellow card for a blatant dive. VAR reviewed the alleged contact between Eze and Branthwaite and ruled again that the referee had gotten his initial call correct.
Doucoure escaped a yellow card for a high boot that appeared to contact with Lerma as the game continued to produce talking points with almost every move. Eze brought down Onana and the travelling Blues fans howled for a second yellow, the players getting on with the game and Everton eventually seeing a shot from Garner go wide of the left hand post. Eze was proving the main Palace threat and escaping the attention of Branthwaite again, his ball to the back post was too far in front of Edouard.
Edouard was next to go down in the Everton area appealing for a penalty against Tarkowski that fell on deaf ears of the ref and eyes of VAR, and the next Palace raid saw Edouard in an offside position but, a stunning recovery tackle from James Tarkowski denied him anyway. Harrison won a free kick for a foul by Schlupp and gave a chance for McNeil to send it deep for Tarkowski whose header was cleared by Ward.
Young found Harrison with a decent ball but, his cross aimed for DCL was intercepted and cleared and the Palace counter was caught offside. The Blues built some pressure on the Palace defence without finding a way through and entering the final five minutes of the half, the game was really well poised. Pickford raced off his line to deny Edouard apparently with his hand outside the area with the offside flag eradicating any chance of a ruling against the England ‘keeper.
A cross from Young was cleared to the edge of the area where Garner looked to be fouled with no decision from the referee and five added minutes were signalled. Doucoure was booked for throwing the ball away to prevent a quick Palace free kick and Mykolenko got back quickly to deny Eze. Pickford saved from Edouard with Tarkowski making sure putting the loose ball behind for a late corner to the home side that led to Branthwaite conceding a third that JP easily claimed while Branthwaite was impeded and the free kick went the Blues way.
After the explosive opening and an at times end to end first half, the teams went to the dressing rooms level and oddly, for such an entertaining half, with just the one late save by JP of any real note for either goalie.
Half Time: 1-1
A change for the Blues as Idrissa Gana Gueye replaced Amadou Onana in midfield for the second half that didn’t see a repeat of the electric start to the first. Vitalii Mykolenko again getting forward, got behind Ward and his low cross was smuggled out for a corner that led to the Blues re-takingthe lead. The corner was only partially cleared and a mishit from Gana Gueye fell for Mykolenko to hit an excellently controlled bouncing volley that came back off the post and Abdoulaye Doucoure was alert to put the rebound past Johnstone.
The travelling support was again in full voice to celebrate the new lead with Spirit of the Blues ringing around Selhurst Park as Palace looked to hit back and Pickford saved well to deny Ward and the Blues defence closing ranks to keep the home side at bay. Schlupp turned to avoid the attention of Tarkowski with Branthwaite calmly putting his cross out for a corner that saw Guehi lift his boot into the face of Tarkowski and be a tad fortunate to escape a yellow card.
Palace sent Olise out to warm up as we approached the hour mark and Ayew was caught offside on a ball from Ward – the Everton backline well marshalled in stepping up to draw the decision. Pickford did well to prevent an own goal as a ball from Schlupp saw a lack of communication between Gana Gueye and Mykolenko with the resulting corner being defended. Branthwaite with an excellent tackle denied Edouard a shooting opportunity and then Gana Gueye with a good block on a follow-up shot.
Palace were trying to pile on the pressure, looking to use the width of Ayew on the right and Mitchell on the left but the combined defensive partnerships of Mykolenko/McNeil and Young/Harrison were stifling them well. Lerma over the top for Edouard and his layback for Lerma saw him shoot wide of the near post.
On 67 minutes, Olise replaced Schlupp for Palace and took up station wide on the Palace right and very quickly saw a shot deflected over for a corner that Pickford dealt with easily. Into the final twenty minutes and Everton were still defending manfully and trying, when they could to get forward to relieve the pressure.
Ayew had switched to left side to combine with Mitchell but, was still getting no joy from Young, and both managers considered further changes. But, before the changes were made, Edouard netted from close range, getting behind Tarkowski to get to a header from Lerma. VAR took a long look at the goal for a potential offside before ruling again that the referee had got the original decision correct, and we were tied up again.
Everton immediately replaced DCL with Beto on 76 minutes and it was now all Palace as they looked to find a winner, Mykolenko conceding a corner that fortunately saw Pickford claim the ball after it pinballed around off a number of grey shirts. Everton needed to gather their thoughts and composure as Young conceded another corner that Tarkowski headed away. Beto was impeded by Guehi wide on the right, a chance to throw a few bodies forward for the free kick from McNeil, that sadly failed to produce any real menace on the home goal.
Into the final ten minutes and Palace replaced Edouard with Mateta on 82 minutes and Palace defended a ball from McNeil aimed towards Beto, and incredibly with less than five minutes remaining on the ninety, Doucoure threaded a great ball through the middle for Idrissa Gana Gueye to find the bottom corner and the Blues fans went nuts in celebration, for his first goal since scoring last for Paris St.Germain.
James Garner was booked for a nasty challenge on Ayew in the 89th minute, taking one for the team and a final throw of the substitute dice by Palace saw Ahamada replace Hughes and Everton send Nathan Patterson on for Ashley Young.
An incredible EIGHT minutes of added on time was announced and Palace won a free kick on the left that saw Eze fail to find a team mate. Everton were now packing everyone behind the ball and a cross from Lerma was put behind by Branthwaite. The corner was defended and every clearance was greeted well by the travelling support as was an offside against Ayew. Great play by Harrison worked a shooting opportunity for Beto but, his powerful low drive went across the face of goal and out for a goal kick. Pickford cleverly allowed a ball into the area to run out for a goal kick to eat up some more valuable time.
Mykolenko was booked for a foul on Olise wide right of the area and Olise made a complete and utter hash of the free kick… and the final whistle brought huge celebrations in the visiting fans section.