Everton 1-1 Crystal Palace

Onana header saves Blues a point.​

A late header from Amadou Onana from a Dwight McNeil corner rescued a point from a game that in all truth, Everton never really looked like winning. The point earned lifted the Blues over Luton on goal difference but, they will have to play a lot better in the remaining fixtures.

Monday evenings clash with Crystal Palace was billed as a must-win game for both club: for Everton, a win would lift them ahead of Luton in the table and out of the bottom three; a draw or a win for Palace would see them leapfrog up at least one, possibly two places in the Premier League table.

Everton were pleased to have Ben Godfrey back available after a bout of sickness and influential midfielder Abdoulaye Doucoure back in full training after a hamstring injury, his inclusion from the start could be just the fillip the Blues needed at kick-off time.

With only five points between the two clubs, and much talk of it being a “must-win” game for both clubs, Blues boss Sean Dyche was keen to try and play down the “noise” surrounding the match, insisting that his squad’s mindset will remain consistent – a characteristic that the Everton manager says is improving.

I think the noise around it changes but at the end of the day, the mentality we’ve been trying to build here is that every game is a big game; every game is an important game, so we find that consistency in the mentality of the group,” he noted in his Saturday media gathering. said Dyche, speaking in Saturday’s pre-match press conference. He went on to add, “I think there’s a belief in the group. It’s not just my belief in them. I think their ownership of it has grown. As a group, I think their demands have risen. They demand more from each other and I think that’s given some positives.

Sean Dyche was back on the touchline for this vital encounter having served a one match ban at the Etihad last time out and knowing the massive importance of the fixture, he named what he considered his starting eleven best suited to the task: Jordan Pickford, Ben Godfrey, James Tarkowski (c), Jarrad Branthwaite, Vitalii Mykolenko, Ashley Young, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Dwight McNeil, James Garner, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Late in the afternoon came the breaking news that veteran Palace manager, Roy Hodgson – taken ill during a training session last week – had announced his immediate stepping down from first team manager in order that the club “can bring forward their plans to appoint a new manager.” The 76-year old is a widely respected figure in professional football and his stepping down demonstrates his selflessness in putting the best interests of a club he says “is very special and means so much to me.” If this is, as expected, the end of his illustrious career, there can’t be anyone in the game who wouldn’t wish him the best for a well-earned retirement.

Even before the afternoon announcement from Roy Hodgson, Palace had been strongly rumoured to be considering a fairly imminent change with Austrian Oliver Glasner, formerly manager of Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Bundesliga, the name most prominently linked with the Selhurst Park job… and on 5.30pm came news that the club had wasted no time and Glasner had indeed been appointed as the new manager.

For this game though, Hodgson’s assistants Paddy McCarthy and Ray Lewington were in charge of the team and with Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze and Jesurun Rak-Sakyi are all still sidelined with hamstring injuries, and defender Mark Guehi still not 100% recovered from a knee injury, they named the Palace starting line-up thus: Johnstone, Munoz, Andersen, Ward (c), Mitchell, Wharton, Richards, Lerma, Ayew, Edouard and Mateta.

After a pleasant day on Merseyside, our referee for this important game was Paul Tierney.

Palace won the first corner as Tarkowski put a low cross from Mateta behind, DCL clearing the set piece with a powerful header before Pickford easily claimed the second incoming cross. The Blues first foray forward saw them pressure the Palace back line with Garner doing well to set up Gana Gueye for a shot that was blocked before a deep cross from McNeil was far too strong with nobody arriving at the back post. Everton forced their first corner from the left side that Garner swung into the six yard area where Edouard headed clear, Andersen then clearing a follow-up cross by Garner.

Munoz, on a charge forward, was hurt accidentally by McNeil with VAR checking and deciding against any punishment and Munoz picked himself up to carry on. The first real chance fell to Palace as Mateta found Edouard and his drilled low shot was comfortably held by Pickford. A free kick to the Blues wide right saw Garner cross only for Richards to head clear easily and through the opening quarter of an hour, it was the visitors who had settled the better.

A quick ball from Pickford found McNeil and his pressure saw Munoz only clear as far as Doucoure who snatched somewhat at his shot to put it wide of the near post. A period of Everton possession ended with a speculative ball from Tarkowski aimed towards McNeil being directed back to Johnstone by Andersen and the same Palace defender easily controlled and cleared the next long ball aimed towards DCL. Doucoure with a nice layoff found McNeil in space for the first time and his early cross at pace found DCL but, he couldn’t match direction to the power of his header and it sailed wide.

Another free kick from the right flank saw Garner find DCL on the edge of the area where he was fouled by Lerma and on 25 minutes, the Blues had their best chance with a free kick a yard outside the area. Young joined the Palace wall to no avail as the set piece from Garner went over the wall and the bar with Johnstone untroubled. A superb deep cross by Mykolenko saw Young stretch to glance a header wide when he had Godfrey arriving behind him, and might have had a chance to volley a shot had the ball been left.

Half an hour gone and only the one effort on target so far by either side, and many of yet another sold out crowd were nervously biting their finger nails at the somewhat nervous nature of the Blues performance so far. Tarkowski cleared two crosses clear as Palace looked to try and force something following a free kick from their left flank. Young, snapping at the heels of Mitchell, conceded a free kick from which – eventually – Palace carved out a good chance that Lerma snatched at sending it high and wide after being found by Mateta.

Edouard forced another Palace corner with the home crowd angry that referee Tierney had played on after Wharton appeared to bring down McNeil. Tarkowski put a header by Richards behind for another corner that saw Young clear off the line from Mateta with Pickford claiming the third successive corner. Young was caught in possession and it needed some good defending by Doucoure to prevent Palace getting a shot on target as we reached the 40-minute mark.

The home crowd were becoming rather grumpy at the lack of invention and incisiveness in the Blues play and when McNeil turned back inside rather than taking on Munoz, the sighs of exasperation were clearly audible from all around the ground. The fourth official indicated just one minute of added-on time and a late free kick for a foul by Wharton saw Garner cross too deep and out of play as the referee blew for time and at the break, the Palace dressing room would certainly have been the happier.

Everton would need to be considerably better in the second half as no effort on target through the first half was an indictment of how easily Palace had coped with the meagre attempts by the Blues.

Half Time: 0-0

No changes by either side for the start of the second half so we could only hope for a miraculous turnaround in what the Blues could serve up after that rather dismal first half.

Young conceded an early free kick that Palace wasted with a foul on Tarkowski while the cross from Wharton was in the air – neither side doing much of any note. Some nice one touch passing between Mateta, Ayew and Edouard nearly opened up the Blues defence before Tarkowski brought them to a halt, McNeil then overhit a pass for Mykolenko on the overlap, too strong for the Ukrainian to reach. Another decent cross by Mykolenko was hurriedly cleared by the Palace defence. Mykolenko then played DCL into space on the left and via Doucoure and McNeil, Garner gained the ball and disappointingly lifted a shot high and wide.

Pickford did really well to come off his line to block an effort by Mitchell after Mateta had turned away from Tarkowski, Palace again beginning to look the more likely. Mykolenko jockeyed Ayew to concede a corner that saw Edouard try an overhead kick that ballooned up into the Park End. Approaching the hour mark, the home crowd tried hard to lift the players with Godfrey getting forward and Edouard giving away a free kick for a foul on Garner. The deep set piece saw Ward head out to Mykolenko who crashed in a volley that was hurriedly cleared with a follow-up from Doucoure going wide of the target.

A surging run by Godfrey saw him find McNeil to win a corner on the left with a Tarkowski header cleared off the line and a second effort from Doucoure was pawed clear by Johnstone. The crowd were invigorated and another corner failed to trouble the Palace defence.

A double change for the Blues on 65 minutes saw Jack Harrison and Amadou Onana replace Ashley Young and Idrissa Gana Gueye respectively but from the restart, Palace struck with deadly effect. A long ball from Johnstone was headed on to Mateta by Edouard and he fed Ayew to send a stunning shot beyond the despairing dive of Jordan Pickford.

Once again, Everton were going to have to dig deep to rescue something from a game that quite frankly, they had been second best in for most of the time. Another change on 71 minutes saw Beto replace Abdoulaye Doucoure while Palace withdrew Edouard for Ahamada. With two men now up front, Everton needed to find some decent service to feed DCL and Beto in the final 18 minutes plus any added-on time.

A cross by McNeil towards Beto was easily dealt with by Palace before a long ball from Pickford saw Johnstone take a tumble. Mitchell won a corner off McNeil eight in front of the travelling Palace fans that failed to produce and as Everton looked to counter, Richards cleverly shepherded Harrison wide after getting a through ball from McNeil. Patient build-up play by the Blues led to a cross from Garner that DCL rose to reach only for his header to go wide of the near post.

Into the final ten minutes of normal time and it pains to write that Everton just weren’t playing with the intensity needed given their dire position… when you’re lacking quality, you simply have to increase the effort and work rate… and we simply weren’t seeing it.

DCL rose to head down a cross from Tarkowski for Garner to shoot, Johnstone pushing it wide for a corner that saw the Blues draw level as McNeil crossed to the back post where Amadou Onana rose to head home and bring Goodison back to life with five minutes to play.

A free kick from the left as Palace were rocked back saw McNeil find Tarkowski who looked surprised it reached him as his header went wide. Everton were now desperately trying to pour forward and a through ball from Onana for first Beto and then DCL summed up the lack of cohesion about the Blues as neither could get the ball under control and Palace cleared.

A great cross from Harrison was smuggled clear as six added minutes were announced, six minutes for the Blues to snatch a winner and climb out of the relegation zone. Andersen was penalised for a foul on DCL to give the Blues another chance to pile bodies forward into the area but the free kick was poor. It was route one stuff now as a long ball for DCL from Onana sailed harmlessly through to Johnstone who understandably wasted a few seconds before launching the ball downfield.

Harrison was fouled by Lerma who was booked and Pickford crossing the halfway line saw his deep cross cleared and Palace were happy to waste more seconds from a throw-on on their left.

Palace were then happy to play keep-ball in the corner to run out time and they were much the happier side and fans at the final whistle.

Full Time: 1-1

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