Everton and Crystal Palace played out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Goodison Park in the Friday Night Football, ending the home side’s two-game losing streak.
Everton dominated the first half and deservedly took the lead when Romelu Lukaku brilliantly curled a free-kick into the top corner from 30 yards.
Palace came back into it after the break and grabbed an equaliser through Christian Benteke’s deft header, with neither side doing enough to win the game.
Despite both teams showing plenty of passion, it took 19 minutes for the game to provide its first shot on target. Lukaku did expertly to drop his shoulder and beat Damien Delaney, but his drilled low shot with his weaker foot was straight down the throat of Steve Mandanda and the experienced Palace goalkeeper comfortably saved it.
It was the Belgian who did open the scoring in the 35th minute and he did it in style. Lukaku had scored 64 goals in the Premier League before tonight, but his 65th was the first one he notched direct from a free-kick. His curling effort could have been stopped if the Palace wall jumped, but they didn’t and the ball bent deliciously into the top corner. Alan Pardew will feel aggrieved that the free-kick was given at all, as replays showed Phil Jagielka clearly handled the ball in winning the foul.
The second half showed an improved performance from Palace and they equalised in the 50th minute thanks to Benteke’s first impression in the game. Martin Kelly’s lofted cross looked harmless enough but the Belgian striker proved his aerial prowess with a superb directed header that left Martin Stekelenburg with no chance as the ball nestled into the bottom corner from 15 yards out. The goal was Benteke’s third in fourth games, with all the goals coming in the form of headers.
The goal opened the game up and Everton went desperately close to re-taking the lead just two minutes later. Yannick Bolasie, who was playing against Palace for the first time since leaving Selhurst Park to join the Toffees in the summer, broke through the defence and cut the ball back perfectly for the incoming Idrissa Gueye. Unfortunately for Ronald Koeman’s side, the defensive midfielder’s goal bound shot was brilliantly blocked by Kelly, saving a certain goal.
Palace went up the other end and believed they had completed the turnaround, only to be denied by the linesman’s flag. Kelly’s lofted cross unlocked the Everton defence and Delaney rose highest to nod into the corner, but his celebrations were cut short as it was ruled out for offside. It was a controversial decision as Delaney was onside when the cross came in, but an offside James McArthur does attempt to head in the shot which could have been the reason for the decision.
Everton still fancied their chance of winning the game, but Jason Puncheon was alert to deny them with a goal-line clearance in the 66th minute. Gareth Barry made an early run and flicked on Ross Barkley’s fast-paced corner, but the former Southampton midfielder did well to hook clear before Ashley Williams could turn the ball over the line. Just after, Seamus Coleman wastefully poked well over from Lukaku’s clever flick as time ran out.
In the end, the game finished level which meant this fixture provided its third straight draw after two during last season. Palace will be pleased with the point and improved second half performance, while Everton will be rueing not killing the game off when they were dominant in the opening period.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)