Everton 3-2 Crystal Palace: Hosts stage remarkable fightback to secure Premier League survival


Clear. Safe. The words Evertonians never thought they would here. What a comeback this was. From nowhere really. The first 45 minutes was as bad as Everton have been; the second 45 as good as it gets.

From 2-0 down to 3-2 up. From sleepwalking over the canyon to relegation, to one mighty leap to the other side. Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s winner was greeted by a foolish pitch invasion, which may bring the attention of the authorities, but the sense of release was overwhelming.

After the second goal the last 15 minutes of the game was played out in a haze of blue smoke, like some illegal rave. The air was acrid, the mood one of total abandon. It had an unhinged feel to it, the final exchanges. Somehow Everton emerged with their sanity and their place in the Premier League intact.

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MATCH FACTS

Everton (3-4-3): Pickford 5.5; Coleman 5, Keane 6, Holgate 5; Iwobi 5.5, Doucoure 5.5, Gomes 4.5 (Alli 45min, 6), Mykolenko 5; Gordon 6 (Gray 61, 5.5), Calvert-Lewin 7.5, Richarlison 7.5.

Scorer: Keane 54, Richarlison 75, Calvert- Lewin 85. 

Booked: Keane, Doucoure.

Manager: Frank Lampard 7.

Crystal Palace (4-3-3): Butland 6.5; Clyne 6, Anderson 5.5, Guehi 6.5, Mitchell 6; Schlupp 6.5 (Gallagher 74, 6.5), Hughes 5.5 (Milivojevic 57, 6), Eze 7.5; Ayew 6, Mateta 7 (Benteke 81), Zaha 7.

Scorers: Mateta 21, Ayew 36.

Booked: Hughes, Ayew, Zaha.

Manager: Patrick Vieira 6.

Referee: Anthony Taylor 5.5.

Everton looked done, at 45 minutes, two goals down and playing abysmally. The second half was different. Everton slipped into fight mode and Crystal Palace were unable to resist them. They scored three goals, seized the points that lift them away from Burnley and Leeds who will now fight to the bitter end. Arsenal away is just another fixture.

This wasn’t. This felt like a life or death struggle, and certainly Everton were being measured up by the Co-Op once Jordan Ayew made it 2-0 to Palace. From somewhere, they found the resolve. The goals came not in a glut, but spread through an incredible second half, the tension building by the minute.

For the first, after 56 minutes, Mason Holgate headed down for Michael Keane who showed excellent poise and balance to prod the ball into the net. For the second, a Seamus Coleman cross should have been cleared before Richarlison hooked the ball past Jack Butland in goal. The third was a free-kick, powered into the net by the head of Calvert-Lewin. The fans came on again at the end, to celebrate 16th. There will be some mockery about that from the red half of this city. Maybe they could share the bus parade.

A game that began with such sound and fury, lapsed into eerie silence and occasional bursts of white hot fury as Everton’s season was played out in first-half microcosm. Heavens, this was poor from the home side. Toothless in attack, woeful in defence. They looked like a relegation team.

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Calling them Championship level would actually be an insult. There are teams in the league below that are better than this.

One cameo summed it up. Everton won a corner which Anthony Gordon bunged tamely into the first yellow-shirted defender. On the touchline Frank Lampard applauded encouragingly. He put one in mind of the coach of an Under 11 team, staying upbeat as little Johnny booted another one behind the goal. All that frustration channelled as positive energy. Not that it did any good.

The idea that Crystal Palace, or any team really, is on the beach at this stage in the season is largely nonsense. Some, like Chelsea, just look exhausted by events; others, like Southampton, will be relegation candidates next season without improvement. They simply aren’t very good.

Crystal Palace, however, still have goals despite their mid-table position. They can move into the top half of the table, move up places that could amount to an extra £6million or £10m in the transfer market this summer. That matters. They did not play last night as if Everton were the only team whose result mattered.

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This was a bad-tempered clash from early, and maybe that helped, but Palace’s mindset did them, and the league, proud.

This was a game from the third minute when Anthony Gordon — why always him — and Wilfried Zaha clashed near the touchline. Zaha looked to make contact and the home crowd howled for his dismissal. Anthony Taylor was having none of it, delivering stern lectures all round.

As the game wore on, increasingly the referee seemed to get the blame for faults and calamities of Everton’s making. In the seventh minute Ayew had a header go wide from distance. It was a warning that Palace weren’t here to let events wash over them.

Richarlison skimmed the bar with a free-kick from 25 yards after 16 minutes — more anger at Taylor because it was thought Butland got a touch to tip it over, which he didn’t — and then, quite simply, the roof fell in.

Eberechi Eze took a left-sided free-kick which he curled towards the far post.

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It was a lovely, dangerous cross, but it was criminal that it should find striker Jean-Philippe Mateta in so much space. It is hard to blame any individual really because the marking was so poor that nobody was near enough to take responsibility.

So let’s just afford collective responsibility and say that Everton’s defending was utterly hopeless as a group or individuals. The ball flew into the net and Goodison fell silent. Stunned.

Five minutes later, up the other end, Coleman crossed and Vitalii Mykolenko fluffed his shot in a way that would be comical were the consequences not growing increasingly disastrous for Everton. Maybe one day they’ll look back on this and laugh.

But not yet. In the space of four minutes, three incidents that reduced the crowd to a broiling mass of apoplexy. In the 32nd minute, Will Hughes was booked for a foul on Gordon. Again, why does everyone want to take lumps out of him? A minute later, an even worse one on him from Ayew.

This was right in front of the Everton dugout and brought players rushing from all areas of the pitch, including goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who has never seen a fire without gravitating towards it with a bucket of petrol. To more fury, Taylor only booked Ayew, who promptly thanked him by scoring.

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This was the goal that encapsulated Everton’s season. Mateta took the ball too easily off Coleman and his cross was punched out inadequately by Pickford, falling to Zaha. He replied with a shot that struck Ayew and was scrambled home in the softest circumstances.

Abdoulaye Doucoure should have cleared off his line, Mykolenko got in Pickford’s way. It was a shambles. So were Everton at that point. The news Aston Villa were trailing to Burnley didn’t help the half-time mood much either.

Everton looked done, at 45 minutes, two goals down and playing abysmally. The second-half was different. Everton slipped into fight mode and Crystal Palace were unable to resist them. They scored three goals, seized the point that lifts them away from Burnley and Leeds who will now fight to the bitter end. Arsenal away is just another fixture.

This wasn’t. This felt like a life or death struggle, and certainly Everton were being measured up by the Co-Op once Jordan Ayew made it 2-0 to Palace. From somewhere, they found the resolve. The goals came not in a glut, but spread through an incredible second-half, the tension building by the minute.

For the first, after 56 minutes, Mason Holgate headed down for Michal Keane who showed excellent poise and balance to prod the ball into the net. For the second, a Seamus Coleman cross should have been cleared before Richarlison hooked the ball past Jack Butland in goal. The third was a free-kick, powered into the net by the head of Calvert-Lewin. The fans came on again at the end, to celebrate 16th. There will be some mockery around that from the red half of this city. Maybe they could share the bus parade

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