Football Features

‘You can’t keep a good footballer down’ – Five things learned from Everton 3-1 Crystal Palace

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 14:33, 8 February 2020 | Updated: 14:16, 12 February 2020

Everton continued their recovery under Carlo Ancelotti with a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace at Goodison Park.

The Toffees now find themselves in with a chance of a top-five Premier League finish when not long ago they were looking above from the relegation zone.

Brazilian duo Bernard and Richarlison plus England international hopeful Dominic Calvert-Lewin were on hand with goals while Christian Benteke levelled for the visitors before they later succumbed.

With the dust beginning to settle, here are five things we learned from this encounter…

1. The Bernard-Walcott connection strikes again

Bernard and Theo Walcott haven’t always been guaranteed starters for Everton this season. The arrival of Carlo Ancelotti, though, has changed that. Walcott has featured in each of his opening eight league matches in charge, including today, with Bernard playing in all but three. Both were in danger of becoming forgotten men at Goodison Park but recent tribulations have seen them become the toast of the Toffees faithful.

Walcott, last time out, registered a late winner away to Watford to keep Everton’s momentum going, as they continue to recover following a turgid start. Meanwhile, Bernard is starting to live up to his billing. The 27-year-old Brazilian forward – today marking a 50th Premier League appearance – would put the hosts in front, volleying home a sweet Walcott cross, subsequently netting his third league goal this season (all of which have come at home). Incidentally, Bernard’s last goal against West Ham in October was also teed up by Walcott, who unfortunately had to come off moments after celebrating the creation of this latest effort against Palace.

2. Benteke ends drought

Going into this latest matchday no Premier League team had scored fewer goals than Palace, who not long ago sat fifth in the table. Hodgson‘s men, across their opening 25 outings, could only muster 22 goals (or 0.88 per game). More damning, though it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, is that they’ve produced the fewest shots on target (77) in the division and that meagre total just about improved on Saturday.

Jordan Pickford, in the Everton goal at half-time, couldn’t have asked for a more comfortable start to the day. Patrick van Aanholt, who hit the post – just before Bernard broke the deadlock – proved to be the only time in the opening 45 minutes Ancelotti will have had his heart in his mouth.

But six minutes after the interval, Pickford was left ruing another failed attempt to earn a clean sheet. Christian Benteke, last seen scoring in April 2019 against Arsenal, saw a simple effort on goal squirm underneath England’s number one goalkeeper. It also meant he ended a run of 765 minutes without a Premier League strike.

3. No league for old men

It’s somewhat fitting the Premier League‘s oldest manager, Roy Hodgson, has named his club’s oldest ever starting line-up in competition history. With an average age of 30 years and 101 days old, no fewer than five players selected were 30 or above: Vicente Guaita (33), Joel Ward (30), James Tomkins (30), Gary Cahill (34) and James McArthur (32) with a couple others — Patrick van Aanholt, James McCarthy and Christian Benteke — set to celebrate the big Three-Oh later this year.

History was against them, with none of the last 17 sides to name a similar aged team (30+) having been victorious. And that peculiar trend, unfortunately for the Eagles, continued into an 18th consecutive game as Richarlison’s ninth goal of the season (with seven of them giving Everton the lead) ensured all three points were staying in Merseyside. Dominic Calvert-Lewin – with Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate watching on – made doubly sure of that minutes from the end with a true poacher’s effort.

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4. Digne everywhere

Everton’s upcoming fixtures include Arsenal (away), Manchester United (home), Chelsea (away) and Liverpool (home), putting an even greater emphasis on this game. Ancelotti wanted nothing less than momentum going into this daunting group of games and, more than seeing a collective effort, needed his star men to shine. None did so more than former Barcelona left-back Lucas Digne, who proved a nuisance at both ends of the pitch.

Palace knew of his threat and importance, hence their keeping close tabs on him with some tactical fouls, but you can’t keep a good footballer down. Digne had the first real effort on goal, his powerful free-kick being well saved by Vicente Guaita. That would be his only moment with goalscoring potential, but no player produced more tackles (6), take-ons (5), touches (88) and passes (66) than him.

5. Sidibe’s moment of unpreparedness

There’s nothing more frustrating than a substitute taking ages to get ready to come on. We saw that in the meeting between United and Wolves last weekend as Gary Neville, on colour commentator duty, bemoaned new signing Daniel Podence for not having his shinpads on. “You have one job as a substitute, to be ready when the manager calls on you!” he said.

He would have echoed those exact sentiments when Ancelotti called upon Djibril Sidibe to replace the injured Walcott, only for the French full-back missing a sock, which subsequently led to a visit to the dressing room. Former Toffees boss Sam Allardyce – working as a pundit for Sky – revealed he endured a similar experience when a player forgot their shirt but would not, for his former charge’s sake, name and shame.