Christian Benteke headed home in the second half for Crystal Palace to cancel out Romelu Lukakus free-kick and Everton had to be content with a 1-1 draw
Evertons impressive start to the season is in danger of fizzling out. They avoided a third consecutive defeat here, but were only able to score through a set piece and Crystal Palace will be bitterly disappointed at seeing a perfectly valid potential winner wrongly chalked off in the second half.
The visitors were worth at least a point, playing a neat counterattacking game and coming back strongly after Everton had taken a first-half lead. Ronald Koeman said Everton would have to show more aggression and intensity if they were to return to second place in the table, and if that was the aim his players failed to produce.
Romelu Lukaku was too isolated to be effective after his goal direct from a free-kick, Yannick Bolasie did not stand out against his former club and Ross Barkley had another of his wayward days, being withdrawn before the end as Koeman looked for more penetration.
When you are one nil up at home you expect to win but Palace are tough, difficult opponents, Koeman said. It was a fair result. I was happy with the team performance, we just couldnt find a final pass of sufficient quality.
Everton were slightly fortunate to go ahead just past the half hour. There was nothing wrong with Lukakus left-foot curler from a free-kick on the edge of the area that left Steve Mandanda barely bothering to move, just a question of whether it should have been an Everton free-kick. Damien Delaney was a little harshly penalised for foot up on Phil Jagielka when the ball was just about at kickable height and he could not have been expecting his opponent to try to claim it with his head. While it was typically brave by the Everton captain, it appeared Jagielka had also handled the ball in the act of protecting his face.
Im not sure it should have been a direct free-kick, and I dont know what Damien could have done because the Everton player ducked his head at the last moment, Alan Pardew said. We normally stand tall in the wall when the free-kick is so close in, because teams will try to drill it underneath. I dont think we were sure whether this one was far enough out for the wall to jump, but when we got in at half-time the goalkeeper was furious. He said we should definitely have jumped.
The goal brought some life to what was becoming a scrappy contest. When the stadium announcer introduced the highlights of the first half on the Goodison big screen during the interval, the footage comprised Lukakus goal and nothing else. Harsh but fair. Little else in the first 45 minutes stood out in the memory.
That situation changed five minutes after the break when Christian Benteke brought Palace back level with a superb headed goal. Joel Ward did well to pick him out at the far post with a diagonal cross, but there was not much pace on the ball and Benteke was a fair way from goal with a lot of work to do.
He managed to make it look easy, first getting ahead of Seamus Coleman and timing his leap to perfection, then placing a header perfectly across Maarten Stekelenburg and into the goalkeepers bottom corner. Even Koeman was impressed. It was a great goal, the best part of football is that you cant stop everything, the Everton manager said. Pardew is just happy to have a striker of such quality after making him the No1 transfer target in summer. We are really pleased with Christian, he said. I think he was a bit unlucky not to get a run of games at Liverpool, because thats what he needs. Everton attempted to hit back through a Bolasie break, but though he squared the ball unselfishly across the area Idrissa Gueyes shot was blocked by Martin Kelly.
Then Palace and their captain were unlucky for the second time in the evening when Delaney rose to head another excellent Ward cross into the net, only to be wrongly ajudged offside.
Replays showed James Tomkins in an offside position at the back of a pack of Palace players, but he was not interfering and Delaney himself was onside all the time. It was a tough one, but I can accept mistakes can be made, Pardew said.
Finally there was noise and fervour in the stadium, with the game finely poised. Jason Puncheon had to clear off his own line when Gareth Barry got the faintest touch to a corner at one end, Stekelenburg had to punch clear under pressure from Joe Ledley following a free-kick at the other, but neither side was able to claim a decider.
Both sides got what they deserved, Koeman said. We have to be realistic. We need to be better in certain areas, but I still think we can be pleased with a positive start.