Everton safe after dramatic comeback against Crystal Palace

Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s diving header five minutes from time secures safety

Everton 3 Crystal Palace 2

Five minutes of normal time remained. Five minutes to preserve 68 years of top-flight football and to ensure Everton would not be fighting on the final day to avoid a first relegation since 1951. Dominic Calvert-Lewin timed his impact on Everton’s season to perfection.

Throwing himself to meet Demarai Gray’s free-kick, the centre-forward who has missed so much of the season through injury launched himself into Goodison Park folklore with a diving header past Jack Butland.

Frank Lampard’s team, who trailed Crystal Palace 2-0 at half-time, had completed a comeback to compare with the 1994 final-day escape against Wimbledon to secure their Premier League status with one game to spare.

The fightback sparked an idiotic pitch invasion that contributed to seven minutes of stoppage time. It was a fightback, however, that will never be forgotten in these parts.

Lampard had called for "11 Evertonians" on the pitch. The many thousands outside could not have done more to push their beloved club over the line to safety. For the third home game in succession the Everton coach was greeted by an impassioned mass of supporters on Goodison Road, but in far greater numbers and with far more blue smoke bombs than preceded Chelsea and Brentford.

Repeated appeals over the PA system for supporters to make room “to allow players access to the stadium” gave a sense of the backing, and desperation, for one final victory in a torturous season. It felt more like the prelude to a cup final than a relegation scrap.

Unfortunately for Everton’s survival prospects, the understandable desperation of the crowd seeped into the team’s performance. The hosts were frantic, nervous and overly reliant on the long punt towards an isolated Calvert-Lewin to construct an attack. The rudimental approach played perfectly into the hands of a composed and confident Palace team.

Patrick Vieira dropped two of his most influential midfielders to the bench in Conor Gallagher and Cheikhou Kouyaté but the visitors dominated possession regardless. The guile and intent shown by Eberechi Eze, Wilfried Zaha and Jeffrey Schlupp was in stark contrast to the wastefulness of André Gomes and Abdoulaye Doucouré, bewildering paired in central midfield for the second game in succession by Lampard.

Frequent lapses from Richarlison and Anthony Gordon also invited unnecessary pressure. The Brazil international did have the first shot on target of the night, whipping a free-kick he won towards the top corner and forcing a fine finger-tip save from Butland on to the crossbar. The referee, Anthony Taylor, awarded a goal-kick.

The Goodison mood was punctured after Gomes and Doucouré were penalised for fouling Tyrick Mitchell deep in the Everton half. Eze swept a dangerous free-kick to the far post where Jean-Philippe Mateta easily escaped the weak attentions of Doucouré and Vitalii Mykolenko to guide a textbook header beyond Jordan Pickford at close range.

Goodison was in uproar again when Gordon, having regained possession from Zaha near the touchline, was scissored by a dangerous challenge from Jordan Ayew. The Palace forward went over the top but escaped with a yellow card. Two minutes later he compounded Everton’s torment by doubling the visitors’ lead.

It was a calamitous goal to concede, a litany of errors that underlines why Everton are perilously close to the relegation zone. It started when Séamus Coleman was easily dispossessed in midfield by Mateta, who darted down the left before crossing into the area. Five blue shirts had chased back but Pickford chose to punch clear and succeeded only in scuffing his clearance straight to Zaha.

The winger’s shot bounced off the ground, Pickford flicked away a save, but only as far as Ayew who scrambled the ball past Mykolenko and Doucouré on the goalline.

Everton created next to nothing in the first half, aside from a Mykolenko volley wide and a Richarlison drive straight at Butland. Something had to change and Lampard responded at the interval by introducing the lesser-spotted Dele Alli for the badly out-of-sorts Gomes.

Improvement

It was the former Tottenham playmaker’s first appearance since May 1st and his introduction helped ignite an immediate improvement, taking Everton higher up the pitch and offering more time on the ball.

The home side needed an early response. It arrived when Mykolenko delivered a deep free-kick from the left and Mason Holgate steered an intelligent header back to Michael Keane. His central defensive partner controlled with his left thigh before drilling past Butland with his right.

Everton’s relentless search for an equaliser left them exposed to the counterattack and Pickford saved well from Mateta after Eze and Ayew sliced through his defence. He also denied Schlupp seconds later. Keane was booked for scything down Eze, Calvert-Lewin was fortunate not to follow suit for a foul on Nathaniel Clyne, but just as Everton appeared to be losing their cool they found a way back.

Alli was heavily involved, taking down Coleman’s cross on his chest on the left of the area and volleying low across goal. A Palace touch cleared only as far as Richarlison who miss-controlled with his first touch but managed to release a shot with his second.

The ball struck Gallagher, who had replaced Schlupp a minute earlier, and looped beyond Butland. Goodison erupted, and there was yet more to come. - Guardian

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