Before kick-off, I was lucky enough to be asked along to Carling In Off The Bar a show which aired on YouTube by Sky Sports presented by Adam Smith and Laura Woods. The show airs every Friday night game and is set in a pub in the city of the home team, this being MacKenzie's Whisky Bar on Rodney Street in Liverpool. I brought Ste along for the entertainment and free Carling.
We were asked to arrive for 4:30pm though, with getting out of work a bit early, the best we could do was about 5pm, given the Friday traffic coming through the tunnel was just horrendous. The show is pretty much in the wackiness format of Soccer AM except in a pub, but it was good fun to be around it and see how it all works behind the scenes. The initial show went live on YouTube at 6pm.
At about 7:20pm, we went to get a taxi to the ground and were luckily able to share with three other Evertonians heading that way. It was good company in the taxi and we arrived nicely in time for kick off... Goodison Park looking splendid under the lights.
Everton had made just the one change to the team that dipped at Bournemouth Tom Cleverley in to replace Kevin Mirallas, with Gerard Deulofeu not even in the squad. For Crystal Palace, you kind of knew that Christian Benteke would come back to haunt us. Though I was pleased when I heard that Jonathan Moss replaced Mark Clattenburg as the match official, I now feel that even Clattenburg would have been a better option than the hopelessly inconsistent Jonathan Moss.
The atmosphere, though okay, wasn't exactly electric and, in the first half, it was the Crystal Palace supporters making a fair bit of noise. We were getting the better of things and had Crystal Palace pinned back for large periods of it, this culminating in us going in at the break a goal to the good following a Romelu Lukaku free kick. Though undoubtedly a great effort from Romelu, I couldn't help but feel the goalkeeper could have done a bit better as the ball went over the wall but was hardly in the corner of the goal. I'm basing this on a one off view from the Gwladys Street, of course; those in other sections of the ground or watching on TV may beg to differ.
We caught up with Gaz at the break and, with a seat vacant near us, he was able to join us for the second half, which was intriguing and entertaining, though not for particularly the right reasons. We had a good spell of pressure as the Goodison atmosphere really lit up. It was good to see a competitive game with a lot of tackles flying in but Jonathan Moss and his assistants just couldn't let things flow and the game was broken up far too much. This really spoiled the game. Simple contact at times was mistaken for fouls, most maddeningly when Bolasie went over an outstretched defender inside the penalty area with the free kick going against us somehow.
The inconsistency irritated the masses for both sides, no doubt and it spoilt what could have been a better game. Our best chance in the second half came when Yannick Bolasie got free inside the penalty area and should have driven at goal but instead tried to square it and the chance was gone. I loved his speculative overhead volley also. He had a busy game and seemed determined to make an impact against his former club.
Crystal Palace withstood this spell of pressure and retaliated, Joel Ward looping a ball into the penalty area and Benteke rising highest to find the corner of the net with his header. You could question the defending perhaps, but sometimes you have to take your hat off and say it was a good headed goal. Fair play to Benteke also who could have really rubbed it in our faces, but chose not too and didn't celebrate too wildly.
This changed the game considerably and for quite a period we were really pinned back with Crystal Palace forcing corner after corner, though the pressure was expertly withstood by Phil Jagielka and Ashley Williams, so much so that Maarten Stekelenburg had rather little to do. Crystal Palace thought they had scored the winner when Damien Delaney headed a similar goal to Benteke's into the far corner of the net, but James McArthur was apparently offside so the goal was ruled out.
Everton tried to launch a quick counter whilst Crystal Palace celebrated but Jonathan Moss wouldn't allow such entertainment. He instead ran to his linesman for confirmation of why it was ruled out. It seemed to me he was determined to give the goal to Crystal Palace. Why he had to run over to speak to him is over my head. The referees are microphoned up these days after all to improve communication and increase speed of play!
We toiled late on for a goal though it didn't materialise. Jason Puncheon cleared a headed effort off the goal line from a corner kick but we couldn't force the ball home. At full time I'd say Crystal Palace might have been slightly more disappointed with the result as they had us on the ropes at one point, but a draw was about fair. Boos rung around the stadium at full time, more born out of frustration that fume I think. Regardless, it feels our momentum has really been stunned these last 11 days since we lost to Norwich City.
If we have realistic aspirations of qualifying for Europe next season, we have to be getting more from games against Crystal Palace and Bournemouth than a solitary point, and with our next two fixtures away at Manchester City and Burnley, it's tough to expect much given the form in our last three fixtures. Most of the players are away on international duty this next 10 days or so, so a lot of hard work is required by Ronald Koeman and his management team to evaluate what has gone wrong these last few games, and plan how to overcome Manchester City the other side of the international break. We have to give Ronald time. Managers seldom arrive and hit the ground running. The first season is usually a struggle.
After the match, Gaz kindly drove us back to MacKenzie's Whisky Bar where we returned for the live show aired on Sky Sports 1. We had a laugh and appeared in the backdrop on TV quite a few times having now watched it back. We finally made it!
Stekelenburg: Not a great deal to do really but he seemed a little helpless with the goal. One moment when he punched the ball out from a crowded penalty area particularly sticks in my mind. 6
Oviedo: Performed admirably. Though I'd question the wisdom of it, I hope that the late substitution which replaced him with Ramiro Funes Mori was tactical rather than injury-forced, as Bryan seldom seems able to finish a game. 6
Jagielka: His defensive display, when we were under severe pressure in the second half, was key to us preserving the draw. 8
Williams: See Jagielka. 8
Coleman: Full of effort down the right though not quite on his top form. 6
Barry: Had a decent game in there and was perhaps the most creative outlet in midfield. 8
Gueye: As busy as ever all over the pitch. 8
Bolasie: Though a bit inconsistent, he was fired up and perhaps did more than anyone to try and force the winner though alas it never came. A few early observations the other players are always looking for him and trying to give him the ball so they must have a lot of faith in his ability. Also, the Crystal Palace players were often tapping him on the back, helping him up and shaking his hand throughout the game, which tells me he's probably a pretty good lad and they respect him. Even when he clattered someone late on, their players and even Alan Pardew didn't make as much of it as they may have done. My Man of the Match. 8
Cleverley: His final product was often lacking but give him some credit, he worked his socks off and pretty much always does and you can't really ask for more than that. 6
Barkley: Well he's trying and he didn't have his worst game. If he keeps on working hard hopefully he'll get his confidence back. 6
Lukaku: Was fairly busy and scored a good goal but I feel he needs to defend from the front a bit more. At times in the second half more movement and effort would have really helped out his team mates. Good to see him grab a goal also. 6
Mirallas (for Barkley): Didn't really make an impact despite his best efforts. 6
Funes Mori (for Oviedo): He did his best but couldn't quite make an impact. 6
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