We assembled as soon as possible for a 7.45 kick off and the room of nonsense was abuzz with plans for Champions League adventures as we saluted Martinez for having the Midas touch which should ensure another home win. However, as the team was relayed to those without a phone doubts arose.
A team containing three wingers and no McCarthy to complete the defensive shield and provide the solidarity that allows rotation further forward to continue our quest for a CL place in doing what we do best was at best a brave attacking move or a miscalculation when playing a team that had four wins on the bounce, one of which was the scalp of Chelsea.
By the final whistle I think most would agree it was the latter. This notion was reinforced by the fact that on that final whistle there was no booing or dissatisfaction, just fans leaving with little or nothing to say other than private conversations with mates which when put together sort of said manager and players got it wrong and a half-decent Palace side were underestimated, that this game would be put to bed and the bigger threat of Man U on Sunday would be the one to have a full team of tried and tested players in the formation that had got us to this point to battle a big one. If my thoughts are anywhere near right then the players and staff should be ashamed. Get your best team possible out for the game in hand and worry about the next one as it arises.
The walk up was of conversations relating to team selection with most snatches of conversation I heard were of a sceptical nature. But the match-going Blues were out in force and the queue at the Blue Dragon take away was as long as I have seen and the fat van wasn’t doing too badly either.
The players entered the arena and after the mandatory ‘Fair play’ hand-shake both teams lined up in front of the directors box and behind them were a line of 96 Blue and Red scarves in tribute to ‘Those that went the match’ and never came home 25 years ago and are still waiting for justice to be done and seen to be done.
We started well enough and Barkley beat a couple of players in a run into the box but when tackled his fall to the floor did not impress the ref. McGeady twisted and turned then hit one from range that sailed over and wide. We continued in this vein but without looking really dangerous where it mattered. However we did seem on top but when Palace did break they did look sharp and dangerous especially as we seemed not to bother with their attacks and just concentrate on ours.
Maybe we were thinking it would be just a matter of time until we scored but we got a rude awakening when Bolasie who was giving Coleman a real hard time and would do throughout hit a cross shot that Howard could only parry back out and an ex Arsenal player Chamakh laid the ball invitingly to Puncheon who dispatched with consummate ease. One nil down and a brief roar from the faithful as we restarted. The Palace faithful in a good turnout taunted us with that refrain from the past ‘Champions league – your avin a laff’
Again we set off dominating but at the expense of proper defending and joined up thinking and were almost undone again by that man Bolasie controlled a goal kick with aplomb and doing Coleman again and hitting the post with Howard nowhere but we were able to react and clear. The half wore on and we did have some nice approach work but that final third was Palace territory and we lacked the guile to unlock their resolve. Before the whistle McGeady had another effort clear the bar and the Palace keeper made a great save to thwart the out of sorts Lukaku at the near post.
H/T came and buzz wise on the landings and bars and bogs it was all a bit of a damp squid with the one common thought that changes were required. The manager agreed and replaced Deulofeu with Naismith. Deulofeu had not had the best of halves yet he could have assisted in at least two goals. You see 36,000 Blues know exactly what he is going to do when he has the ball near the by-line he twist and turns, gets to the by-line and hits the ball hard and low across goal. Never anyone to apply a finish in sight—Why? They train together, play together and he always does the same manoeuvre. If we all can see it why not the players?
The half started and within 5mins it got worse when from a dead ball cross the Palace centre-back Dann was given the freedom to head home. What a downer. We continued but in the same vein an Palace were content to mop up our attacks and waste time at any given opportunity, although the crowd howled at the time wasting they were good at it and were happy to frustrate us further.
The hour mark and the manager made a double substitution. McGeady off McCarthy on but the Barry off and Osman on which to this fan did nothing to restore some balance to our team. Barkley may be destined for big things but I don’t see them being from a deep lying centre mid role. He ran and tried hard but throughout got nowhere that looked like leading to the undoing of a resolute defence.
However just after the subs were made we scored when a Mirallas deep cross to the back post was headed back across goal by the excellent Baines and Naismith trundled the ball home. Not great celebrations but the volume did go up as we roared them on for another. We huffed and puffed but we just did not look like a side fighting for a finish that would propel many into Goodison folklore. Osman and the excellent Baines were looking the likeliest to claw something back by way off ingenuity and resolve. Osman almost did it with a clever flick that the keeper sort of kicked away.
The crowd were now quite vocal as they tried to lift the team and we did attack but again with little goalmouth threat. On the seventy minute mark our fate was sealed as Puncheon burst with pace and power and teed up Jerome who had got free of his marker and lashed home into the bottom corner. You didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was murder just sitting and watching our efforts and thinking on how Palace had been quick and clinical where we had been ponderous and wasteful but with 4mins of normal time left Mirallas was put in and expertly lifted the ball over the keeper to register and keep us and Palace on our toes until the normal time and six minutes of added were played out.
Final whistle and no ‘Grand old team’ played over the speakers today as fans filed out into the night contemplating on what might have been and praying for one of those unexpected quirks of footy to put us back into contention for that CL spot. Mind you more of today’s displays and Europe may be out in any form.
M.o.tM: Stones/ Baines – Stones for sheer class. Baines for showing that desire and will to win that eluded many another player.
Hopefully that’s not season end and the manager can rouse the players to give us a record points total and see where that leaves us table wise. To fold now would be a disaster after such displays to this point. My message to Roberto if I ever had a chance would be with just 5 games to go ‘Play your best team’
Still you just never know in this great imprecise sport how things will pan out so see you Sunday and hope to do the double over Man U.
UP THE BLUES
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831 Posted 17/04/2014 at 06:50:22
And not for the first time either! He was some player when he just joined us but since his barren run it becomes clear he doesn't offer enough besides his goals.
He just doesn't look like the striker we need. For a big guy you rareley see him go to war, do you?
His touch is generally not the best - which wasn't so much the case early on in his Everton days, was it?
Naismith in his current form offers a lot more. Not the best touch either, but willing to run into space and he can finish. Proper striker goals as well. At least he seems to be giving all he's got every time.
Deulofeu? Same as all season, no end product. Though someone (Lukaku! FFS!) should be getting in position to walk in his crosses accros goals.
This is not a knee jerk reaction. I felt like this about both of them for a while now. Should we try to buy Lukaku? Yes, for 20m max. He does score goals, and you buy potential. He's still a very young lad after all.
But, I believe had Naismith played the same amount of games as Romelu in the striker position he would have matched the big guy's number of goals.
I believe for next season we will have Traore on another season loan. Would make no sense otherwise to have kept him while injured, knowing he would only be available for a couple of games (if, at all) while the other players would be fit again for the run in.
Kone, Traore and Naismith for that position next season. Plus another we might bring in for less money than Lukaku, maybe. No worries if we can't sign the big Belgian.
Anything can happen, look at both results last night. Arsenal can still drop points. It's not over, let's get as many points as possible and see where we'll end up. 70 points + will still be a great achievement and Europa League at least will mean a very satisfying first year under Martinez.
McGeady looked good last night. Osman showed Barkley what is needed by actually wanting the ball in the second half. Stones is some prospect.
Mind you, we should try to sign Yannick Bolasie. He was terrific!
844 Posted 17/04/2014 at 07:54:57
848 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:07:11
The assumption by many was that Palace would sit back; and take the opportunity to counter-attack - which, in the end, is what they did.
However by sitting back and allowing us the possession, we needed a bit more creative flair to try and unlock them - hence why the decision to start with Miralles, Deulofeu, McGeady and Barkley actually made sense. How many of us have wondered why we play two defensive-minded midfielders at home to lower-league opposition?
The benefit of hindsight shows that it didn't work out for us, and I do think we under-estimated just how good Palace could be on the break. If it was Pulis' half-beast half-man squad at Stoke, I do think the result could have been different. This ain't the Mutants, however, and Palace showed they have a lot more skill and flair.
I agree with you Ken with regards to Deulofeu - why no player in blue has latched on that he will always put through the hard low crosses from the byline is beyond me, when we can all see it happening from the stands or the comfort of our living rooms.
Looks like it's all on for this Sunday. Hopefully the lads get this result out of their system. Just remember fellow blues; if our team is something; it's unpredictable - so if the pattern continues; we'll snot "the Chosen One" and his ex-league winners by 3-0.
852 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:21:16
I think Roberto is vain and has been led to believe he has a magic touch. He hasn't, and these daft team selections - like in the FA Cup - expose his weakness. He must realise he just hasn't got the players to play Tinkerman.
But he'll learn - and meanwhile WE'll suffer.
855 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:36:23
I thought it made sense to add some extra creativity.
Both McGeady and Deulofeu did get their crosses in.
We just seemed to play without a striker.
856 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:35:33
"led to believe he has a magic touch"? If that was the case Phil, he must be wondering why his magic deserted him long enough to see his team get relegated last year.
857 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:27:18
My other major moan is this. Why do referees constantly fall for the play acting and gamesmanship which allows teams to slow down a game. Feigning injury and time wasting. I pay good money to see football, not some prick of a goalkeeper dicking about with the ball, meandering from one side of the goal to the other at glacier like speed before he stands waving his fuckin' arms about like a 1955 traffic policeman before wellying the ball downfield. Or lying prostrate like he's been shot by Lee Harvey Oswald's brother in the Main Stand. He was obviously unhurt yet Marriner allows the plank three minutes rest......
858 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:41:50
859 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:41:52
861 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:34:13
If McCarthy had a strain then it explains his absence from the starting line-up but surely that is when you put Osman in his place not have three wingers on from the start. Too many of the first-team squad are playing for themselves and that includes Barks who had a shocker albeit in an unfamiliar role in the team. Lukaku blows hot and cold and I still think that Del Boy is vastly over-rated. McGeady has ability but he too lost the ball far too often. Palace looked like the team on the verge of CL and Everton looked like an out of sorts mid-table team. Consistency is the key and until we see this Everton side treat the likes of Palace in the same way as they treat the big boys - we will continue to fall short - which is a real shame because the ability is already there just the mind-set is all wrong at times.
862 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:36:22
Perhaps Alcaraz would have been a better deputy though.
Anyway, we cannot expect a win every game and Palace were very good and worth the points. Pulis has got a few players worth a lot of money and I have been an admirer of both Bolasie and Puncheon for ages.
I said a while ago I would love those two plus Lallana in our squad. Never mind the ready made stars that the so called big clubs go for.
We need Jagielka back in the next game as he would sort the defence out.
Stones is very promising but needs a rest as his positional sense is not fine tuned just yet.
Perhaps the lad may well develop into a defensive midfielder and replace Barry as he is really good on the ball and distributes well.
We need to get our heads up and hope that Arsenal slip up.
864 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:36:58
CP were able to exploit the obvious gaps when they broke as we had so many players committed. Credit to them also for the defensive organisation and their fans deserve respect too.
We battered them second half, Lukaku was man marked and you could see every blue shirt straining to find space accross their back line. It was admirable the way we tried to keep playing football as the pressure built. Ossie and Nais made a difference. W kept moving the ball trying to pull their players out of position, trying to create gaps. Ultimately the frustration was painful
Phil W Its nonsense to suggest Martinez cant or shouldlt change his format. Hes been using McGeady/Miralles/Barklay/Deulofeu/Naismith in pretty much rotation over the last couple of months and it has obviously worked. He also uses substitutes effectively.
866 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:37:39
868 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:47:21
I didn't think McGready played that badly. What I was frustrated about about was that we had a number of good crosses into the box close to the keeper just begging for somebody to anticipate and get in close to the keeper. But it didn't happen until Nais came on, and see what happened.
I'm also frustrated not just at the poor crossing from corners but that when they do hit the spot we can't get a head to them, despite the size of some of our guys. How often do we get a head to a cross, never mind score.
869 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:49:06
We didn't have the balance of usual but we also didn't have the luck. There's still much to play for and if we can stay within touching distance of Arsenal then they may yet slip up. Such a shame that the chasm between Europa and Champions league is so vast as it makes 5th so incredibly less appealing than 4th.
870 Posted 17/04/2014 at 08:57:22
But ALL managers cock up and when they do they should expect to get stick from them who pays their wages.
Roberto is not absolved from this and it has not yet been made illegal to criticise his daft decisions on team selection.
875 Posted 17/04/2014 at 09:03:58
I think we were a little unlucky, but there were certainly a few very poor performances that caused this defeat. Lukaku was absolutely awful. By far his worst performance; I shudder to think how poor his pass completion rate etc were last night. Mirallas and Deulofeu were also poor. Barkley, Barry and Baines were wasteful in possession with far too many misplaced passes. I thought Stones and McGeady actually played quite well. (Stones' distribution was fantastic. He'll be a regular next season, regardless of whether Distin and Jagielka are both fit).
Had Speroni not tipped Osman's blast over and toed Barkley's excellent shot just wide, we'd have won the game. I'm still hopeful. We just have to maintain the pressure on Arsenal. I'd rather be chasing, to be honest; the pressure is all on them and we know they might just crumble. Jelavic can help us out this weekend while we teach Moyes' Man United a footballing lesson and compete the league double.
904 Posted 17/04/2014 at 10:26:37
915 Posted 17/04/2014 at 11:04:25
I was one of thousands who gave it to Moyes in spades and I feel the same way about Martinez. At this crucial moment in our history, it was farcical to use anything less than our best team.
926 Posted 17/04/2014 at 12:26:16
Still in fucking shock to be honest and extremely fearful for Sunday. To make matters worse the title seems to be winging it's way to....... for fuck sake, need I say any more. If there is a footy god, he is definitely a red, who seems to like a good fucking laugh at our expense.
941 Posted 17/04/2014 at 13:25:10
One thing that last night's game showed was the under-estimated quality that McCarthy brings when he is in the team, often overlooked by people on here.
I will not critizise Mr Martinez over his team selection as most times he has been correct and I am sure he is his own worst critic. I definitely agree with the comments on our poor use of corners and free kicks as a goalscoring route.
One thing last night showed, was how unpredictable the Premier League can be so with 12 points left to play for... let's get back on track and get behind the team and the manager who I believe this season has taken the team higher than most of our expectations were at the beginning of the season.
975 Posted 17/04/2014 at 15:49:13
You just watch Sunday against big Man Utd on Sky, he will put a shift in then, yet last night his body language mirrored Anichebe at times. In the first half, balls where getting thrown into the six-yard box and he was nowhere, then Naismith comes on and bang... goal, this is a fella who knows where to run and he would have been on the end of one of those balls into the six-yard box in the first half if he was playing.
Lukaku £25m, no chance at the moment, he will be great but he needs a bit of a reality check and a kick up the arse if you ask me.
995 Posted 17/04/2014 at 18:26:50
I’m with Phil and Dick on this one. Martinez has used a formula that has worked so well this season, so why change it? Why do managers keep making this simple game so complicated?
Martinez said we weren’t ourselves. That’s right, we weren’t. Our season has been built on keeping the ball. Last night’s team had too many potentially excting players who give the ball away too cheaply.
That was Roberto’s second selection cock-up this season. Mind you, if we’d scored first, it would have been another story. We have to score first, or learn how to deal with games when we don’t.
000 Posted 17/04/2014 at 19:09:02
002 Posted 17/04/2014 at 19:19:13
Here we go again!
007 Posted 17/04/2014 at 19:58:31
And on the subject of mind-sets, the crowd's needs to change too. It seems that we only come to life when we have our backs to the walls, are underdogs or perceive some sort of injustice. I thought support from the crowd last night wasn't quite as intense as it should have been. It appears that many seem to believe deep down that fourth is actually an unobtainable goal and / or that somehow we'll cock up again within sight of the finishing line. I wonder if this ingrained negativity pervades the club and affects the players?
008 Posted 17/04/2014 at 20:16:30
044 Posted 17/04/2014 at 22:16:59
Pulis knew his team could not match Roberto's in the passing game so he surrendered the midfield, relying instead on a retreating defence and quick counter attacks. Our fancy dans ponced around with their uncontested pointless going nowhere passes and building up a massive rate of possession.
By time we managed to get the ball to the sharp end we found ourselves faced with a wall of desperate defenders. There are times when the joined up stuff pays dividends and makes for excellent viewing. This is often against top attack minded sides. Unfortunately it seems most sides have now sussed our method plus its inherent weakness. That weakness is a slow build up often requiring the whole team to push forward thus leaving us stretched at the back and open to quick counters.
My other groan concerns how useless at corners are our current centre backs plus Jags. Allowing that our corner kick takers are on a par with Arteta at his worst, Distin and Co are to be seen nonchalantly hanging about waiting for it to hit them.
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