A chance to take the driver's seat and enter Champions League realm was on the line for Everton and manager Roberto Martinez, but the Toffees failed to erase two two-goal deficits in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to Crystal Palace at Goodison Park.
Martinez had alluded to how potent Palace’s attack can be before the match, and also said he stressed the same to his club. However, Everton failed to generate its attack often enough and remain one point behind Arsenal in fifth place on the Premier League table.
Palace jumped ahead of West Ham for 11th place on the table in their fourth consecutive victory. Tony Pulis’s squad may be relishing their role as spoiler, having previously kicked Chelsea during their downward spiral with a 1-0 victory at Selhurst Park only three weeks ago.
It was the first loss for Everton in seven matches since their Feb. 22 letdown to Chelsea, a long run that counted their Arsenal rivals as victims.
Palace midfielder and leading scorer Jason Puncheon began the scoring when he netted his seventh goal of the season off Marounae Chamakh’s touch assist in the middle of the box for a left-footed shot to the bottom left corner in the 23rd minute.
Defender Scott Dunn provided Palace some insurance with his first goal of the season with a header that just cleared under the cross bar off Yannick Bolasie’s cross in the 49th minute.
Hoping to kick start his attack Martinez started forward Steven Naismith in the second half in place of Gerard Deulofeu and the move would pay dividends. In the 61st minute, Naismith breathed some life into the attack with a right-footed shot in front of the net with the help of Leighton Baines’s lobbed header and third assist of the season.
Now only up 2-1, Palace forward Cameron Jerome responded accordingly in the 73rd minute with a turnaround right-footed shot that caught goalkeeper Tim Howard off-guard.
Unable to pull ahead, the Toffees still created opportunities up front with midfielder Kevin Mirallas providing some hope in the 86th minute with a right-footed strike.
Everton pressed throughout the match, forcing 12 corner kicks to Palace’s three and 17 total shots to seven. The Toffees also maintained a 69-31 possession advantage.
Today’s loss notwithstanding, Everton has four matches remaining and Easter Sunday’s visit from Manchester United could be the start of a new run. The Toffees will also host the ever-dangerous Manchester City on May 3.