Crystal Palace denied crucial home win by battling Everton side

Ruben Loftus-Cheek in action against Everton. Pic: Crystal Palace Football Club

Boasting two of the worst defensive records in the Premier League this season, Crystal Palace and Everton unsurprisingly played out a frenzied draw on Saturday.

With all four goals coming in the opening half of this chaotic encounter, the match eventually ended 2-2 at an aggrieved Selhurst Park, with Roy Hodgson’s men unable to add to their single league win this season.

Assisted by a contested penalty decision, the away side snatched a satisfactory point thanks to goals from Leighton Baines and Oumar Niasse, as they successfully cancelled out two well-taken strikes from James McArthur and Wilfried Zaha.

Previously expected to be missing due to a back injury, Ruben Loftus-Cheek was handed a starting role on Saturday and proved to be a constant thorn in the side of the Everton defence.

He instantly played a key role in the opening goal, as he produced a cut-back to force a palmed save from Jordan Pickford in the first minute before McArthur easily dispatched the rebound from close-range.

A dubious penalty led to a swift fifth minute equaliser for the away side, with referee Anthony Taylor judging Scott Dann’s soft shoulder barge on Niasse to be a foul.

The experienced Baines subsequently stepped up to take the spot-kick, and thumped the ball into the bottom left-hand corner to score his 20th penalty in the Premier League.

Despite this frustrating set-back, Palace deservedly regained the lead in the 35th minute through Zaha, notably thanks to some great build-up play up front.

With midfielder Yohan Cabaye linking up well with the Eagles attack, the ball was then switched out to Joel Ward out on the right flank, who provided a sumptuous low-cross for the 25-year-old to finish.

However, as has been the case on far too many occasions this season, Palace were soon made to pay for yet another defensive lapse in concentration.

Riding on a rare wave of confidence, the Crystal Palace rearguard unforgivably played straight into the hands of the persistent Everton attack just before the interval, with Scott Dann losing possession to Idrissa Gueye in a dangerous position. In his natural No.10 role, Gylfi Sigurdsson played in Niasse, who opened his body to place the ball accurately past Julian Speroni from the edge of the area.

The second-half was understandably nerve-wracking for both sides, although Palace should really have capitalised on their increased possession and ambition.

Clearly lacking match fitness after a seven-week injury lay-off, the returning Christian Benteke missed a great chance to score after being played in by Zaha, while he was then also denied following a fine save from Jordan Pickford late on.

Palace will now seek to build upon this hard-fought point during their upcoming encounter with Stoke City on Saturday, who also find themselves positioned in the bottom half of the Premier League stable.

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