Romelu Lukaku rescues point for Everton

Everton 1 Crystal Palace 1: Romelu Lukaku’s 50th goal in Everton blue rescued a point for Roberto Martinez’s side as both clubs continued their chase for European football in this most unpredictable of Premier League seasons.

Romelu Lukaku rescues point for Everton

Having struck the woodwork three times prior to Lukaku turning in a superb low 81st minute cross from the virtually unplayable Gerard Deulofeu from six yards, it had appeared that lifelong Liverpool supporter Scott Dann was going to earn his team a remarkable fifth successive league victory on Merseyside.

Last month the Palace defender scored the winner at his beloved Anfield and repeated the trick in similar fashion after 78 minutes at Goodison, shrugging aside his marker Gareth Barry to power in Jason Puncheon’s right-wing corner from six yards.

The lead lasted only three minutes and, on the balance of play, a Palace win would have been unjust for the home side who had hit the woodwork with such regularity it appeared they were using radar to locate it — most spectacularly the crossbar from an 18-yard Lukaku volley in between the two goals.

“Obviously we felt we should have had three points,” said Lukaku. “We had a lot of chances, we were unlucky with the post, the crossbar and they scored out of the blue.

“We reacted well and it shows great character in the team but we want to be in the top six, top four, in the league we need to be winning games like today.

“I’m proud of the landmark. But as a footballer I’m a team player and I want to win games.”

It was also fitting that Deulofeu had a key role in the goal with the young Catalan winger sending a ripple of expectation around Goodison Park every time the ball came to his feet, every feint and back heel hinting at that little bit of magic that the contest lacked, for the first 45 minutes at least.

When a clear-cut opening finally did arrive it was the result of dumb luck and a bounce of a defender which allowed Lukaku to bulldoze his way through a challenge before unleashing a 20-yard shot which struck the foot of the left-hand post and ricocheted to safety.

But for all the ambition of both teams — at least an ambition to hit their opponents on the counter-attack — that was the closest the home team could come to a breakthrough.

Palace, for their part, might have taken the lead as early as the 15th minute when Bolasie whipped in a near-post cross which found the head of Connor Wickham, forcing Tim Howard into a fine reflex save.

And there was an anxious moment when Gareth Barry clearly pulled the shirt of Mile Jedinak at a corner but the referee failed to award the penalty. “I think I was lucky with that,” admitted Barry. “Sometimes they are given, sometimes they are not.”

Lukaku, a striker who has only the phenomenon Jamie Vardy ahead of him in the Premier League scoring stakes, was the focal point of Everton’s attacking intent although it was Deulofeu who had the Goodison connoisseurs on the edge of their seats. Everton started the second half with some urgency and increased involvement from Deulofeu. After 55 minutes he produced a series of step-overs just outside the area — reminiscent of a young Cristiano Ronaldo, a comparison made last week by his team mate Seamus Coleman — his deflected cross landed on the roof of the net.

Everton were pushing and, on the hour, struck woodwork again as Wickham’s attempted clearance of a Barkley free-kick skimmed off his head and struck the Palace crossbar, the rebound again falling kindly for the Eagles.

The Toffees brought on left-back Leighton Baines for his first taste of league football since May and undergoing ankle surgery which took longer than expected to heal.

Within seconds Lukaku set up another Everton chance for Tom Cleverley whose superb volley was kept out by the fingertips of Wayne Hennessey in the 66th minute.

Howard had been required to deny Bolasie with an outstretched leg.

Palace nearly caught Everton on 75 minutes with a counter-attack started by Jedinak and ending with Puncheon winning a corner as Howard saved his effort - the corner from which they took the lead.

Everton:

Howard, Coleman, Stones, Funes Mori, Galloway (Baines 62), Cleverley, Barry, Deulofeu, Barkley, Kone, Lukaku.

Crystal Palace:

Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare, McArthur, Jedinak, Cabaye (Mutch 77), Bolasie, Wickham (Gayle 77), Puncheon.

Ref:

Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire).

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