Everton’s Carlo Ancelotti rues dropped points after late Crystal Palace equaliser
Everton are struggling to put the good back into Goodison Park and their troubles at home could cost them the chance of a venture abroad. A team with an outstanding away record now have only four points from a possible 18 on their own turf and an inability to beat bottom-half sides could deny them European football.
“We have to make up the two points we lost here,” said Carlo Ancelotti, whose charges were on course go level with Liverpool and Tottenham and with a game in hand on each. Instead, Crystal Palace’s future is clearer. Michy Batshuayi scored an equaliser two minutes after his introduction and they now have 38 points.
“It would be very nice to get into the top half but the major goal always has to be salvation,” said Roy Hodgson. His main job for the campaign is all but done after Hodgson earned his first point at Goodison since the 20th century. This was the scene of one of the most damaging days of his ill-fated spell in charge of Liverpool but, on perhaps his final visit, it stopped being a bogey ground.
Everton had savoured the return of a player with happier memories of Anfield, with James Rodríguez scoring on his first appearance since February’s Merseyside derby win. Yet, courtesy of an extraordinary goalkeeping performance from Vicente Guaita, it was not enough. The visitors’ manager contributed, too, as two of his substitutes combined, with Jeffrey Schlupp sending Batshuayi through to score.
Yet they had telling bit-part roles while Guaita was the constant in a brilliant rearguard action. “I am grateful to our goalkeeper for making a few very good saves but those chances came haphazardly in random situations,” Hodgson said.
There was no lack of effort from Everton or, indeed, efforts at the Palace goal either side of Rodríguez’s well-constructed and finely taken goal. Richarlison had five attempts before the break alone. The Brazilian had two more in the last 10 minutes, a half-volley and a shot that drew perhaps the two finest saves from Guaita’s growing collection. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was twice left one-on-one with Guaita without beating him – missing the chance to become the first player since Romelu Lukaku to reach 20 goals in a season for Everton.
“We were not able to kill the game when we had the opportunity,” said Ancelotti. “Our strikers were clinical in the past but tonight they could do better.” A World Cup Golden Boot winner proved more potent than his profligate sidekicks.
Rodríguez started and finished a move that involved both wing-backs. He sprayed a pass to Lucas Digne on the left and, after Richarlison back-heeled a return pass to him, the Frenchman picked out Gylfi Sigurdsson. Guaita made a terrific block from his shot but Séamus Coleman picked out Rodríguez, who finished adeptly.
But Everton have just six goals in their past eight league games at home. That total could have been doubled had they finished with more conviction or Guaita been less inspired. There were chances: three in as many minutes in the middle of the first half, for instance, perhaps five in total when Guaita made point-blank saves. Rodríguez’s return lent Everton the creativity they have often lacked at home and Ancelotti’s decision to play with a back three freed Digne and Coleman to maraud with intent.
Everton became more attacking when Sigurdsson came on for the hamstrung André Gomes, meaning Ancelotti’s entire first-choice midfield, including Abdoulaye Doucouré and Allan, is injured. It made it all the more incongruous that Jean-Philippe Gbamin was fit to make his first appearance for 19 months.
His cameo proved an unhappy one as Palace applied pressure and equalised. “We lost two points on our mistakes, we were not unlucky,” said Ancelotti. Robin Olsen saved from the irrepressible Eberechi Eze, Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew in quick succession before Hodgson rang the changes and reaped a reward. “It is never easy to get points here,” he said, and he knows that better than most.