Everton missed a glorious chance to go back into the top four, as the Toffees suffered a shock 3-2 home defeat to Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
The Eagles were the better team for most of the game, as Jason Puncheon scored in the first half then Scott Dann headed home minutes after the break to put Tony Pulis ‘ men 2-0 up. Everton launched a fight back when substitute Steven Naismith pulled one back, but then Cameron Jerome made it 3-1 to Palace with 15 minutes to go.
Kevin Mirallas made it 3-2 in the 86th minute, but the damage was done as Roberto Martinez’s side are now one point behind Arsenal in fourth place, with just four games to go in the race for the final UEFA Champions League spot.
As for Palace they are now 11th on 40 points, just three points behind Stoke City in 10th spot, after their fourth win in a row.
Everton started brightly and could have scored twice in the opening minutes as first Aiden McGeady’s corner was headed just over by Gareth Barry, then Romelu Lukaku and Gerard Deulofeu combined to see the latter whip the ball across the six-yard box but Mirallas couldn’t quite get on the end of it.
Palace set up their stall and were difficult to break down, plus the likes of Puncheon, Marouane Chamakh and Jerome proved lively going forward as the first half wore on. The Eagles certainly were overawed by facing the Premier League’s form team, as Pulis’ men took the game to the Toffees with Jerome proving a handful for Sylvain Distin and John Stones.
In the 23rd minute red-hot Puncheon scored the opener for Palace as the South London side took an early lead. Yannick Bolasie sped past Leighton Baines before cutting the ball back to Chamakh who teed up Puncheon to curl home a controlled finish. The goal was Puncheon’s fourth in his last three games, as the lifelong Crystal Palace turned on the magic once again.
Just before the half hour mark Bolasie was in the thick of things again, as this time he burst down the left and whipped in another dangerous cross that young Stones cleared superbly. Then the Congolese winger smashed an effort off the post and Jerome couldn’t finish the follow up as Everton were reeling. Mirallas did rifle an effort just over Julian Speroni’s crossbar but at half time Everton were trailing and the Toffees were being frustrated by a confident Palace.
After the break the same pattern continued as Joe Ledley stung the palms of Everton ‘keeper Tim Howard who pushed Ledley’s near post shot out for a corner. From the resulting set piece Palace went 2-0 up as Dann headed home powerfully after getting a clean run on Stones. That goal was his first for the club, as the former Blackburn Rovers defender shocked the home crowd minutes into the second half.
In the 51st minute McGeady saw his powerful low drive flash just past the far post, as the home crowd tried to urge their side back into the game. In the 61st minute substitute Naismith, on a half time in place of Deulofeu worked his magic once again, as Mirallas’ chipped cross to the back post found Baines who nodded the ball towards goal for Naismith to prod home.
Everton’s double substitution on the hour mark certainly had the desired impact, as both James McCarthy and Leon Osman got on the ball in midfield and wrestled the Toffees back into the game. With 20 minutes to go Osman saw his powerful volley tipped onto the crossbar by Speroni, as Palace were under intense pressure for the first time in the game.
Yet just when you thought Palace were going to crumble, Jerome finished well after Puncheon set him up to make it 3-1 and put the game beyond the home side. They had a glimmer of hope in the 86th minute as Mirallas latched onto a deflect through ball and finished well to make it 3-2, but Palace held on for a crucial win as they put a huge dent in Everton’s Champions League hopes.
Everton: Howard; Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; Barry (Osman, 59′), Mirallas, Barkley, Deulofeu (Naismith, 45′), McGeady (McCarthy, 59′); Lukaku
Goal: Naismith (61′), Mirallas (86′)
Crystal Palace: Speroni, Mariappa (Parr, 68′), Delaney, Dann, Ward, Jedinak, Ledley, Bolasie, Puncheon, Chamakh (Murray, 80′), Jerome (O’Keefe, 76′)
Puncehon (23′), Dann (49′), Jerome (73′)