Everton and Crystal Palace traded haymakers for 90 straight minutes at Goodison Park on Monday, with the two sides ultimately splitting the points after a 1-1 draw. Roberto Martinez’s Toffees will feel hard done by, though, having hit the frame of the goal not one, not twice, but three times on the night.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
In a bit of perfect symmetry, Romelu Lukaku marked his 100th appearance for Everton by scoring his 50th goal for the club (above video), rescuing a point for the home side after Palace so nearly completed another classic smash-and-grab away from home.
Palace’s best chance of the first half came and went in the 16th minute, when U.S. national team goalkeeper Tim Howard made a reaction save of Connor Wickham‘s header at point-blank range. Yannick Bolasie whipped the cross in from the left wing, and Wickham flicked the ball on, but Howard was positioned perfectly at the near post and made the save with his chest.
[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]
Lukaku went so close to putting Everton into the lead in the 21st minute, but the big Belgian striker’s shot found only the front side of the far post. After a quick one-two with Ross Barkley put him into space, Lukaku made a quick turn and cut inside to put the ball on his favored left foot. His shot from the top of the 18-yard box had beaten Wayne Hennessey but found only the woodwork.
It was Wickham who nearly gave the Toffees the game’s first goal when his wayward headed clearance went horribly wrong and nearly found the back of his own net. Barkley whipped in a low, flat free kick from the left wing and Wickham rose as the first defender in the penalty area for Palace, the ball skipping off the top of his head and making its way to the far post where it hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced downward, missing the goal line by mere inches.
Lukaku combined with Tom Cleverley to create another very-nearly chance in the 66th minute. Barkley played the ball to Lukaku at the top of the Palace box, where he backheeled the ball to Cleverley in a bit of space. Cleverley hit a first-time volley with his right foot that was always dipping away from Hennessey, but the Welsh ‘keeper did well to spring across the face of goal and get fingertips to the ball to tip it over the bar.
[ RELATED: Latest Premier League standings ]
Palace found themselves on the back foot for much of the second half, but eventually broke through against the run of play in the 76th minute, when Scott Dann rose above the crowd to head in Jason Puncheon‘s corner kick.
Lukaku unleashed a brilliant strike only to hit the crossbar two minutes later. The 22-year-old fired a dipping, swerving volley, which had Hennessey beaten all the way, from just outside the penalty area with that same left foot. Alas, it was the Toffees’ third time clanging the ball off the frame of the goal.
On 80 minutes, Everton — and Lukaku — got their very deserved goal to equalize. Gerard Deulofeu broke down the left wing and hit a low, stinging cross to the far post, where Lukaku was waiting, shielding the nearest defenders with the full frame of his body, making the finish a simple tap-in from three yards out.
[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]
Left back Leighton Baines made his return to first-team action as a 62nd-minute substitute after more than 10 months out injured (last appearance for Everton was Jan. 13, 2015).
With the draw on Monday, the Toffees climb two spots, up ninth in the Premier League table, a point behind Palace, West Ham and Liverpool who are all level on 23 points at sixth, seventh and eighth in the league respectively.