Tuesday 20 February 2018

Hopes rise for resolute Palace

Crystal Palace 0 Everton 0

Paul Doyle

Crystal Palace do not have a manager, but they still have hope. Their first clean sheet of the season was recompense for a resolute performance that frustrated humdrum Everton and suggested the south London side may not be doomed to relegation after all. At least not by a record margin.

Palace admit they were ill-prepared for their promotion to the Premier League and a losing streak of seven games before the visit of Everton stood as cruel confirmation of that.

The club are attempting to rebuild on the fly and the first stone was put in place before kick-off, when a new sporting director was appointed. Iain Moody, who was controversially ousted from Cardiff last month, will handle player recruitment as Palace attempt to embed a playing philosophy that will deliver long-term continuity.

A more immediate matter, however, is the hiring of a new manager and the club expects to do that this week, with Jose Mourinho's former assistant at Real Madrid, Aitor Karanka, among the candidates scheduled to hold talks with Palace's co-chairman, Steve Parish. The visit of Everton, then, probably represented Keith Millen's last match at the helm.

Millen made just one change from the line-up that lost at West Brom, Yannick Bolasie replacing the injured Adlene Guedioura. Everton did not make any alterations to the side that started last Sunday's home draw with Tottenham, Romelu Lukaku having recovered from the knee pain he suffered during his clash with Hugo Lloris.

After a sedate opening, Everton posed the first threat, Leon Osman skewing a shot wide from 18 yards out. Osman went closer six minutes later, when he stabbed the ball beyond the reach of keeper Julian Speroni from eight yards out – Lukaku tried to help it into the net, but failed to connect and the ball drifted wide. Kevin Mirallas finally forced Speroni into action in the 20th minute, the keeper pushing his shot from 20 yards out for a corner.

Everton were dominating possession, but Palace ceded few openings and gradually began to create threats at the other end. They should have taken the lead in the 35th minute when Kagisho Dikgacoi surged on to Jerome Thomas's cross, but the midfielder got himself in a muddle at the back post and failed to even fire a shot.

Thomas then went for goal with a curler from 20 yards that sent Tim Howard leaping to his left to tip the ball wide while Marouane Chamakh headed Barry Bannan's cross wide from six yards out.

Everton needed to improve, Palace needed to ensure another decent display did not go unrewarded. The second half began like the first, with Roberto Martinez's team establishing sterile control. In the 54th minute, Bolasie dispossessed Leighton Baines on halfway and sent Thomas racing free on goal. As the crowd rose to their feet in anticipation, Thomas chipped the ball over Howard, but wide.

Martinez introduced Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu. Palace continued to defend diligently and deserved their point, even if they had a late let-off when Phil Jagielka headed against their crossbar.


Sunday Independent

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