Sunday 8 December 2019

Howard goes from hero to villain as Palace produce smash and grab on Everton

Everton 2 Crystal Palace 3

Crystal Palace forward Fraizer Campbell celebrates putting his side ahead against Everton in their Premier League clash at Goodison Park. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Crystal Palace forward Fraizer Campbell celebrates putting his side ahead against Everton in their Premier League clash at Goodison Park. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Everton's Christian Atsu hurdles a challenge from Damien Delaney of Crystal Palace during their Premier League encounter at Goodison Park. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Romelu Lukaku opens the scoring for Everton during their Premier League clash with Crystal Palace at Goodison Park. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Crystal Palace's Jason Puncheon takes a shot on goal during the Premier League match against Everton at Goodison Park. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Everton's Samuel Eto'o holds off a challenge from Crystal Palace midfielder James McArthur during their Premier League match at Goodison Park. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Tim Rich

After he had produced one of the great goalkeeping performances in the history of the World Cup, Tim Howard found himself on the phone to Barack Obama. Now, the mayor of Dry Gulch, Arkansas, might pass up the chance of a photo opportunity.

On Thursday night Howard had delivered a near-immaculate display as Wolfsburg aimed 24 shots at his goal and found themselves 4-1 losers. Now, Everton were beaten despite enjoying 76 per cent of possession with Howard at fault for two of Crystal Palace's goals.

His manager, Roberto Martinez, as he always will, accentuated the positives in Everton's display but the fact remains they have now lost as many games at Goodison as they did in the whole of last season and conceded 11 times in three matches - compared to the 19 that went in the home net in 2013-14.

For Neil Warnock and Crystal Palace, this was a third game without defeat and the one that takes them clear of the relegation zone.

"It was a strange match," said Martinez. "They had three shots on target and scored three goals. But we should be able to defend a lot better. It shows that this league is ruthless and we need to be perfect. We were perfect for the first 15 minutes and it was not enough."

Football is a cruel sport but it is at its most spiteful when you wear a goalkeeper's jersey as Howard made two calls that were to give Crystal Palace their first win of what had looked a very unpromising season.

Everton were a goal up and cruising, perhaps a little too serenely, when Sylvain Distin and John Stones attempted to shepherd the ball back to their keeper from James McArthur. Howard came to collect it and succeeded only in bundling the Palace midfielder over. There was no question of a red card but the penalty, converted emphatically by Mile Jedinak, was an inevitability.

Martinez pointed out that the move had begun with a long, downfield punt from Julian Speroni "which we should have dealt with easily." He added that, mentally, Everton took far too long to recover from it.

And yet, it was a moment that appeared would not disturb the rhythm of the game which Everton, who had gone ahead when Leon Osman slipped Romelu Lukaku through, were dictating comfortably.

However, nine minutes after the interval Howard went up with Fraizer Campbell to take a routine cross and saw the ball strike the forward's shoulder and loop into the net, defying Phil Jagielka's attempt to scoop it clear.

For Everton the afternoon had suddenly become serious. Last season's defeats had been equally unexpected - to Sunderland, when Howard had conceded a penalty and been dismissed, and to Crystal Palace, by exactly the same score. That proved the difference between the Champions and the Europa League.

The third, killer goal was also the result of an error but this time it was Osman's mistake, not Howard's. The veteran midfielder allowed himself to be dispossessed by Jason Puncheon, who excelled up against Leighton Baines and now drove forward before producing a diagonal pass for Yannick Bolasie to finish in style.

In April, Crystal Palace, managed by Tony Pulis, had four minutes to hold out. Now there were seven.

"I was apprehensive to say the least when the fourth official held up six minutes of stoppage time," Warnock smiled.

By the end, however, Warnock was not so much pointing to his watch, as punching it. Then, when the whistle blew, it was the air that felt the pounding of his fists. (© Independent News Service)

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