Sunday 18 February 2018

Palace fuming after battle of Belgians ends all square

Everton 1 Crystal Palace 1

Benteke: Equalising goal. Picture: Reuters
Benteke: Equalising goal. Picture: Reuters

Jason Burt

In the Battle of the Belgians this ended all square - with strikers Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke trading goals - but Crystal Palace will feel nothing else was even in a contest against Everton that finished level but with the visitors departing with a sense of grievance.

A point apiece then but several more points to be debated and arguable ones at that: should Lukaku's goal have stood given the free-kick he scored from appeared to be indirect for a high boot? Even then did Phil Jagielka handle in the build-up?

And should Damien Delaney have been awarded a goal when he headed home only for it to be disallowed for an offside flag? Fine margins; very fine margins. But another tricky evening for referee Jonathan Moss who also managed to draw the ire of Everton supporters.

The draw prevented Everton from collecting the win that would have taken them into second place, and equal their highest points tally after seven matches since 2004-'05 when they finished fourth, and denied a resurgent Palace a fourth successive league victory. The irony was, of course, that a draw was probably a fair result.

After two consecutive defeats had threatened to stall Everton's early-season buoyancy going into this encounter, manager Ronald Koeman had vented his frustration by declaring that certain players had a "mental problem" with trying to impose his pressing style of play.

They took heed and asserted themselves from the start, winning corners and flashing in crosses. Delaney just beat Romelu Lukaku to the ball as the striker - who had overcome a toe problem to play - prepared to head home from close-range.

The hosts made the breakthrough on 35 minutes. Phil Jagielka attempted to head the ball into the Palace penalty area and Delaney was penalised for a high boot, even though TV replays showed Jagielka had handled the ball. Lukaku bent the free-kick over the wall and beyond Steve Mandanda.

Palace will have raged at the goal at half-time, both at the manner in which it was conceded and whether the free-kick should have been given. They will also have been annoyed that were behind having given as good as they had got and they continued to do so after the restart. Benteke soon scored, peeling away to reach Joel Ward's cross, easily beating Seamus Coleman and arcing a towering header back across goal and into the net.

Palace appeared to take the lead as Delaney won another Ward cross and his headed to the net, but the assistant referee flagged for offside. Replays showed Delaney was level with the last defender. James McArthur was in an offside position but did he really interfere with play? Everton looked more likely late on but despite their pressure they could not fashion the breakthrough. (© Daily Telegraph,London)

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