Thursday 18 January 2018

This was bigger than derby - Martinez

Crystal Palace 0 Everton 1

Everton manager Roberto Martinez on the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match at Selhurst Park
Everton manager Roberto Martinez on the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match at Selhurst Park
Everton's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring the opening goal at Selhurst Park
Romelu Lukaku is challenged by Dwight Gayle
Aiden McGeady vies with Joe Ledley
Everton's Phil Jagielka thanks the fans after winning their Premier League match against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park

Ben Findon

It's that time of the season when the league table is put to one side and Everton followers immerse themselves in the build-up to derby day with Merseyside pride at stake.

Yet, for manager Roberto Martinez, who savoured that rarest of sounds this season as supporters stayed to give his side a standing ovation following victory, success at Crystal Palace was every bit as important as next weekend's date with Liverpool.

A depressing run of eight matches without a win had left Martinez to contemplate a relegation battle, but victory, through Romelu Lukaku's early goal, chased away the gloom.

Martinez, who is no stranger to survival struggles from his time at Wigan, but expected to deliver rather more at Goodison Park, said: "The derby is an important game, but this was even more important. Playing away from home against a team that had scored eight goals in their previous three games, it was difficult."

Last season Everton challenged for a Champions League place and this season's failings have shone a harsh light on the Spaniard, after many tipped him as a potential England manager last term.

"I think you learn as a manager to concentrate on the things you can affect. If I had started believing in all the things I read last season, I'd have been too big-headed even to speak to my wife!" he said.

Next Saturday's teatime clash with Liverpool at Goodison, for which James McCarthy is hoping to be fit, will be a world away from a low-key afternoon in south London, where Everton's pragmatism placed effectiveness well ahead of style.

"We will hopefully play a different game," Martinez admitted. "We are facing a Liverpool side that has found their rhythm.

"They are in a system that suits their players and we will have to be at our best."

It was all a big let-down for Palace, who had roared to four straight victories, scoring 12 goals in the process under new manager Alan Pardew. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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