Carlo Ancelotti, they head into the mid-season break seventh in the Premier League and talking of European qualification. And to think the Italian insists he is no magician.
Crystal Palace became the latest team beaten not by an upsurge in Everton’s performance level but by the winning mentality that Ancelotti has instilled at Goodison Park. This was a game an edgy and error-prone Everton team may have lost under their previous manager. Instead, inspired by the ever-dangerous Richarlison, they weathered Palace pressure and claimed a fifth win in eight league matches under their new manager. Only Liverpool have won more Premier League points than the 20 Everton have gathered since the appointment of Ancelotti, who has already overtaken Silva’s sorry haul for the season. “I have to say the work everyone has done in this period was really good; players, club and staff, ”the Everton manager said. “Now our table looks good and we can dream to fight for the Europa League in the next games. I think we have the quality to fight and we are improving. ”
Ancelotti admitted Everton’s performance was “ not so good for minutes. ” But once Richarlison restored their lead with a devastating counter-attack, minutes after Christian Benteke had cancelled out Bernard’s opener with his first goal of the season, confidence flowed through the home side. Palace started both halves on top. Patrick van Aanholt struck a post with the game scoreless and Jordan Pickford, at fault for Benteke’s equaliser, made a superb stop to prevent the Belgium international leveling for a second time. There was much to console Roy Hodgson in the visiting display but another defeat, and no wins since Boxing Day, are a disturbing pattern.
“It is a defeat that hurts us badly, ”the Palace manager said. “I am concerned at the lack of goals but you have seen the team play today, the amount of opportunities we created and the amount of possession we had around the opponents’ area. If we can continue to do that, I am sure the goals will come. ”
Bernard marked his th Premier League appearance with a quality opening goal created by Theo Walcott. The winger broke free of van Aanholt with a quick change of feet and whipped over a superb cross that the Brazilian volleyed beyond Vicente Guaita. It was the (th) (Premier League) assist of Walcott’s career but also his last contribution. The in-form winger pulled up with a hamstring injury and was eventually replaced by Djibril Sidibé.
Eventually as Sidibé had forgotten to put on his left sock before coming off the bench. The glares he received from Ancelotti and Duncan Ferguson for delaying the substitution while Everton continued with ten men were something to behold. “A new experience for me,” admitted the 75 – year-old. “Also for him, I think.”
Palace started the second half strongly and were rewarded when Benteke scored his first goal since April and first from open play for two years. The Palace forward beat the recalled Michael Keane to a header before setting off for the Everton area. Wilfried Zaha played a perfectly-weighted ball into the path of the former Liverpool striker who drove low and hard past Lucas Digne and Pickford. The goalkeeper had both hands behind the shot but it sailed under him at the near post. “Disgusting,” was Pickford’s honest assessment.
The visitors almost took the lead when Richarlison headed a van Aanholt corner against his own crossbar. Instead they were punished by the Brazilian when he broke down the left, swept inside the back-tracking Gary Cahill and found the far corner with a superb finish. “The key point in the game,” identified Ancelotti.
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