Everton scored three second-half goals to move nine points clear of the relegation zone into ninth place. Crystal Palace dropped into 15th place, just one point clear of the relegation zone.
Both teams were equal in the opening stages with Crystal Palace having the first chance, after a back pass from Eliaquim Mangala forced Jordan Pickford to misjudge and present the ball to Yohan Cabaye, but the Frenchman’s attempt from distance was palmed round the post.
Wayne Hennessey was also forced into a save after 27 minutes as Idrissa Gueye cut inside Cabaye before seeing his shot tipped round the post from the Welsh shot-stopper.
The hosts were ahead shortly after the interval. James Tomkins failed to deal with a high ball as Oumar Niasse forced a mistake from the former Hammers man. The ball fell ever so kindly to Gylfi Sigurdsson, who went onto to send a deflected effort beyond Hennessey.
It didn’t take Everton long to add a second, with the lively youngster Tom Davies laying the ball off to Cuco Martina, who beautifully dinked the ball right on Niasse’s head to give the unmarked Senegalese time and space to pick out the corner of the net.
The Eagles came agonisingly close to reducing the deficit, with Cabaye’s cross perfectly weighted on Benteke’s head, only to find the Belgian heading just wide of the post when he really should’ve scored. The miss would be costly as Everton added a killer third goal to end the game as a contest with Sigurdsson forcing a save from Hennessey with Davies rushing in to tap in from close range into an empty net.
Palace grabbed a consolation through captain Luka Milivojevic who converted from the penalty spot after Ashley Williams handled Benteke’s acrobatic effort. Everton have propelled themselves into ninth place, by moving above Bournemouth who were defeated by Huddersfield Town on Sunday. Crystal Palace dropped into 15th place, after Newcastle United climbed out of the relegation zone following a morale boosting victory against second-place Manchester United.
Everton’s Attacking Positivity
The Toffees played a 4-3-3 formation with a midfield three of Wayne Rooney, Idrissa Gueye and Tom Davies. Gueye’s role was to sit deep and pick his moments to chase down the ball which was a problem for the Eagles all afternoon.
Gueye was a nuisance in midfield cutting out passes and allowing the likes of Sigurdsson, Rooney, and Davies to express themselves in the final third. Davies played in a number 10 role, however his passing ability didn’t seem good enough to be a true creative player. He had a good positional awareness when his team had the ball and this was evident when he was at the right place at the right time to score the third for Everton.
Rooney looks to be more suited to the role than Davies, but he was placed in a deeper role to help his team in the attacking third from the middle of the pitch. He had to recycle possession and work the ball into the final third, which was much-needed from the Englishman with Schhneiderlin left out of the line-up.
The success of the midfield relied on Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott who played as wingers. They had to create the majority of chances as they were Everton’s most dangerous playmakers. Walcott’s role was to stay wide and link-up with the right-back to create chances from the channels by delivering the ball into the penalty area. It was routine for the former Arsenal man, who became the focal point of most attacks. Sigurdsson drifted down the middle, which was noticeable when he scored the opener.
Lack of adventure from the Eagles
This game was the first to see two former England managers against each other since Bobby Robson against Kevin Keegan back in 2004. While it was Palace boss Roy Hodgson that arrived with momentum, after just two defeats in 15 games, his side never looked like taking a risk in this game.
New signing Alexander Sorløth, who arrived from Danish side FC Midtjylland, was used upfront with Benteke but when Palace lost possession he would switch the left-side of the pitch, creating a 4-5-1 formation without the ball. The new signing applied himself to the task and made more tackles than any other player for Crystal Palace. His role meant that Benteke was left isolated for a lot of the game and the Belgian’s two headed misses were crucial.
The second effort was a poor miss that left a comeback unlikely for the Eagles. They had 16 shots on goal but they were mainly from distance and there was simply not enough adventure from the away side.
Man of the match – Oumar Niasse
The Senegalese international was superb. He grabbed an assist and a goal for the Toffees as he inspired his side to a comfortable win over the Eagles. New signing Cenk Tosun will have to take a few notes from Niasse as he proves yet again that he is still crucial to the starting eleven.
His lay-off to Sigurdsson for the first goal was nicely done and his header for the second goal was taken like a true centre-forward. Will Tosun start with Niasse playing well and scoring goals?
Everton head to the Middle East for warm-weather training before they return to the Premier League to play Watford away on February 24. Crystal Palace host London rivals Tottenham on Monday Night Football on February 26.