Jordan Pickford is the news again. For Everton, or whichever team he happens to represent, this is not necessarily a positive thing because if it happens often enough it roughly means something elsewhere on the pitch is not quite right.
Pickford’s penalty save from Luka Milivojevic was decisive because it kept Everton level mid-way through the second half and at that point, it was a game that appeared destined to finish deservedly goalless.
And therein lies Everton’s problem, really: Richarlison could emerge as a fine player but he is not a centre forward. Meanwhile, they have bought another Brazilian in Bernard whose best position also happens to be Richarlison’s. It means that until Everton find balance in attack – and with some uncertainty in their defence still – Pickford is likely to continue to be reported as being the team’s outstanding feature, which is something Marco Silva will surely want to change as quickly as possible.
This, nevertheless, would prove to be Everton’s third win in as many games. Silva’s substitutions were perfect because all three of them were attacking and each of the introductions made a contribution: Ademola Lookman crossing for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who sent a thumping header past Wayne Hennessey; minutes later, Cenk Tosun running through to make it 2-0.
In a strange sort of way, Pickford’s willingness to be involved prior to the late drama had a negative manifestation for his team in a creative sense.
He may have played a role in Raheem Sterling’s opening goal for England in Seville last Tuesday but he will not be able to deliver moments like that with every single kick and his distribution in this game was rushed to the point where it contributed towards Everton not being able to build up momentum or pressure.
This is an Everton team where the key relationships are slowly developing, starting with Silva and the fanbase. Late victories like this one help massively because of its manner with Silva’s in-game decisions clearly the right ones.
You could not say the same for Crystal Palace, with Roy Hodgson struggling to find solutions to his team’s goalscoring problems. In nine games this season they have managed just five goals and without a proper centre forward on the pitch that did not look like changing here, unless a set-piece was involved.
Their plan, it had seemed, was to release Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend as quickly as possible but that is quite difficult when none of your midfielders have the range to be accurate. Instead, the passing responsibilities fell to the full-backs and so, with Pickford and Patrick van Aanholt booting it long, from one end to the other it went.
At half time, the score could still justifiably have been one-all. Gylfi Sigurdsson is in good goalscoring form. Hennessey saved well from him following Seamus Coleman’s clever switch. In front of the Gwladys Street, Cheikhou Kouyate’s header from a Townsend corner struck the crossbar.
In their last home game, a 3-0 victory over Fulham, Everton’s second half performance outshone its first and it happened again. Suddenly, Coleman and Lucas Digne were supporting in attack and Bernard was allowed to drift in-field more from his position on the left.
This, of course, meant there was more space for Palace to try and exploit when they were able to counter attack. It was because of this partly, they were able to earn a penalty after Zaha was tripped by Coleman. It was at this point Pickford intervened with his legs and the moment spurred Everton on.
The arrival of Calvert-Lewin and Lookman in the 82nd minute gave Everton a lift and five minutes later, the outlook changed completely. It all means Everton rise to eighth and though Palace would lose, it remains a good job they are half-decent at defending.
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