The last game of the international break did not go as planned for Hodgson’s Palace as the Eagles fell short as Everton secured all three points at Selhurst Park, following a late goal by Idrissa Gueye.
Suffering from what many would describe as a typical Sean Dyche performance, let’s take a look and dissect the match.
It did not take long for the visitors to take the lead, as Everton were 1-0 up inside the first minute. In typical Dyche fashion, the build-up to the goal began with Everton centre-back James Tarkowski launching a hopeful long ball to Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Marc Guehi won the header but was unable to clear the box. A flick from Calvert-Lewin found the feet of a completely unmarked Vitalii Mykolenko languishing just outside the box, and his shot was well-blocked by Joachim Andersen. Following that, Will Hughes attempted to clear but was ultimately too slow, dispossessed by Mykolenko who found the feet of Abdoulaye Doucoure. He sent the ball out wide to Jack Harrison, and his cross was met by Mykolenko, rising above the onlooking Joel Ward.
This goal is completely avoidable. First of all, Tarkowski has way too much time and space to pick out and play the ball Calvert-Lewin. Odsonne Edouard should really have closed him down a lot quicker. Some could make the argument that Guehi could do better with the header, perhaps heading it away from goal or creating more distance, but it is important to consider that it was behind him and he was reaching, so in my eyes, he did as well as he could.
When Calvert-Lewin flicks the ball on and Mykolenko shoots, it is well blocked by Andersen, but the Palace players are too slow to react, and both Hughes and Jefferson Lerma are right next to each other, failing to read the game. Hughes should be doing better with the clearance, although Mykolenko showed more desire and wins the ball. Finally, Harrison is completely free on the right when it is Jeffrey Schlupp’s job to track back and pick up the spare man while Tyrick Mitchell is dealing with the threat in the box. He delivers a simple lofted cross into the six-yard box, and it’s the same story; Mykolenko wants it more, rising above Ward to score.
The best way to counter ‘Dyche-Ball’ is smart build-up play, which is exactly how Palace levelled the score after five minutes. Hughes and Lerma combined well in the centre before Jordan Ayew layed the ball off to Eberechi Eze. Dribbling towards the Everton backline from the right, he skipped past Mykolenko and, cutting inside, drove into the box to draw the foul from Jarrod Braithwaite and win the penalty, which he duly converted.
Essentially, Palace caught Everton out of shape. Hughes’ pass to Lerma drew James Garner out of position, so that when Ayew picked up the ball, Amadou Onana was forced to take a step up, which enabled the pass to Eze. Ayew continued to prove effective in the build-up, with his run in behind dragging his marker, Onana, out of Eze’s path, allowing him a free run at the Everton defence and forcing the foul. Pace in transition and the counter-attack were clearly going to be the key to winning this game.
The Eagles continued to try and break down a resilient Everton backline. Once again, the next opportunity came from the midfield, with Hughes receiving the ball from Jeffrey Schlupp out on the left and using his strength to battle his way through Garner and drive at the visitors. Laying it off to Lerma, it was a repeat of the first goal, as the Columbian played it to the right-hand side, but this time to Ayew, who drew two players out to him, Dwight McNeil and Mykolenko. The winger saw the run of Eze in behind and released the ball to the England international, who, despite having his back to goal, rather brilliantly turned Onana and seemed to be taken down by the boot of Braithwaite.
Braithwaite’s right boot brushes Eze’s right as he gets beyond the central defender and brings him down. Regardless of whether there was enough contact to cause Eze to fall to the ground, there was contact nonetheless. As Palace fans well know, Eze is not one for diving or cheating, for that matter, a view shared by Roy Hodgson; therefore, there must have been enough contact to cause Eze to be brought down.
By the conclusion of the first half, it was clear Hodgson’s game plan was beginning to reap the rewards. Catching Everton on the break out of shape, using smart, quick-tempo build-up play, and sending the ball out wide to the likes of Eze and Ayew to stretch the Everton defence were proving effective. Intelligent runs in behind were breaking them down, while driving at them and playing around them was putting Dyche’s side under increasing amounts of pressure. Of course, they had their moments where they put us under pressure throughout the half, but overall, we rode that for the most part and defended relatively well.
Going into the second half, it was the substitution of Gueye for Onana that was immediately noticeable. Dyche knew that this game was going to be won in midfield, and while Onana wasn’t terrible in the first half, he was getting slightly overrun by the likes of Eze, and there was a need to inject a little bit of energy into that midfield. Enter Gueye.
The build-up to Everton’s second goal began with Calvert-Lewin picking the ball up from deep, laying it off to McNeil, whose ball in behind to Mykolenko down the left-hand side won a corner for the Toffees’. Post-match, Palace fans across Twitter (X) made a massive deal out of our ‘lazy’ midfield; this is where it became apparent. Hughes and Lerma are completely static and are caught ball-watching. Ayew is doing his best to press and put Calvert-Lewin under pressure, but the overload on the left leaves Ayew exposed. When the pass is made by McNeil in-behind and executed perfectly, Lerma is caught ball-watching. Mykolenko beats Ward for pace and gets the ball in, but it’s cleared by Guehi for a corner under pressure from Doucoure. Good defending.
Garner swings in the cross to the near post, headed away by Ayew. Gueye, completely alone on the edge of the box, scoops it square to Mykolenko, whose volley hits the post and then is rebounded in by Doucoure.
Despite initially doing well defending the corner, Palace were too slow getting their line up; Lerma is dragging his heels, while Andersen does the same next to him. When the shot comes in from range, Doucoure is onside, and there’s nobody picking him up because Schlupp, Guehi, and Ward are all ball-watching, allowing the Frenchman to slot the ball home into an empty net.
Eze continued to set the tempo for Palace. Once again, attempting to break down Dyche’s side down from the flanks, Ayew picked up the ball on the right, but the double up from Mykolenko and McNeil suggested that at half-time Dyche had sought to rectify Palace’s threat from wide areas. Playing it to Ward, who released it to Eze, found Lerma, who identified the gap between Doucoure and Gueye, split the midfield duo to find Ward, who slipped it to Eze driving into the box and was denied at the near post by Jordan Pickford.
Palace carried on piling the pressure on Everton, forcing them back. However, the Toffees defended very well and were difficult to break down. Schlupp was nearly through on goal, following a stray pass from Hughes, but Pickford was quick off his line. While a ball over the top by Lerma found the feet of Edouard, who managed to hold the ball up, taking it out towards the left, allowing the central midfielder enough time to make the ground to pull a shot just wide of the post from outside the box. He should have scored.
The decision, ironically, to substitute Schlupp for Michael Olise was a contentious one among some Palace fans who felt the 30-year-old was playing well. Despite agreeing that he was better this week and slightly more effective, at this point Palace needed somebody more direct and willing to take on and beat players, especially with the double-up. With the Eagles 2-1 down, it was time to introduce a new threat to challenge the Everton backline that had remained resolute. Welcome back, Michael Olise.
Around this point in the match, Palace, rather strangely, seemed to change their approach to the game. Even though playing around the Everton defence, keeping the ball on the floor, and the quick build-up play were working, the Eagles were gradually becoming more impatient and decided to start lumping the ball over the top, which was never going to work against a Dyche side.
Alright, Palace’s second goal came from a ball over the top; however, this was more about the individual brilliance of Lerma and Edouard, but more so Lerma. The Columbian displayed magnificent aerial ability to leap way above Doucoure and direct his header high in the air back into a dangerous area in the box, waiting for Edouard to latch onto. The Frenchman’s quick reactions enabled him to find himself beyond the Everton backline, on-side, and in the six-yard box, ready to flick over Jordan Pickford and volley it into the back of the net to level it 2-2. A proper striker’s goal.
Despite this, more ill-discipline and what can only be described as laziness from the midfield duo of Hughes and Lerma saw Ashley Young split the pair with a pass to Gueye; once he received the ball, Lerma got drawn in, leaving Doucoure free on the edge of the box, to perform the give and go, which stunned the Eagles, and allowed the second half substitute to convert with a smart bottom left corner finish.
There were multiple factors at play as to why Palace failed to get the three points. However, the main reasons were: they lost the midfield battle and could have definitely done with Cheick Doucoure’s ability to intercept and break up play; defensively, Palace were very poor; there was a heavy reliance on Eze to provide the attacking output; before the introduction of Olise, Edouard was non-existent until his goal; Ward was overrun with the threat of both Mykolenko and McNeil; and finally, there was an impatience to pursue with their initial approach, which was smart build-up play, keeping the ball on the floor, and playing around and in-between the Everton defence.