Everton stretched their unbeaten run to five games as a 3-1 victory over out-of-form Crystal Palace moved them up to seventh in the Premier League.
The hosts dominated the first half and deservedly took the lead when Bernard volleyed in Theo Walcott’s superb cross.
But Palace, without a win so far in 2020, fought back after the break and equalised when keeper Jordan Pickford allowed Christian Benteke’s low strike to go under his body.
Everton then had to withstand a spell of pressure from the rejuvenated visitors but restored their lead when Richarlison ran through the Palace defence and slotted into the bottom corner.
Pickford saved superbly from Benteke’s close-range header to protect the Toffees’ lead, before Dominic Calvert-Lewin sealed victory when he prodded in after Richarlison’s header had hit the crossbar.
The win leaves Everton just one point behind fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur, who have a game in hand.
Crystal Palace remain six points above the relegation zone in 14th place, but all of those below Roy Hodgson’s side now have a game in hand.
Everton eyeing Europe as run continues
It is only two months since Everton slipped into the relegation places and looked destined for a tough battle against the drop this season, but the Toffees – first under caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson and now Carlo Ancelotti – have turned things around significantly.
An unbeaten start to the year, including wins over Brighton and Watford, has propelled them up the table and the improved form and quality of football under Ancelotti means many fans are now hoping for a top-six finish.
They started confidently against Palace on Saturday and the away side could not cope with them for the first 15 minutes. When Bernard struck with a superb volley it was a lead the hosts fully deserved.
The creator of that goal was Walcott, who had been a constant menace down the flank leading up to his assist – but when the forward pulled up with an ankle injury shortly afterwards and had to be substituted, Everton lost their way.
However, with Richarlison in their ranks Everton always have that bit of quality to muster something from nothing, and so it proved as he took on the Palace defence by himself to restore his side’s lead.
It was an open game from then on but it was the hosts who got the crucial next goal to kill off Palace’s hopes of a point.
Everton’s next four matches include trips to Arsenal and Chelsea and home games against Manchester United and Liverpool – so this could prove to be a vital three points for Ancelotti’s team.
Shot-shy Palace pay the price again
Scoring goals has been a significant problem for Crystal Palace this season and a disappointing January transfer window saw just the one attacking arrival – Cenk Tosun on loan from Everton.
However, the Turkey forward is sidelined with a hamstring injury, leaving the Eagles short of options up front as they look to stay clear of a relegation battle.
In the first half, they were again severely lacking in the final third and reached half-time without having a shot on target – although Patrick van Aanholt was unfortunate when his deflected strike hit the base of the post.
There were plenty of signs of encouragement from their second half display, though. They attacked with confidence and pace, with Benteke and Wilfried Zaha combining to regularly open the Everton defence.
Benteke’s goal was his first since April last year and he was unlucky not to score a second when his header was saved.
Palace fans will hope the Belgian now has renewed confidence to help provide the firepower his side need to pull away from the bottom of the table.
Man of the match – Richarlison (Everton)
‘The result was all that was good’ – manager reaction
Everton manager Ancelotti said: “The best thing today is the result as the performance was not good. It was a difficult game with a lot of interruptions, so we were not able to keep the intensity.
“The target since I arrived was to get into Europe – now we have a possibility to think about the Europa League.”
Everton keeper Pickford on his error that led to Benteke’s goal: “It was disgusting and I hold my hands up for that. I reset and I never let anything affect me.”
Crystal Palace boss Hodgson: “We didn’t start as well as we would have liked, but when we equalised it was the result of quite a lot of pressure.
“We have a bit less than the team’s performance deserved and it’s another defeat that we’re unhappy about.”
Palace striker Benteke on his first goal of the season: “This was the hardest moment of my career so far in England, so I was happy to score. But we didn’t win and we are in a really bad mood.”
Merseysiders on top – the stats
- Only leaders Liverpool (24) have won more Premier League points than Everton’s 17 since Ancelotti’s first game in charge in December.
- Calvert-Lewin has 11 league goals this season, the most by an English player for Everton in a single campaign since Andrew Johnson in 2006-07 (also 11).
- Calvert-Lewin provided his first Premier League assist of the season, making this the first time he both scored and assisted in the same league game since December 2017 against Huddersfield.
- Seven of Richarlison’s nine league goals this season have put Everton ahead in a match. Only Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and Tammy Abraham of Chelsea (eight each) have put their side ahead more often.
- Everton winger Walcott has as many goal involvements in his past two Premier League games (one goal and one assist) as he managed in his previous 20.
- Crystal Palace are without a clean sheet in 10 league matches – the longest current run in the competition.
- With an average age of 30 years 101 days, this was Palace’s oldest starting XI in the Premier League.
- Palace striker Benteke scored his first league goal since April 2019, ending a run of 17 games and 765 minutes without netting in the competition.
Everton are not in action again until Sunday, 23 February when they travel to Arsenal (16:30 GMT kick-off), while Crystal Palace host Newcastle United the previous day (15:00).