Nightmare Showing halts Champions League momentum

Oh Everton, you have given us some massive highs this season and just when we thought we had the measure of Arsenal, we go and let them off the hook with what can only be described as a nightmare showing against admittedly an excellent Crystal Palace side.

Goodison Park by Roddy Munro
Goodison Park by Roddy Munro

 

Nightmare Showing Halts Champions League Momentum

 

Going into the match, I didn’t even contemplate losing to be honest, just felt we had enough momentum to get past a stubborn Palace side who have enjoyed an excellent run under Tony Pulis.

With James McCarthy out of the starting line up with a muscle injury, the team looked nothing other an ultra attacking with Barkley, Deulofeu, McGeady and Mirallas all starting behind Lukaku upfront. There’s nothing a fan loves more than seeing such attacking threat, years of Moyes made that a sight to behold.

But maybe it was a Moyes-esq performance we needed last night. Not for one minute would I want Mr 7th place back.

This hurt. Martinez’s quality and the way he has us playing meant last night sat apart from what has gone before this season. We looked like headless chicken at times, lacking control in our play with Palace a constant threat on the break with Puncheon and Bolasie providing a constant outlet on the counter.

It has been a memorable season, that’s left us wanting more and Wednesday night was a bitter lesson in complacency for us. Too many players were off the pace, particularly in the forward positions. Lukaku looked disinterested, Mirallas and Delofeu once again made poor decisions on the ball with McGeady also strangely out of sync.

You have to wonder about the mentality of our players sometimes in these must-win games, we rarely do ourselves justice when it matters most.

We have the quality but for all the ridiculous loan outrage around our club this season it’s clear we cannot do without one player, and that is James McCarthy. You never know what you’ve missed until it’s gone and we pure and simple couldn’t cope without him.

With the ground he covers, the midfield and Gareth Barry in particular missed his presence. What a key player for us McCarthy has become. Let’s hope he is fit and ready for Man Utd on sunday.

The Goodison crowd, phenomenal against Arsenal were equally as nervous here. The players looked like this had been transmitted onto the pitch, and the nerves and agitation intensified in the 23rd minute when Palace took the lead through Jason Puncheon. Howard could only palm Bolasie’s cross into the path of Chamakh who laid it off neatly for Puncheon to finish.

We managed what must have been our first shot on goal in the entire first half when Lukaku,who must have thought he had scored, swiveled to unleash a shot creeping into the right hand post, only for Speroni to get down to deny the Belgian.

Bolasie increased the sense of panic controlling a Speroni goal kick, out-muscling Seamus Coleman then driving a 20-yard effort against the foot of the post. Half time arrived with a massive sense of unease, the fans knew Palace would be tough, nobody thought we would walk it, but there was still an element of shock at how bad we had been in the first half.

No urgency, no sense of importance. Having been such an impressive unit for most of the season, we looked like a bunch of strangers meeting each other on a work training day. An amazingly inept showing in our biggest game of the season. Simply jawdropping.

The second half started with the much welcomed substitution of Naismith on for Deulofeu, with the young Spaniard having had a poor first half. He is outrageously talented and I can honestly see us keeping him for another season. His decision making on the ball needs working on to say the least.

The appreciation for Naismith coming on just shows how fantastic he has done this season. He’s really turned the fans round and credit to both himself and Martinez for galvanising his career at Goodison.

Optimism quickly turned to anger as Dann nodded Palace into a 2-goal lead with some terrible defending from Bolasie’s corner. It seems to have been a constant weak feature of our play this season; defending from set pieces.

Hope was restored on 61 minutes when a searching cross from Mirallas was headed back across goal by Baines for Naismith to bundle home. Once again highlighting his predatory instincts. 2-1

At this point I though we’d win. The turning point came from Speroni’s great save from Osman’s flicked strike. If that had gone in I believe we would have won the game but the fourth goal of the game – the killer – went to Palace. The ultimate sucker punch as Jerome found the far corner. 3-1

Utter dejection set in. This felt like the time Bradford took advantage of Kanchelskis handing in his transfer request pitch-style, by going 3-1 up at Goodison in 97. For all the marvellous times we’ve had this season, and it has been truly wonderful, this was painfully the worst. At times last night I wish I had no interest in football. The lows you experience are lower than a snakes belly.

Mirallas got our hopes up briefly, getting on the end of Barkley’s deflected through ball to round Speroni neatly before tapping in. But it was too little too late.

The fight with Arsenal remains and I believe being the hunter rather than the hunted will suit us perfectly. This can all change by Sunday. Faith was lost last night but today it is back.

It should never be lost under Roberto.

We have to put this into perspective; we have amassed our greatest points tally since 1988 bringing a style of play back to Goodison that the Holy trinity would be proud of. We’ve returned to our traditions as a football club to move us forward and this defeat was merely that; a defeat.

The winning mentality that Martinez and the players have brought this season, meant that this setback hurt more than it used to. The reaction from the blues on Twitter shows just how passionate we are about our club.

We are not terrible all of a sudden, this was a bump in the road but it has held up our Champions League charge, just when we needed to speed it up. It’s a battle with Arsenal now and what a way to start that battle.

Bring on Moyes and Man Utd

Moyes is back. I truly can’t think of a better team to face after the Palace defeat. Expect a very different Everton on Sunday.

United have an away record to be respected but they haven’t been to a snarling, angry, pumped up Goodison yet. The crowd needs to play its part and I’m sure it will.

This is it guys, leave nothing left in your voice box. We need to suck a few in on Sunday.

I have changed my view on the chanting towards Moyes.

We shouldn’t give our former manager any attention whatsoever. Let’s show him how we have moved on. Nothing but shouts for the team and Roberto Martinez who have been responsible for a season we could only have dreamed off under Moyes.

We have moved on dramatically with the style of play on the pitch and Martinez’s wonderful obsession with our history. It may sound harsh to some but Moyes deserves no recognition for me. He tried to pull the wool over the greatest club in the world with patronising and hypocritical comments about Baines/Fellaini, and for that deserves nothing.

Don’t waste your voices on him Blues.

Our wonderful manager and team needs it for a monumental clash on Sunday.

This really is it.

See you Sunday Dave, you might want to borrow Cesc Fabregas’s headphones for this one.

 

Sin Miedo

 

Mark Ellis

 

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Follow Mark Ellis On Twitter

Mark Ellis

34 year old Evertonian, BU Supporter, blogger, loving Roberto, busy with my beautiful son Kai who has made me & my fiancee Lyndsay's life complete.

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