Crystal Palace were denied a crucial Premier League victory after a controversial penalty earned Everton a 2-2 draw.
Roy Hodgson’s team twice took the lead at Selhurst Park with goals from James McArthur and Wilfried Zaha, but were frustrated when they felt Oumar Niasse dived to earn a penalty and then scored Everton’s second goal by half-time.
The visitors showed little, beyond resilience, to strengthen caretaker manager David Unsworth’s bid to be appointed on a permanent basis amid the expectation Everton will again approach Watford for Marco Silva in the coming week.
For 20th-placed Palace, a wider concern will be dropping two further points after again impressing, and the risk of falling too far behind at the bottom of the league.
Despite Christian Benteke’s return to fitness, Hodgson retained much of the team that impressed despite their 1-0 defeat at Tottenham before the international break.
The Belgian remains their only recognised senior striker, but the presence of Zaha and Andros Townsend in the final third meant the hosts could continue to target Everton’s lack of pace in defence, and it showed.
It was in the opening minute when Ruben Loftus-Cheek – having recovered from a back spasm to start – ran down the right wing and cut inside on his left foot to shoot.
When the diving Jordan Pickford then parried his effort to McArthur, the Scot acrobatically took advantage of the space given to finish from close range into the near-open goal.
If Everton’s fragile confidence meant they needed an equally swift response, it almost immediately came. Niasse – their lone striker after Wayne Rooney was dropped to the bench – ran into the area in the fifth minute and under minimal contact from Scott Dann appeared to dive.
Referee Anthony Taylor awarded a penalty, and for the second game in succession Leighton Baines scored, striking into the bottom left corner after Julian Speroni dived right.
Palace’s lead was restored in the 35th minute, and for all of the attention surrounding Loftus-Cheek after his England debut, it was Zaha who demonstrated he remains their key figure.
Following a fine, one-touch build-up on the right wing, Joel Ward sent a low cross towards the forward, who met it with a first-time shot that went straight in.
The hosts had taken advantage of a lack of professionalism in the recent 2-2 draw with West Ham to secure a late equalising goal, and in first-half stoppage-time they were similarly guilty in the build-up to Everton’s second.
Speroni should have kicked long but passed to Dann, and when Idrissa Gueye dispossessed him and Gylfi Sigurdsson, he then sent Niasse clean through and the striker punished them by calmly finishing under the goalkeeper.
Benteke was introduced in the second half with Palace, but he appeared rusty when wasting their finest chance by scuffing harmlessly wide when sent through one-on-one.
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