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v Swansea City

Tuesday 23 September K.O. 19:45

2

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Goodison Park | 16th April 2014 19:45 | Attendance - 39333

Everton v Crystal Palace

Everton's battle for a top-four finish suffered a body blow with this 3-2 reverse at the hands of Crystal Palace.

The defeat leaves Roberto Martinez's men in fifth place, one point behind Arsenal with four games of the season left to play.

It also brought to an end a remarkable winning run.

But despite the disappointment and frustration, the way in which the side battled valiantly to the end - bold in their attacking play in pursuit of the goals they craved - deserves credit.

It typified the approach the team has adopted all season. And is the way they will continue to play their football in the remaining games of the campaign.

The Blues had trailed 1-0 at the break to a Jason Puncheon strike.

Aiden McGeadyAiden McGeady tries to get away from Marouane Chamakh.

And when Scott Dann headed home early after the restart from a corner, the signs were ominous.

But a series of subs and a brave approach steered the side back into the game through Steven Naismith.

And then came the cruelest blow - Cameron Jerome adding a third in the 72nd minute as the Blues pushed and probed hard for an equaliser.

Kevin Mirallas provided hope in the dying minutes - but defeat was the result. Only a second defeat of the season for the Blues.

The evening began with Goodison paying a moving tribute to the 96 before the game got underway, with fans and players alike directing their applause to the Directors' Box where members of the Hillsborough families were present as guests of the Club.

For the game itself, it was always going to be a contest focused on containing the counter-attacking style of Pulis' side.

And it was from one such counter-attack in the 23rd minute that the visitors took the lead.

Jason Puncheon, who had been in rich goalscoring form coming into the contest, turned the ball into the corner of the Everton net after a neat lay-off from Marouane Chamakh.

Steven NaismithSteven Naismith prods in from close range.

In response to the setback the flow of the game remained largely unchanged - Everton dominating possession and playing much of the game in the Palace half as they struggled to break down a resolute unit.

The usually slick intricate interplay was not firing as normal - and so Julian Speroni had little to contend with other than a fierce drive from Mirallas on 33 minutes that flashed just over the bar.

At the other end, Palace's attacks were sporadic - but effective when they materialised, as Yannick Bolasie's 20-yard drive 10 minutes before the break illustrated, his shot bouncing back off the post, with Jerome sending the rebound wide.

Jerome himself produced a drive from distance shortly before the break that went over as the Eagles maintained a potency in their forays forward.

As half-time approached the chance count increased for the Toffees. McGeady fired over, Speroni saved smartly at his near post to deny Romelu Lukaku and the Blues threatened with a series of teasing corners.

But the equaliser didn't materialise and Martinez's men had to endure a half-time break reflecting on a deficit scoreline.

The home crowd became increasingly frustrated as the game progressed with Speroni's dilatory approach to goal-kicks; Palace were clearly keen to hold on to the advantage they had garnered.

Joe Ledley tested Howard with a good effort shortly after the restart - a restart that saw Deulofeu replaced by Steven Naismith.

But from the corner that followed, Dann netted the visitors' second goal - a strong downward header from six yards.

McGeady, who clearly has a taste for fierce shots from distance, sent a cracking effort inches wide of the upright in the 51st minute.

Then, with 32 minutes to play, Martinez made a double change - his last available substitutions - with Leon Osman and James McCarthy entering the contest in place of McGeady and Barry.

Steven NaismithThe Scot celebrates but his effort proved in vain.

The fightback began within three minutes. Naismith prodded home from close range after a great backpost knockback by Leighton Baines from a Mirallas right-wing centre.

Belief flowed around Goodison. They had seen yet another goalscoring substitution this term.

As the Blues found another level, Baines was cautioned for a brave attempt to win a header which resulted in a clash of heads with Mariappa. The Palace full-back was replaced by Jonathan Parr.

Everton's left-back was in the thick of the action again on 67 minutes, a tantalising left-wing cross evading the keeper and picking out Mirallas as he charged in from the right. Frustratingly, he couldn't keep his volleyed effort on target.

As the pressure mounted, a lovely piece of interplay between Lukaku and Baines teed up Osman, but his drive skimmed the top of the bar - aided by the faintest of touches from Speroni.

And, by way of a sucker punch, Puncheon's neat footwork set up Jerome to blast home with 18 minutes of the game to play. A hammer blow to the Blues.

It sucked the confidence from the crowd and provided Palace with a timely fillip - a cushion to protect.

And they did so resolutely, rarely venturing forward - and when they did in limited numbers.

A stunning stop from Speroni denied Barkley on 81 minutes as Everton found a hole in the Palace backline.

Baines had a shot blocked and Osman sent an effort wide as the clock ticked down.

Time was against the Blues in this contest. But they didn't give up.

And with five minutes of normal time remaining, Mirallas ghosted in, beating the offside trap to round Speroni and net. Belief rejuvenated. But time running out.

Barkley blasted over from 25-yards out as the nervous tension inside the stadium intensified.

The board indicating six minutes of added time followed shortly after. And the roar inside the ground went up again.

But the equalising goal wouldn't materialise. The battle continues with four games of the campaign to play.

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