Martinez: Race Still On
Boss defiant despite home defeat to Palace.
Roberto Martinez insisted Everton’s top-four challenge is still alive despite a ‘hurtful’ defeat to Crystal Palace.
The Blues’ run of seven consecutive league wins was halted as they lost at home for only the second time this season.
The defeat also meant they slipped back behind Arsenal in the race to finish in the Champions League places.
Martinez said: “The reaction is of disappointment. The result is a hurtful one because of the expectation that we had and the desire that we brought into the game.
“In the first half we played with a bit of wanting to win so much that we forgot about simple basics.
“In the second half, it was completely different. We were positive and back to being ourselves. But in every aspect, the game played into Crystal Palace’s hands; they were well organised, happy to sit behind and play on the counter and dead balls.
“I felt we were unfortunate not to get a draw after the chances we created.”
There are now four games remaining and Everton trail Arsenal by a single point - but with a superior goal difference.
Martinez continued: “We were on a very good run. Today, I wouldn’t say we played badly, but defensively we didn’t have our normal intensity and that cost us.
"You don’t expect to concede three goals and win a football match. Getting two goals should have been enough to win the game.
“We have 12 points to play for, we are close to fourth place and we are still in a good position. I don’t think Arsenal will take maximum points from their remaining games. After the weekend [dropping out of the top four] is a disappointment, but if you looked at the start of the season, it’s a magnificent position.
“The way we finished the second half gives me great optimism we can finish the season strongly.”
James McCarthy’s absence from the starting line-up raised a few eyebrows before kick off but the Everton boss explained the midfielder had been carrying an injury.
He added: “James was a big difference when he came on. He has been carrying a muscular problem since Saturday. I was glad he was able to play some part but he would have been a risk to play 90 minutes.”