Everton drew for only the second time in 20 Premier League matches at Crystal Palace. It is the hosts, however, who will be far more satisfied with their point, after Marco Silva’s side controlled large chunks of the contest.
Everton climb above Watford into eighth but have only two games to bridge a four-point gap to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The numbers at half-time revealed the visitors had enjoyed nearly 70 per cent possession and been progressive with it – Everton aiming 11 shots at goal. They would ultimately have 21 to Palace’s seven.
The first was struck by Dominic Calvert-Lewin. The forward saw Jordan Pickford draw back his right boot to clear and immediately set off beyond Palace defender Martin Kelly.
Sure enough, Kelly missed his kick and Calvert-Lewin had the whites of goal in his eyes. The striker was forced left and ultimately couldn’t generate enough power to really trouble Vicente Guaita.
Palace goalkeeper Guaita scrambled across his line to hold a dipping 25-yard effort from Idrissa Gana Gueye 10 minutes before the break.
Gana, by this stage, had got through a mountain of work. Chasing, hounding, tackling and intercepting as standard.
Gana really is a revelation right now. He skipped beyond Wilfried Zaha and rifled a laser-guided pass wide for Seamus Coleman to launch Everton’s brightest passage of first-half play.
Coleman was too savvy for Max Meyer, gliding beyond the German to cross. Palace cleared and had to do the same again after Bernard picked up the pieces to tie James McArthur in knots before fizzing in another excellent delivery.
Gana had a shot deflected behind, too, following good work by Richarlison high on the right.
Throw into the mix Scott Dann nearly landing Kelly in trouble with a weak pass when Calvert-Lewin was looming, and Patrick van Aanholt directing an underhit backpass, and the locals’ backs were up.
Luka Milivojevic in Palace’s midfield was getting narked, too, the Serb cautioned for leaving Kurt Zouma in a heap.
Milivojevic had a strike over around the 25-minute mark – ten minutes after Kelly blocked a goalbound effort from Gylfi Sigurdsson.
And it was Everton continuing to press at the back end of the half, making a distant memory of Meyer rippling the side-netting shortly after kick-off.
Calvert-Lewin headed over after Michael Keane released Coleman to deliver from the right.
On 40 minutes Richarlison escaped down the same flank but struck his cross out of the diving Calvert-Lewin’s reach.
An unattended Richarlison was unable to gain any purchase on his header from a Sigurdsson corner when five minutes of the second half had elapsed – five minutes in which Palace threatened intermittently, most notably through McArthur slamming into the netting outside Pickford’s left post.
Bernard’s low stinger clattered the base of the post on 52 minutes following a penetrating Everton counter.
Calvert-Lewin profited from Morgan Schneiderlin’s ball-winning tackle on halfway, swooping on the scraps and eating up the ground down the left.
His cross went behind Sigurdsson but kept alive by Coleman, who reignited the attack.
The ball was worked across to Bernard, who got his knee over the ball and instep through it – but could not locate the space inside Guaita’s right post.
Everton fancied they might have had a penalty when Richarlison tumbled under Van Aanholt’s recovery tackle. Referee Lee Mason was having none of it.
A run of right-sided corners came to nothing as Everton sought to turn the screw, the visitors’ superiority reflected in the sight of Pickford, on his haunches and 10 yards outside his box, watching with the rest of us.
He saw the immaculate Aaron Wan-Bissaka hurl himself in the way of Bernard’s first-time half-volley after Richarlison stood up a cross from the right.
Guaita flung out his right hand to repel an improvised effort from Cenk Tosun – on for Calvert-Lewin and back-heeling Coleman’s delivery towards goal.
The indefatigable Gana strode onto a cut back from Tosun but was foiled by a block from Cheikhou Kouyate, next seen smuggling the ball away from a tight spot with Richarlison trying to turn and shoot.
Digne sent in a cross which deflected and looped onto the far post with five minutes remaining. Had it gone in, it would have represented a stroke of luck. But one nobody could have argued Everton deserved.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin extended his run as Everton’s centre-forward to a ninth match at Selhurst Park.
Indeed, half the 22-year-old’s 18 Premier League starts this term have come since he was restored to the team at Cardiff City two months ago.
Calvert-Lewin, in the image of Duncan Ferguson, is very useful at both ends of the field and his first contribution here was to head a Luka Milivojevic free-kick away from his own penalty box.
It is when he is right on the shoulder of opposing defenders Calvert-Lewin really starts ticking, though.
He scented opportunity as Jordan Pickford punted forward a ball inside five minutes, Calvert-Lewin’s instincts proved correct as Martin Kelly slipped and allowed Calvert-Lewin in behind for a shot saved by Vicente Guaita.
Kelly got his centre-half partner Scott Dann off the hook when Calvert-Lewin was poised to pounce on an undercooked pass across the fringe of the penalty area.
Calvert-Lewin has proved himself adept at operating with his back to goal, providing a foil for the trio of Bernard, Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson following his promotion to the ‘Number 9’ role.
He showed off that ability again here but not at the expense of the running which stretches defences and opens up the pitch for those advancing from deep.
Calvert-Lewin is increasingly taking up smart positions when the ball goes wide, too, invariably providing an option for teammates searching out a target.
Twice in the opening half he met deliveries from Seamus Coleman, the second a header which flew narrowly over the top.
Calvert-Lewin was replaced by Cenk Tosun with 20 minutes remaining and able to reflect on another display which served as evidence of the player’s growing maturity.
Operation Zaha Exercise
Stop Wilfried Zaha, says perceived wisdom, and you go a long way to stopping Crystal Palace.
Marco Silva and Everton clearly subscribe to the theory and why wouldn’t you?
Zaha’s zippy feet attract defenders like moths to a flame, drawn in only to be burned by the Ivorian’s scorching pace.
He escaped crowds of Everton bodies once or twice in the opening 15 minutes of this match.
When Zaha did wriggle free, though, it was typically far from Everton’s goal. He would be met by covering defenders, his supply lines cut off by white shirted opponents.
Seamus Coleman at right-back expertly shuffled Zaha infield, squeezing the expressive winger’s space.
Time and again Zaha had to pass square, anything forward and he was having to force the issue, trying and largely failing to reach targets policed by defensive bodies.
Richarlison would drop back to shield Coleman if Zaha received possession high up the pitch.
Ten minutes before the break and the forward reached the end of his tether, his arms flailing after surrendering possession to the backdrop of the natives getting restless.
Zaha swapped to the right to try his luck there and promptly had the ball whipped off his toes by the retreating Bernard.
Minutes later, Lucas Digne read Aaron Wan Bissaka’s intentions and intercepted a ball aimed for Zaha.
The 26-year-old thought he’d found space back on the left when Everton bunched up on the opposing side of the pitch to deal with a free-kick.
As the ball was transferred across, Idrissa Gana Gueye followed it with the urgency of a man who realised he'd left the oven on and nipped in front of Zaha to claim possession and sprint away from the frustrated Palace man.
Zaha progressively went deeper in search of the touches he craves and without exception had a man at his back when he received the ball – the forward prevented from turning and unfurling his express stride.
Back on the right 10 minutes into the second half, Zaha spied unoccupied ground ahead of him. Problem was, he had to get past Gana to reach it. Everton’s Senegalese midfielder did not entertain the idea.
Still, Zaha was rightly incredulous when he got between Digne and Coleman only to find Gana standing sentry deep in Everton’s penalty box. This was a job superbly plotted by Silva and equally magnificently executed by his players.
Scoreless draws are a rare thing indeed, these days. Draws of any kind, in fact. This was only Everton’s second in 20 Premier League games – last month’s Merseyside derby the other.
The point claimed by Marco Silva’s team nevertheless saw them reach 50 for the campaign and move ahead of last season’s tally of 49.
This was also a seventh clean sheet in nine games for Everton and third in five matches on the road. It is 17 points from nine games in all. Things are neatly falling into place.