After a promising first half from a Palace perspective, they quickly found themselves 2-0 behind just after the restart when Gylfi Sigurdsson netted his third goal in his last four starts against the Eagles, and just five minutes later Oumar Niasse followed up his strike in the corresponding fixture in November by converting a simple header.
Tom Davies then added the all-important third with 15 minutes remaining to ensure Sam Allardyce was happiest manager on his first reunion with his former club, but despite Luka Milivojevic netting his penalty of the season late on, Roy Hodgson’s team couldn’t stage an unexpected comeback.
Despite what the final scoreline suggested, the opening 45 minutes saw both teams struggle to create anything in the final third, and that meant that all the early attempts would come from distance. The first came after eight minutes when Sigurdsson saw a shot from 25 yards bounce just wide, and soon after Milivojevic missed by a similar distance after Alexander Sørloth’s first Eagles involvement saw him outmuscle Cuco Martina to create the chance.
With no clear-cut sights of goal it took 26 minutes for either keeper to dirty their gloves, but Wayne Hennessey was ready when called upon. A poor corner by Sigurdsson was headed clear by Christian Benteke and fell to Idrissa Gueye 35 yards out, and after tricking his way past Yohan Cabaye, he fired goalwards and Hennessey did well to tip it around his post.
Shots from range continued to be the theme of the opening half and Cabaye forced Jordan Pickford to unconvincingly edge a dipping effort to safety using his chest, but in the final minute of the half the Eagles came close to taking the lead into the changing room when Sørloth found Benteke at the far post who headed goalwards, and James McArthur was a stud’s length away from diverting the attempt past Pickford.
But just 45 seconds after the restart, the hosts got ahead through a familiar foe. Niasse held the ball up in a dangerous position and laid it off into the path of Sigurdsson who wrapped his right boot around the ball first-time, saw it deflect off the diving James Tomkins and beat Hennessey to score or assist against the Eagles for the fifth successive game.
And things got worse for Hodgson’s team five minutes later when they fell two goals behind. Davies won the ball back on the edge of the Palace box and slipped in Martina, who spotted Niasse in acres of space and clipped the ball towards him, allowing the Senegalese striker to powerfully head home and add to the visitors’ woes.
Within minutes there was a golden chance for them to get back into the game when a raking diagonal pass by Cabaye was perfect for Benteke who had escaped from Jonjoe Kenny, but the Belgian’s header dropped the wrong side of Pickford’s far post much to the striker’s despair, however the England shot-stopper was called into action when Sørloth got between two defenders to meet Patrick van Aanholt’s cross, but saw his powerful header tipped wide.
With those chances going begging Palace’s task grew harder, and it was over with 15 minutes to go when Everton added their third. Kenny squared across the box to Niasse who saw his deflected shot spin goalwards and needed parrying by a sprawling Hennessey, but Sigurdsson reacted quickest and cut the ball back into the danger area where Davies was on hand to tap in.
With eight minutes to go the Eagles were handed the opportunity for a consolation when they earned a penalty after an acrobatic attempt by Benteke was blocked by the hand of Ashley Williams, and Milivojevic stepped up to score in similar fashion to his spot-kick against Newcastle United six days earlier to register his seventh goal of the campaign, but it was too little, too late.
Everton: Pickford, Coleman (Kenny 46), Keane, Mangala (Williams 45), Martina, Davies, Gueye (Schneiderlin 80), Rooney, Walcott, Niasse, Sigurdsson. Subs not used: Robles, Bolasie, Calvert-Lewin, Tosan.
Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Fosu-Mensah, Tomkins, Van Aanholt, Townsend, McArthur, Milivojevic, Cabaye, Sørloth, Benteke. Subs not used: Henry, Wan-Bissaka, Souare, Delaney, Riedewald, Rakip, Lee.