When you look at the post-match statistics from this game, they underline how annoying this result was for Everton who should, by rights, have left Selhurst Park with all three points and their sixth win from their last seven in the Premier League.
64% of the possession, 22 shots and 10 corners… six days after beating their third top-six team in succession with a 4-0 hammering of Manchester United, Everton travelled to Crystal Palace and controlled the game in the manner befitting their ambitions of breaking the hegemony of that “big six” cabal but left with just a point.
Unfortunately, while the dominance of the contest was there in combination with another impressive defensive performance, the requisite quality in the final third was not and in that sense, if nothing else, this game was instructive of what Everton still need in terms of additions to the squad if they are to achieve their aims over the next couple of seasons.
Ultimately, the fact that Marco Silva’s side failed to unduly trouble Palace from dead-ball situations — for example, it’s hard to recall any of the afore-mentioned corners leading to anything meaningful —and that only three of their efforts on goal were on target rather brings home the point that sometimes you need a player with the confidence and ability to produce a piece of magic or a deadly clinical striker who can make a difference on afternoons when things aren’t quite clicking up front.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin has relished the opportunity afforded him by Silva’s lack of alternatives to put together an extended run in the Everton team and he has rightly received plaudits for his tireless work-rate and the effective way in which he has unsettled defenders from the four top-six teams that came to Goodison over the past couple of months and left with a mere point between them.
His efforts against those sides has enabled those around him to score the goals that beat Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United but it’s also an unavoidable consequence of his position that when chances go begging, the focus of the conversation around what this Everton squad lacks inevitably falls on him as the centre-forward.
It’s tough for a relatively inexperienced, still-developing young player tasked with leading the line for a Premier League side chasing European football but England’s top flight is an unforgiving place where results are paramount which is why securing a reliable, dynamic and pacy striker to supplement the Calvert-Lewin remains the Blues’ most pressing need in terms of recruitment.
That regular goals, acceleration and a ruthless streak have been the few missing attributes to the 22-year-old’s game was illustrated on a couple of occasions within the first 10 minutes. Everton had survived a couple of early scares at one end, first when Christian Benteke broke into space off a fortunate ricochet in midfielder but was foiled by Jordan Pickford’s block before referee Lee Mason pulled play back for a foul by Idrissa Gueye and then when Max Meyer drove the ball in the side-netting from a tight angle, before the Blues’ created their first chance at the other.
Calvert-Lewin did well to pounce on the ball as Martin Kelly mis-judged Pickford’s wind-assisted long kick downfield but he initially got it stuck under his feet and then ended up producing a powder-puff left-footed finish that was routine for Vicente Guaita in the Palace goal.
A couple of minutes later, another defensive slip, this time by Scott Dann, appeared to present the striker with a chance to create something but he was a fraction slow to anticipate it and couldn’t stab it quickly past the covering man, either for himself or Bernard.
Not that Calvert-Lewin was the only one who looked slightly off his game in attacking areas. Richarlison had the chance to run at the defence in the ninth minute but elected not to play Gylfi Sigurdsson in and was tackled while a succession of attempted crosses from both flanks and shots were blocked or deflected behind.
Calvert-Lewin, meanwhile, would spurn a couple of decent headed chances before half-time, despatching one disappointingly over the bar and the other straight at the goalkeeper while Gueye tried his luck from 20 yards but his effort was also comfortably saved.
The second half began in the same manner as had the first, with Palace attacking early and putting the ball into the side-netting — James McArthur the one this time to fail to work Pickford — but Everton very quickly grabbed hold of the game once more and would dictate things until the final whistle.
Perhaps needing a touch of fortune to carry them over the line, the Blues found Lady Luck looking in the opposite direction with Bernard seeing his low shot bounce off the base of the post via a deflection off a defender and Lucas Digne almost guiding a cross in off the back post, again via a deflection, but the ball came off the woodwork and out.
In between, after Cenk Tosun was introduced in place of Calvert-Lewin to perhaps provide a surer touch on the ball up front, the Turk came as close as anyone would to winning the game. The impressive duo of Morgan Schneiderlin and Gueye combined in the centre circle to halt a Palace move and begin another Everton attack that ended with Seamus Coleman collecting Richarlison’s nutmeg through Patrick van Aanholt’s legs ball in an advanced area down the right flank.
His low cross was behind Tosun but the striker back-heeled it brilliantly towards goal, only to be denied by an instinctive, point-blank save by Guaita.
If there was a criticism of Silva it was that his substitutions in a game that felt like it needed an injection of fresh ideas earlier in the half, it was that the Portuguese delayed his second and third changes until the 84th and 86th minutes respectively.
Ademola Lookman came on for Sigurdsson and Theo Walcott for Bernard but while the young winger immediately went on a mazy run that unsettled the Palace defence, neither had much time to make a much of a difference.
Instead, Everton were forced to settle for a draw that, in the context of Wolves’s 2-1 win at Watford, probably ends the Toffees’ pursuit of seventh place. That may end up being a blessing in disguise and, again, there was much to learn from this display in terms of how much the team is doing right and what is needed by way of injection of genuine of quality this summer to move the club up a level next season.