Everton Logo Everton 1 - 2 Crystal Palace
Half-time: 0 - 1
Crystal Palace Logo
FA Carling Premiership 97/98 - Game 1
Saturday 9 August 1997
Goodison Park, Merseyside
Att: 35,716
Bristol City (a) -- Friendly Ref: Steve Dunn Sheffield United (a)
1997-98 Fixtures & Results League Position: 14th= Premiership Results & Table
EVERTON: Ferguson (85) Bilic, Farrelly, Oster, Thomas.
Crystal Palace: Lombardo (36) Dyer (pen:77) Lombardo.
  LINEUPS Subs Not Used
EVERTON: Southall, Watson, Phelan, Stuart, Ferguson, Speed, Thomsen (Barmby, 64), Farrelly, Oster (Short, 87), Bilic, Thomas (Branch, 46).
Unavailable: Parkinson, Hinchcliffe, Grant, O'Connor (injured).
Barrett, Gerrard.
Crystal Palace: Miller, Edworthy, Gordon, Roberts, Tuttle, Linighan, Muscat, Warhurst (Fullarton, 77), Dyer (Shipperley, 81), Rodger, Lombardo (Veart, 81). Nash, Hreidarsson.
  Yellow Cards Red Cards
EVERTON: Bilic, Stuart. --
Crystal Palace: Warhurst, Rodger, Tuttle, Linighan, Dyer. --

Guy McEvoy Optimism turns Turtle
Adie ShortieMon We Wuz Robbed
Dave Shepherd Teen Machine in Need of Tuning
Huw Marshall Bright Spots are there, if you look
Mark Jensen The Way I Saw It
Richard Marland Some Positive Aspects, but a lot Wrong too
THE SUNDAY TIMES Palace given perfect start by Lombardo
by Chris Lightbown
THE TIMES Humble Lombardo makes stately Palace entrance
by Russell Kempson
ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH Lombardo and Palace are birds of a feather
by Michael Staniforth
Johnny & Pete's Page Link to Fan's Match Report
PA NEWS Match Description
EVERTON WEBSITE Link to Official Match Report
SOCCERNET Link to SoccerNet Match Report
CARLINGNET Link to CarlingNet Match Report

Optimism turns Turtle
Guy McEvoy

With the pre-season distractions over 35,000 of us settled down to the return of the real deal. The pre-match chatter was largely about Bilic and Oster and how they would transform us to title contenders. Is there a fan in the country that doesn't entertain such fantasy at ten to three on the day of the first game? By ten to five the talk was all very different. We should have guessed what was to come when they forgot to stick on Z-cars as the teams came out.

The team that started the game did contain one or two surprises. Gary Speed had been awarded the captaincy and new signing Terry Thomas was to start the game at right back. Barmby started the game on the bench.

The first half was an evenly matched though uninspiring affair. There was little quality stuff on display from either side which was reflected in the morgue like atmosphere. Chances did come our way, Stuart put in a great cross to the head of Ferguson which he headed just wide, Phelan managed a blistering volley which was charged down, and Stuart actually managed to turn in a looped header from Bilic. For a few sweet seconds we all thought we were on our way. The offside flag soon put paid to that.

The Palace game-plan seemed to be to defend in numbers then hit hard and fast. The defending bit they'd managed well but their attack (even more so than ours) had lacked any menace up to this point. Cue the first significant contribution from their new signing Lombardo. A neat one-two on the edge of the box and he finds himself in enough space to slip a weak shot home in front of the despairing Street End.

The only thing to split the teams in the first half was that they had a striker who only needed one chance.

Second Half

The change made during the break raised one or two eyebrows. Branch was swapped for debutante Thomas and Stuart was pushed to right-back. It was to prove the fateful decision of the game. Branch didn't bring anything new with him, and Stuart was simply out of his depth defending. The decision seems even more astonishing given that Barrett was on the bench.

As the half progressed we slipped into the old trap of attempting to launch everything to Ferguson. It was depressingly predictable stuff. What on earth happened to the more fluent stuff we played during the pre-season freindlies? With Palace defending in such numbers they were more than happy to take on high crosses, knowing that even when Ferguson reached them they were the much more likely to pick up the second ball. A few times we looked like we could nip something from scrambles in the box, but it was always a Palace man who had the quicker reaction and cleared.

Palace meanwhile started to sense the gap created by Stuart's lack of defending positional instinct. Twice they had looked to profit from the space, but the third time Stuart helped them along a bit more with a blatant mis-timed tackle on Lombardo. Southall was sent the wrong way for the resulting penalty. A few thousand "Evertonians" from the Park End left there and then, even with a full quarter of an hour still to play.

We did pick up a late consolation goal when a thirty yard ball from Stuart was, at last, cleanly connected to by Ferguson for a fine goal. However, the goal only really served to add some credibility to our one dimensional tactics which had ultimately cost us the three points.

It shouldn't be suicide time yet. Remember how well we started last year and how horribly all that turned out? Maybe this year we'll have an inverse version of that. There is always hope.

Individual Performances

  • Southall 7 - Had well earned his place on the team-sheet pre-season and nothing he did today suggested that it was a mistake.
  • Thomas 6 - Looked out of his depth at the start, settled down eventually but there was no evidence that he has anything to offer that we don't already have in Barrett or O'Connor. I'd like to see more to get a better judgement -- preferably in the reserve games!
  • Watson 6 - I didn't feel he imposed himself on the game as we are used to. Quiet day.
  • Bilic 8 - Class, class, class.
  • Phelan 7 - Good game from Terry, usual combination of competent enough defending and causing the odd bit of trouble up front.
  • Speed 6 - I thought he had a quiet game compared with what we are used to. Let's hope that the responsibility of the captaincy doesn't do to him what it did to Unsworth!
  • Thomsen 7 - The surprise of the day. Had a solid afternoon, with none of the howlers that characterise his game. More like this and folk (myself included) may get off his back. Even managed a delightful bit of playmaking that would have seen Oster score had the lad had any meat on him.
  • Oster 6 - Flashes of the touches that show what this lad can do, but impaired by not looking fully integrated yet. Would like to see him have a few more runs into the box rather than holding off outside it.
  • Farrelly 7- Got involved and showed some good individual touches. It's fair to say that, despite the individual efforts of the above four midfield players, as a 'unit' they looked like nothing.
  • Stuart 6 - Had an OK first half, in attack made some good breaks, stuck in a couple of good crosses, the disallowed goal looked a marginal decision to me. But what the hell was he doing on the park second half? Right back? No way. Barrett should have been on. Redeemed himself slightly, with the assist for the goal, but for a good proportion of the fickle Goodison crowd he had become the villain of the day.
  • Ferguson 6 - We put enormous (and unfair) pressure on him with these tactics and he isn't up to it. Nice goal though.
  • Branch 6 - Started off brightly, but hardly in the game after his first 10 minutes.
  • Barmby 6 - Made no real difference
  • Short 6 - His arrival just confirmed that the repeated high lofted ball really was our game plan.

Two weeks to do some re-thinking Howard.

One thing that did occur to me in abstract was a thought about the new kit. The light blue turns into Royal blue when it gets wet. Consequently, the more you sweat, the darker the shirt gets - a sort of built in effort/sweat-o-meter. Talk about having to 'earn the right' to wear the Royal blue of Everton! Bilic certainly finished the game in royal blue.

We Wuz Robbed
Adie ShortieMon

General view of the game is that we didn't deserve to get beat. The amount of pushing on both Bilic & Dunc was amazing. Bilic stuck up for himself and Dunc kept his chunnering to himself!

We played the offside trap often and it was from this that their first goal came. Personally I thought he was off. I think it would have been a totally different game had the Bilic/Stuart goal counted. Our heads seem to drop when they scored until half way through the 2nd half when some urgency was injected into the team, possibly by bringing Barmby on.

The team started well, playing to feet, often the link between Oster & Thomas doing the business. Oster has definitely got a football brain, making some very good cross field passes to Phelan who did well running at men. As Oster tired there were more and more balls lofted into the general area of the box, as not just from John.

For the later crosses there were so many tall men (Dunc, Waggs, Bilic, Speed, Short) and they seemed to go for the same ball putting each other off.

Palace defended very deeply and often had all their men behind the ball. I thought we should have had a penalty when Barmby was legged up in the area. Maybe if he hadn't looked for it it might have been given.

An assessment of each players performance:

  • Southall - played well with little to do but made a couple of class saves.
  • Thomas - Played ok but seem overawed to start with. Linked well with Oster.
  • Watson - seemed fairly quiet but also seems to relinquished his role as last man to Bilic.
  • Bilic - magnificent. Put up with far too much crap from Warhurst including being pushed, I didn't see him retaliate but got booked for it! He has taken over the role of defensive master.
  • Phelan - played well, certainly a contender for man of the match. He stayed wide most of the time and put in a magnificent cross for Speed to volley into the net, unfortunately it had gone out before he kicked it!
  • Oster - as with Thomas was quiet to begin with. Tried to be more imaginative and this was maybe where he went wrong. Nice to watch though. Was played more central in 2nd half and didn't do as much. Flagged about half way through the half and should have gone off earlier than he did. Got knocked off the ball fairly easily.
  • Speed - particularly quiet. expected due to this weeks injury. As usual was not afraid to put a foot in. Cracking volley!
  • Farrelly - played well, put himself about and defended when needed.
  • Thomsen - considering all the grief the Toffeenet has been giving him recently I expected him to play really badly. Had a very good game. Defended solidly especially in the second half.
  • Ferguson - well worth his pay rise. Needs to get into the box more. Bazzing header!
  • Stuart - usual solid performance, plenty of running, pity he touched Bilic's header. Me & Slaven thought he had scored. Didn't cope with Lombardo well.  Surely HK should have played Barrett for Thomas?
  • Barmby (on for Thomsen), creative, plenty or running, seemed to have more options with him on.
  • Branch (on for Thomas at half time), plenty of running, removed from the ball easily, disappeared once Barmby came on.
  • Short (on for Oster), only on for ten mins as an extra man up front.

Dave Shepherd

As the new over-animated announcer said -'WELCOME TO GOODISON!'

New signings aplenty for the 97-8 campaign, which has the pulp prophets foretelling a relegation struggle again. Bilic, Farrelly, and especially Oster had had good reviews in pre-season, and returning manager Howard Kendall had added Tony Thomas, a right-back from Tranmere.

It was a hot day. The kind of day you expect August days to be like, but then they often aren't... shirtsleeves in the 80s. There's a special magic about opening Saturday anyway and the heat emphasised it. Dreams start here and rarely end even in the worst teams before September, just as it has been on every August, Saturday opening day since fans ever took to standing on terraces.

To remind us it was a modern game nowadays though, both teams warmups were physiotherapy stretches and routines, not 'having a kick-about'.

Numbers in the teens seemed popular on the park, belonging to Oster, Farrelly and Branch. Also with Thomas and Bilic in the twenties and one or two number changes amongst the non-newcomers, it took a while to settle in the new information and work out who was who in the distance and sunwards up the Park End.

Although Dave Watson was starting, Gary Speed was named as captain. It was not to be a winning start for the man whom in a debatably wise stunt had collected a few fan-club trophies for last season's Player of the Season on the pitch before the teams were announced.

Perhaps the best place to start is at half-time. Under the Gwladys Terrace, a conversation started with a gateman, who says he also does the job same at Anfield. He asked me what I thought was wrong.

What in fact was wrong was that we were 1-0 down to crap, we were shapeless and looked to have not clue one up front -- i.e. a normal day at the office for EFC.

The gateman, incidentally, didn't agree. He thought we'd had a good few chances. We'd had a good few attacks, yes, but good chances?

This of course is discounting the goal. The move stood out as the shining moment of the whole game by a very very long way. A bit of magic trickery on the left sideline by Gary Speed left a marker for dead and the blues streamed upfield. Speed switched over to Oster on the right, and a defender wisely took no chances and booted it dead. The corner was taken with a perfect nearside glance by a Speed-like header from Bilic, and may not have even needed the touch-in on the goalline that Stuart's head provided.

The joy in the stands was exceptionally warm, and a good 15 seconds old before the ball was kicked from dead into a counter-attack, and left us with the feeling that we had been robbed by the kind of mythical infringement that only the most officious of officials calls to the letter. The kind that wasn't The Russian Linesman, The Hand of God Ref, or the Andy Gray in 84 Ref. Perhaps he has a signed photo of 'CT' in his notebook!?

The party line is that it was offside. Whether the call was technically correct or not makes very little difference -- the effect was demoralising and cynical reward for the skills that had produced it. Football badly needs a clause in the law which makes clear the difference between 'gaining an unfair advantage', and 'being in an offside position', because GS was clearly NOT the former.

Referee Dunn had already shown more than a casual predeliction for infuriating decisions in his interpretations of 'fouls' made by blue shirts in 50-50 situations. Needless to say, the repeated communal manhandling of Ferguson in the box was considered to be all well and fair..

Once your luck is soured by such things, it only gets worse. It took only a few minutes to get worse, when the relegation-tipped visitors' new Bald Eagle, Lombardo, ghosted in from nowhere to pea-roll a soft pass which had come through a horribly contorted defence past Southall's hand and in to the near post.

It was only Palace's second 'attack', these consisting of charging out of their packed defence on the break.. i.e. just the kind of entertainment-free tactics Everton usually lose to.

On the plus side, the Selhurst Slashers were positively PG rated compared to their last visit to Goodison and the Simod Cup Final, only sinking to niggles and a few shirt-tugs instead of horror-movie stuff. Lombardo might well be the classiest player ever to grace their colours (though that's not saying much), but you could tell he was fresh off the boat from Italy by the way he spent so much time on his belly on the grass being ignored by the ref.

Unfortunately HK3's first real-time managerial decision was a lemon. He decided that putting on another attacker for a defender at the half would convert our better field position into goals... i.e. the kind of theory you try with your soccer manager computer game.

Unfortunately any manager-game worth the money will immediately murder you if, to do this, you move an attacking midfielder to right-back, but that's what HK did with Graham Stuart. The decision looked worse still because Barrett was an option on the bench.

So the great programmer in the sky (small k) duly rewarded him by having Stuart make a challenge, as Lombardo ran free in the penalty area, so bad that when the penalty was given it wasn't even contested. Oh, and GS was ineffective as a wing-back too, as he always is when he plays too deep.

This gave us the opportunity to witness the new rule which allows a keeper to dance about on his line before a kick, which Nev did only to dive the wrong way. The pitiful turnout of Palace fans went potty. No doubt they now foolishly think they are in with a shot at Europe. Yeah -- so were Carlisle United, once...

Everton bumbled about looking for a reply, but attack after attack never looked like going anywhere. There was no shape, no plan, no ideas. Just hopeful balls from mostly shallow angles into areas already crammed with defenders. Barmby had been thrown on too, but one more headless chicken was not going to do anything but gift Palace a ludicrous third, which they almost did 2-3 times.

Instead, after many fans had left, the defenders finally got too cocky to crowd Dunc, and he placed a perfect header into the top right corner of the Gwladys St goal from a floated right side free kick. There were four minutes left to grab a point, but they probably needed forty, and Mr Dunn twisted the knife by blowing time as the fortieth cross of the day flew into the Palace penalty area..

The fans left the ground in autopsy mode. Every conversation you overheard was 'shoulda dun this' and 'can't do tha', but honestly if this had not been seen in the spotlight of first day optimism, this was exactly where we left off last season... the better team but can't deliver results -- dubious use of resources and no luck with the rub of the whistle.

All the usual first-day cliches about 'the first game not meaning anything', 'it's a marathon not a sprint', 'new faces need a while to settle in' and 'promoted teams always start well' need shelving for this one -- we have the raw material, but we have yet to rebuild the machine. Over to you Howie..

The Players

  • Southall 5 Missed a near-post goal, got in a farcical tangle with Watson, guessed wrong for the penalty, and only had one other real save to make.
  • Thomas 5 A bit early for judgements to be honest. He only got half his attempted crosses above waist height, but did get into space to attempt them. Looks a little bit naive for this level so far.
  • Phelan 6 A popular player now, which could possibly be more to do with his suntan than his ability, because apart from a trademark scuttling run or two, he doesn't seem to contribute much.
  • Bilic 7 One outstanding first half tackle almost brought a standing ovation. A small chant of 'You'll never beat the Bilic' started, but looked lame a few minutes later when his channel was breached for a goal. His contributions going forward are genuinely significant though. A real international-class player if he can do this regularly.
  • Watson 6 Dave is ominously no longer the captain. Apart from his mixup with Nev, he had a quiet game. Maybe eyes were on his new partners instead.
  • Thomsen 6 This player is the club scapegoat. He only has to walk on to get boos, and gets cheers when subbed. He doesn't have to do anything wrong to get abuse... getting near the ball seems to be enough. As far as I can tell, his trouble is that he doesn't LOOK convincing. He has time on the ball and passes as a defensive midfielder should, but EFC fans require tackles and lots of them in their midfield, and this doesn't seem to be his forte. Flipped one ball forward into the path of Oster clean through which would have bought cries of 'Grantona', but scapegoats don't get such credit, even when they get it right.
  • Oster 7 The wunderkind never really set us alight, but you can see the raw talent there. Did more than enough to justify this early debut selection. Howard & Inchy must feel like custodians of the king's only son to have this kid on the books.
  • Speed 6 A full contributing role in the 'mish-mash' attack plan.
  • Farrelly 7 Farrelly was thrown into the fray as an, erm, attackishly midfielding left-sidedish dude (I think) and made the role his own! Mystery role apart, he popped up a lot all over the field and looked to have some clue where the opponents' goal was, unlike some.
  • Stuart 6 Stuart must despair. Unless he's genuinely looking forward to spending another few terms under HK wasting his time and ours pretending to be a wide-right midfielder, he ought to knock on the door and ask for transfer as soon as possible. GS is a striker. He is NOT a midfield player, he is ineffective on the wings, and is CERTAINLY not a right wingback!
  • Ferguson 7 Gamely tried to get on the end of a history of almost well directed balls from mainly the wrong places, whilst surrounded by up to FIVE well drilled Palace 'spoilers', but not as much in evidence in support as usual. Well taken consolation goal from near the penalty spot.
  • Branch 6 Another candidate for despair. To the new manager as well as the old, his name seems to stand for 'bloke to be thrown on in desperation when things ain't going right'. If he's heard these whispers about being converted to a winger and looks down the row at Stuart, then puts 2 & 2 together, he'll be giving thought to a move as well.
  • Barmby 6 The last throw of the dice in the loony 5-attackers formation was lost in the crowd.
  • Short 6 Inexplicably brought on after the late goal. To defend the only one-goal deficit and keep us off the bottom??

TEAM PERFORMANCE 5 Apart from brief flashes of promise, diabolical. The performance was that of eleven talents who haven't a clue what the other ten are doing.

Ref: Steve DUNN (Bristol) Not impressed with dives, but infuriating in his interpretation of what constitutes a legal challenge.

Bright Spots are there, if you look
Huw Marshall

I feel slightly disappointed, but there were some good signs out there today.

Firstly Nev looked sharp, and when he was called on he dealt with things quickly and calmly, although a couple of crosses first half brought back reminders of last seasons panic style of defending, rating 6.

Thomas, looked OK and composed got a couple of good crosses in, along with a couple of terrible ones, but remember Paul Holmes looked good on his debut, rating 6.

Phelan is, in my opinion, a better all round player than Hinchcliffe.  He ran his legs off today, linked well with the midfield, but midfield let him down covering him defensively.  We all know how Pieman drops back to fill gaps left by flying full backs, Thomsen couldn't cover a gap with his arse, but that's another story, rating 8.

Watson, good solid performance, what more can you say about one of our finest servants, rating 7.

Bilic, or should that read GOD, he is awesome, I don't know whether Diamond's 2nd half performance made him look even better, but at 4.5 million, this blokes a steal, (Bright Spot 1) rating 10.

Farrelly, looked a bit overawed, but he certainly has talent and potential, moved the ball about nicely in midfield, a bit one footed, and lost his way a bit as the game progressed, played inside of the left wing, and wanted to move infield a lot, (bright spot 2) rating 7.

Oster, this kid is special, he has bags of natural ability but is still raw, the more he plays the better he will get, great skills and distribution (bright spot 3) rating 6.5

Speed, like last season I think it'll take a few weeks for him to get in to his stride, linked well in Midfield considering he had Trevor Ross aka Santa Claus Thomsen alongside him, I can see him linking up well with Williamson, rating 6.75

Thomsen, what can I say, he started off brightly with a couple of passes finding blue players, but it was short lived and he deteriorated rapidly, he is useless helping out at the back and has the shot of a one legged man wearing concrete wellies, sell him, shoot him, something, rating 4.

Ferguson, pity he wasn't as fired up as he was after his goal for the previous 85 minutes, I love Fergie and I think he is one of the best forwards in the World!!! but he can't seem to get his arse in to gear from the off against crap opposition, perhaps PJ could buy Inchy a box to help him with pre match motivation rating 6.

Stuart, two words: Nationwide and league.  I know he tries hard, but so does my 7 year old son on the local park, this factor should not be an issue, he was crap first half and sadly for him he was stuck at right =back for the second half where he was truly awful, rating 3.9.

Branch ran around a lot, says it all really, sorry this kid is no Michael Owens, he should be developed as a winger, he has no inclination as a striker which is sadly a gift given at birth. rating 6.

Barmby, did he come on, did he cost 6 million, can we get a refund!!! OK the team was in disarray when he came on but he was, uhm, Barmbyesque!! rating 5.

Short, too short too comment.

In all, we played better passing football, with the midfield passing it around nicely, the new signings all showed promise which is a good thing, on the down side we lacked penetration, and our game at present revolves far too much around Dunc and his head, if he's having an off day the team is then in trouble, it would be nice too see more runs in to the box, and more attempts on target, the need for a 20+ goal a season striker is painfully obvious, Fergie cannot cope on his own.

With the signing of Williamson and hopefully the recovery of Parky, midfield should be OK. Barmby should be part-exchanged for a proper striker. One tactical worry was the right back fiasco at half time, if Thomas was injured why the hell put Stuart there???

The Way I Saw It
Mark Jensen

Here's how I saw the player's performances:
  • Southall: Did what he had to do -- couldn't have done much more.
  • Thomas:  I thought he settled down really well. He only managed to cross 50% of his balls (ooer..) properly, but he did make a lot space for himself om the right and was always available for Watson and BIlic.
  • Watson:  Much the same as Southall.
  • Bilic:  Can't really understand why he wasn't captain. The man will make a big difference to us this season. He was majestic and was my joint man of the match.
  • Phelan:  I can't believe that this fella gets stick. You look at him play and he gives nothing less than 110%.  He is also very good in the opponent's half of the pitch. He was my man of the match along with Bilic.  If he gets dropped for Hinchcliffe, I will be very very annoyed.
  • Oster:  I believe the occasion/weather got to the young lad. There is potential here, but a home game in front of 36,000 at 100+ degrees is not ideal. Especially with others around you new as well. I think after a dozen games we will begin to see him at his best.
  • Thomsen:  Did he play well or am I really missing something?  I don't recall him losing the ball once. I do recall him making numerous neat passes and two excellent tackles covering for Thomas and Watson/Bilic. Scapegoat?  Yes indeed!!!
  • Speed:  Lots of running, tackling and passing. Neat and tidy but nothing special. One day, one of his bicycle kicks will actually be on target. Until then, can someone tell he to pack it in.
  • Farrelly:  Very impressed with this young lad. Again running, tackling and passing as with Speed. I felt that the midfield players all seemed very similar and all tried to do the same job. Then again it was only the first match.
  • Stuart:  Utter garbage. The man is completely useless. I can't believe how he gets into the side. He can't score (not unless he has a dozen chances first), pass, or defend. The only thing he does is try. I'd rather have a player who doesn't try but can pass, shoot, defend -- a la Sheedy, Hinchcliffe, etc. I think if you were to look up, in a dictionary, "Ferguson's Frustration" you would see "= Stuart".  I blame him for our disallowed goal, and both of theirs. (He gets the blame for the first one just because he was playing).  I am not being fickle either.  This is the man who almost cost us the 1995 Cup Final had Rideout not been on hand. Which reminds me, why sell Rideout, Amo and keep Stuart? Beats me as well!!
  • Ferguson:  Should have done more with the possession/chances he had. Did not win as much as expected in the air. I don't know why but he did not look hungry enough.
  • Branch:  He needs to calm down a bit. I think he is trying far too hard. You look at world class strikers and scoring is natural to them. This lad obviously has the ability, but seems to be trying to hard to prove it.
  • Barmby:  Here is a world class player very much like Beardsley. He will fade in and out of games but has the ability to turn a match in a split second. Should have played from the start, in turn, tried to hard after coming on, much like Branch.
  • Short:  I think he is a very good centre half I would like to see him and Bilic given a run together 'cos I believe they would make a good long term partnership.
  • O'Connor:  If O'Connor wasn't injured then where the hell was he?  Him and Oster look to be almost telepathic when playing together.

TEAM PERFORMANCE: Looked and played like a team full of new faces. Just never seemed to gel properly. Given time, and a settled side, I think we could do quite well.

Kendall: Several mistakes cost us the match:

  1. Not bringing on Barrett for Thomas
  2. Playing Stuart instead of Barmby
  3. Not having O'Connor in the squad (unless injured)
  4. Playing Stuart at right-back

This was the way I saw things through my glasses. Mark Jensen

Some Positive Aspects, but a lot Wrong too
Richard Marland

There were no huge surprises in the line up, Barmby was unfortunate to be benched -- the Beardsley syndrome again -- where exactly do you play him to get the best out of him?  The only surprise for me was that Tony Thomas got the nod ahead of Barrett (who I expected to play) and O'Connor who I thought had an outside chance of making it.

So, we lined up Nev in goal, a flat back four of Thomas, Phelan, Bilic and Watson (Bilic on the left of central defence, Watson on the right), four in midfield -- Oster, Thomsen, Speed and Farrelly -- Thomsen playing the holding role in front of the defence, Oster on the right, Farrelly on the left and Speed in the centre, and finally Dunc and Stuart up front. The bench consisted of Gerrard, Barrett, Short, Barmby and Branch.

The big surprise of the afternoon was that Gary Speed was captain, I only got into the ground 1 minute before kick off, so I didn't see who led the team out, but Speed definitely went up for the toss. Personally I think this is an excellent idea.  Myself and many others have pointed out Speed's suitability as captain and to make him captain whilst Dave Watson is still there to offer his not inconsiderable support is an inspired decision.

First Half

The match started off fairly low key.  We showed a willingness and desire to keep the ball on the deck; we passed the ball nicely and patiently and we looked comfortable on the ball. Ominously, we didn't have much to show for this possession and didn't really put their goal under any pressure. Palace on the other hand, despite their lack of possession, still managed to give us a couple of real scares, Southall saving well to rescue Watson from an own goal.

Midway through the first half, we did force the ball into their net.  Bilic won a header from a corner which Stuart forced over the goal line; mystifyingly, the referee disallowed it.  At the next stop in play Bilic went and asked him why it had been disallowed -- the referee indicated that it had been a handball. Having now seen the replay this was a mistake.  The handball was given against Stuart who clearly didn't handle the ball.

Towards the end of the first half, I suddenly realised that little or nothing had been seen of Lombardo. Naturally, within a minute of this observation he had scored.  We were carved up down our left hand flank with embarrassing ease, Lombardo racing onto a Warhurst pass and placing the ball beyond Southall.  Looking at the replays on Match of the Day, it looks like Farrelly may have been the one who failed to pick up Lombardo, he was certainly the one nearest him when he started his run and was left behind, vainly appealing for offside.

Second Half

Half time brought an inevitable reshuffle. Branch came on for Thomas, Branch went up front and Stuart switched to right back. In principle I agreed with what Kendall was trying to do -- we needed an injection of pace and verve up front, and Thomas hadn't looked too convincing at right back. It was right to bring on Branch but switching Stuart to right back seemed a strange choice especially when Barrett, a specialist right back was on the bench. Maybe Kendall just wanted to save a substitution.

Despite the switch it was basically more of the same. We were still constructing some neat passing but there was no end product, and Palace continued to worry us through Lombardo and Dyer. Kendall made another switch, Barmby coming on for Thomsen, and this was another substitution which puzzled me. I felt that Thomsen had been doing quite well, the man I expected to come off was John Oster who looked, frankly, rather lost out there.

It wasn't long before Palace's clinching goal came. Lombardo beat Stuart and as he raced through Stuart clipped his heels, a clear penalty. Dyer put the penalty right in the bottom corner. We did perform a late rally, Dunc scored with a soaring header with 4 minutes to go, and we did mount a somewhat half hearted assault on the Palace goal. The equalising goal never came and in all honesty it would have been a travesty if it had.

So, what do we take out of a game like this. Clearly it is a major embarrassment to be beaten at home by a fairly modest Palace side. The press will undoubtedly have a field day at our expense, we have certainly reinforced their belief that we will be relegation strugglers. I think, though, that a little perspective should be kept.  

Opening day of the season is a notoriously unreliable guide to the rest of the season, -- remember last season and our hugely encouraging victory over Newcastle? Clearly Kendall has some hard thinking to do, the team that went out looked distinctly unbalanced.  We lacked width, we lacked penetration from midfield and we lacked movement up front.  We also looked uncertain at the back.

It should also be borne in mind that we fielded four debutants, two of whom - Farrelly and Oster - are lacking in first-team experience, and we are also attempting to play a different style. With further familiarity, what we have out on the pitch will perform better and if Kendall can bring in quality reinforcements this will obviously help.

This setback does not necessarily mean that we are relegation fodder.  Let's wait a few games before we write ourselves off, but it was a sobering comedown. Lets keep faith that Kendall can see what's going wrong, and trust that he has the ability to put things right, -- the man's record suggests that he can.

The Players

  • Southall 7 No chance with the goals, made a couple of good saves.
  • Thomas 5 Fairly disappointing, never built up any kind of understanding with Oster. Let's be fair to him and remember that this was his Premiership debut in an unfamiliar team.
  • Phelan 6 Usual hard running but caught out of position a few times.
  • Bilic 7 An impressive debut. Made a number of immaculate tackles, looked comfortable on the ball and set up what should have been the opening goal. My man of the match.
  • Watson 6 Competent performance.
  • Thomsen 6 I thought he did OK. Used the ball well, could have been even better if there had been some movement for him up field. Very surprised that he was substituted,
  • Farrelly 6 Reasonable debut. Showed some good touches, looked comfortable on the ball and was prepared to shoot from distance. Definite signs of promise.
  • Speed 6 Not one of his better days, I got the impression that maybe he was striving a little too hard to make things happen.
  • Oster 5 Looked lost out there. Showed some nice touches and awareness but never threatened their penalty area. Had an annoying tendency to drift in field rather than stay out wide offering some width.
  • Ferguson 6 Another one who didn't hit any heights. Did show some nice touches on the deck but wasn't exactly dominant in the air (don't know if this was poor delivery or his mistiming - probably a bit of both).
  • Stuart 5 I'm sure there will be many queuing up to crucify Stuart, personally I think that would be totally unfair on the man. He started off up front and did OK, scoring what should have been a goal. He wasn't so good at right back, but then what do you expect, the man is not a right back. Lombardo is a very good player, Lombardo v Stuart is something of a mismatch. Rather than venting spleen at Stuart, maybe some questions should be asked of the man who asked him to fill in at right back.
  • Branch 6 Showed some good pace but like everyone else it was to little real effect.
  • Barmby 6 Gave it a go but without any real success
  • Short - First match of the season and we are sending on a centre back to go on as emergency, additional centre forward. Only on a few minutes.

Team 6 There were some positive aspects to this performance.  They did try and play the ball on the deck, we do appear to have a higher proportion of players who are comfortable on the ball.  Bilic's debut was hugely encouraging, and to a lesser extent so was Farrelly's.  However, there was also an awful lot wrong with this performance.  Richard Marland

Palace given perfect start by Lombardo
by Chris Lightbown, The Sunday Times

IT WILL rarely come easier than this for Crystal Palace. They began rather stiffly and were packing men behind the ball when Attilio Lombardo unexpectedly scored. Thereafter, they rarely looked like losing.

Lombardo's introduction to the realities of life after Juventus came quickly enough. His first significant touch of the ball came in the second minute and consisted of a brief, drifting run which ended in a collision with the brick wall that is Dave Watson.

Would Lombardo deign to get as involved over the next 88 minutes? For some time, the answer seemed to be a vague sort of maybe. Palace began with five men hauled back in defence and that left the great man with an awful lot of work to do in midfield and he wasn't awfully inclined to do it.

But he scored. Not exactly for the first time, quite a lot of space peeled open down the length of Everton's left flank. To be fair about it, Gareth Farrelly spotted Lombardo moving through this area so bereft of blue shirts, and followed him.

But the damage was done, not least because Terry Phelan, who should have been doing the work in that patch, seemed to have discovered a previous engagement in another area of the pitch altogether.

Paul Warhurst latched on to the ball, crossed it with ease and Lombardo drifted through some more vacant space. He seemed to mis-hit his shot but the connection was enough to beat Neville Southall.

Everton were stunned. For all that they had failed to put together anything resembling a pattern of pressure, they had tried. Farrelly had ferociously fed Graham Stuart. Duncan Ferguson had run back into midfield to rampage when Palace's gang of five had restricted his space up front. All sorts of things had nearly emerged from Everton's midfield and Tony Thomas, for one, never stopped his forward runs.

But Palace's defensive blotting paper soaked up most of this. In one period of sustained Everton pressure, David Tuttle and Marc Edworthy got so stretched from having to make constant clearances that Lombardo trotted back to help them.

Having scored so early on, Palace were inevitably put on what passes for the rack at Everton. Stuart had a shot which went close. Ferguson got in a header which met a similar fate and young Michael Branch, Everton's somewhat reduced version of Robbie Fowler, did everything he could to grab an equaliser.

But as time wore on - and wore on is exactly what it did - Palace tightened their tight ranks. Five at the back became six, and on occasions more like nine. Simon Rodger got back to clear one Everton raid which looked as if it was going to slip through. When Palace's weight of numbers and utter determination were not sufficient, Everton's lack of rhythm kept Palace in control.

Palace sensed something was possible. A few raids of their own filtered out from the attempt at a siege that Everton were starting to mount on Kevin Miller's goal. One of them saw Lombardo turning up in Southall's area. Quite unnecessarily, Stuart tripped him up. Bruce Dyer took the penalty and effectively gave Palace the game.

Too little, too late, Ferguson neatly headed a consolation effort, but Everton were off the grass. Kevin Muscat almost notched a third and at the whistle, some Palace players looked at each other with an expression that said "It can't be this easy, can it?"

Report Times Newspapers Ltd

Humble Lombardo makes stately Palace entrance
by Russell Kempson, The Times

OF ALL the foreign imports that now saturate the FA Carling Premiership, there is something about bald or balding Italians; something that excites the passions, stirs the emotions and inspires wonderment; something that similarly, and often subsequently, provokes dislike, generates distrust and raises the hackles.

First, there was Gianluca Vialli, the shaven-headed idol of Chelsea, who entranced Stamford Bridge with his grace and guile but soon whinged long and loud when his first-team place was lost. Then there was Fabrizio Ravanelli, the crop-haired "White Feather" of Middlesbrough, who conquered Teesside with his glut of goals, but quickly wanted out when relegation was confirmed.

On Saturday at Goodison Park, Attilio Lombardo, latterly of Juventus, presented himself for inspection with Crystal Palace. He is 31, smooth of pate, approaching the twilight of an illustrious career and joined Palace - certainties for the Premiership drop, according to most pre-season pundits - only a week ago.

He had, if reports were to be believed, demanded a mansion, a maid and a butler to help to ease his transition from Serie A to Selhurst Park and perhaps soften the blow when Palace return from whence they came, the Nationwide League. He then, apparently, reconsidered, pledged his allegiance and concluded the 1.6 million deal - minus the stately pile and servants.

"That was the biggest load of cobblers I've ever heard," Steve Coppell, the Palace manager, said. "He's not a prima donna, he's not over here just to earn a few bob. He's a professional in every sense."

Lombardo sat on the right of midfield, collecting the scraps from Palace's defensive resilience and launching counter-attacks with stealth and intelligence. It was a gentle, encouraging work-out, against an uncoordinated and unimaginative Everton side and appeared, at least initially, to fill the void left by Hopkin's summer defection to Leeds United.

"We needed someone to break forward from that midfield role," Coppell said. "I gave him that freedom, but he is so diligent that he also dropped back to tackle when needed." Good players are invariably associated with key moments, too. Lombardo flicked in the opening goal in the 34th minute, from Warhurst's chipped pass, and was brought down by Stuart in the second half to earn a penalty, from which Dyer confidently extended the Palace lead.

Though Everton dominated, it was with little conviction. Howard Kendall's first game in charge, at the start of his third spell at Goodison, was not auspicious. Neither was Speed's first match as captain, nor Ferguson's first outing of a new five-year contract, nor the debuts of Oster, Thomas and Farrelly. Only Bilic, smooth and safe on his introduction, had any cause for minor satisfaction.

Lofting the ball persistently into the area for Ferguson produced a defiant response from Palace and only once did the ploy work, when he headed in Stuart's 85th-minute free kick. It was otherwise predictable fare. How Kendall must have wished Ravanelli, Ince or Ferdinand had accepted his close-season advances.

Lombardo stole the show on a Mediterranean afternoon on Merseyside. How he fares in deep midwinter, when Palace are under pressure and Selhurst Park is awash, will prove more relevant. Bald is beautiful . . . but for how long?

Report Times Newspapers Ltd

Lombardo and Palace are birds of a feather
Michael Staniforth, Electronic Telegraph

THE Bald Eagle has landed. Attilio Lombardo marked his premiership debut with a goal and an assist which gave Crystal Palace victory on their return to the top flight over a disappointing Everton.

Palace, only the sixth best team in Division One last season before winning promotion via the play-offs, defied the sceptics with a competent performance topped by a goal from the former Juventus striker, who also won a penalty converted by Bruce Dyer.

Everton, in contrast, seemed unable to raise their game for the third coming of manager Howard Kendall. Their play had more of last season's relegation struggle about it than the fresh hope engendered by a new era. The height of Duncan Ferguson, despite his late consolation goal, needs to be an option and not a single-minded strategy.

Everton fielded all four of their summer signings -- Slaven Bilic, John Oster, Tony Thomas, Gareth Farrelly -- and unveiled a new captain in Gary Speed. Palace introduced their new backbone of Lombardo, Paul Warhurst and Kevin Miller.

For Kendall, it was a third start as Everton's manager, ironically against the side which ended his hopes of a return to the Premiership with his former club Sheffield United. But the scorer of that decisive goal in the play-off final, David Hopkin, has moved onto Leeds, a transfer which may yet prove to be the most decisive of the summer for Palace.

Their likely main problem this season was exemplified in the opening minutes when Lombardo threaded a perfect pass through the home defence, only for Dyer to spurn the opportunity. Dyer does not really look like a 20-goals-a-season man, for all his unsettling pace and evident spirit.

Yet Palace's early invention easily outweighed that of Everton until the 20th minute when Farrelly's corner was headed goalwards by Bilic. It looked to be going in at the far post but Graham Stuart provided a finishing touch, only to be ruled offside. That was particularly cruel on Bilic, the cultured star of the first half.

To add insult to injury, Everton's period of sustained pressure which followed that disallowed effort was then undermined by a breakaway by Lombardo, who took a return pass from Warhurst to slide the ball past Neville Southall for a debut goal and a half-time lead for the visitors.

Palace were making a better fist of their Premiership return than the last time, when they slumped to a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Everton's Merseyside neighbours. A five-man defence saw bodies being thrown in front of every attempt on goal.

Everton's defence, meanwhile, was being caught out for pace and too square, exemplified when Lombardo burst through only to be felled in the area by Stuart. Dyer, whose first touch had been poor throughout the afternoon, made no mistake from the spot. Stuart then made partial amends by floating a free-kick on to the head of Ferguson, but it proved to be too late and Southall had to be at his best to prevent more embarrassment.

Report The Electronic Telegraph

Match Description
PA News

Everton had new signings Slaven Bilic, Gareth Farrelly, John Oster and Tony Thomas on show against Crystal Palace at Goodison Park this afternoon.  And Palace had new Italian signing Attilio Lombardo and former Blackburn utility man Paul Warhurst making their Premiership debuts.

Bilic needed to be at his quickest after just a minute when he raced back to lunge in and deflect the ball back to Neville Southall as Warhurst was racing clear. Palace were finding holes in the Everton rearguard, and Lombardo's clever ball down the line sent Dean Gordon away but, when the cross came, Southall hurled himself forward to smother the danger.

Everton finally got themselves going and Farrelly took a Graham Stuart pass 20 yards out and forced a flying save from Kevin Miller. Terry Phelan had a blistering drive charged down by Kevin Muscat after a fine cross from Duncan Ferguson,who got a warm reception when his new five-year contract was announced.

Palace were still giving a great account of themselves on their return to the top flight, and Watson and Southall got in a terrible tangle trying to deal with a vicious Bruce Dyer right wing cross. Stuart had a goal disallowed after 21 minutes. He headed in from right under the bar after Bilic had nodded a corner on but his effort was rightly ruled out for offside.

Miller had an awful lot of trouble holding off Ferguson as the ball ran free in the box, and then just managed to palm the ball away as Claus Thomsen raced into the box chasing a through ball. There was little seen of Lombardo who was being bypassed in the high speed midfield battle.

Oster was causing problems on the right and delivered a series of crosses aimed at Ferguson but the giant Scot failed to connect.

Attilio Lombardo marked his debut in English soccer with a goal after just 34 minutes against Everton at Goodison Park. The 1.6m signing from Juventus had managed only fleeting flashes of involvement in the game until that point. But he produced a piece of clinical finishing that had the travelling Palace fans, on their return to the top flight, dancing with joy. The balding Italian star cruised onto a pass from Paul Warhurst after Simon Rodger had fed the ball through, and neatly slid the ball under Neville Southall's body.

Thomas went off injured at the break and was replaced by young Michael Branch, who joined Ferguson up front with Stuart switching to full-back.

Within three minutes of slotting into the defence, Stuart was booked for a foul on Lombardo. Ferguson almost equalised after 53 minutes when he rose powerfully to crash a header inches over the bar from Terry Phelan's left wing cross.

Palace were soaking up the pressure and hitting Everton on the break, and they almost snatched a second when Bruce Dyer cracked a low drive inches wide of the post from out on the left.  Lombardo was now far more involved in the game, finding time and space in midfield to spray passes around.

Everton were becoming increasingly desperate and threw on Nicky Barmby up front, taking off midfielder Claus Thomsen. It was Lombardo who created Palace's second goal when he raced clear into space on the left, having got in behind Stuart. When the red-haired striker-turned-defender did manage to catch the Italian, he felled him from behind for a clear penalty, which Bruce Dyer struck past Southall with a sure drive into the bottom corner.

Duncan Ferguson got a consolation goal for Everton but by then it was too little, too late.

Report The Press Association

RESULTS (Game 2)
Wednesday 13 August 1997
ASTON VILLA             0-4    BLACKBURN ROVERS          37,112
                               Sutton(21,25,41) Ripley(71)
DERBY COUNTY            2-1    WIMBLEDON                 24,571 (Game abandoned 
Ward(20) Eranio(33)            Perry(21)              due to floodlight failure)
LIVERPOOL               1-2    LEICESTER CITY            35,007
Ince(85)                       Elliott(1) Fenton(83)
MANCHESTER UNITED       1-0    SOUTHAMPTON               55,008
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY     1-3    LEEDS UNITED              31,520
Hyde(70)                       Wallace(7,62) Ribeiro(36)
WEST HAM UNITED         2-1    TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR         25,354
Hartson(4) Berkovic(70)        Ferdinand(83)

Tuesday 12 August 1997
CRYSTAL PALACE          0-1    BARNSLEY                  21,547
Monday 11 August 1997
ARSENAL                 2-0    COVENTRY CITY             37,234  

LEAGUE TABLE (after 13 August 1997)
Pos Club                          P    W    D    L   GF   GA   GD   Pts
 1. Blackburn Rovers              2    2    0    0    5    0    5    6
 2. Manchester United             2    2    0    0    3    0    3    6
 3. West Ham United               2    2    0    0    4    2    2    6
 4. Leicester City                2    2    0    0    3    1    2    6
 5. Leeds United                  2    1    1    0    4    2    2    4
 6. Arsenal                       2    1    1    0    3    1    2    4
 7. Newcastle United              1    1    0    0    2    1    1    3
 8. Bolton Wanderers              1    1    0    0    1    0    1    3
 9. Crystal Palace                2    1    0    1    2    2    0    3
    Barnsley                      2    1    0    1    2    2    0    3
11. Coventry City                 2    1    0    1    3    4   -1    3
12. Wimbledon                     1    0    1    0    1    1    0    1
13. Liverpool                     2    0    1    1    2    3   -1    1
    Chelsea                       1    0    0    1    2    3   -1    0
15. Everton                       1    0    0    1    1    2   -1    0
16. Derby County                  1    0    0    1    0    1   -1    0
17. Southampton                   2    0    0    2    0    2   -2    0
18. Sheffield Wednesday           2    0    0    2    2    5   -3    0
19. Tottenham Hotspur             2    0    0    2    1    4   -3    0
20. Aston Villa                   2    0    0    2    0    5   -5    0

RESULTS (Game 1)
Sunday 10 August 1997
Butt(82) Vega(og:83)

Saturday 9 August 1997
BARNSLEY                1-2    WEST HAM UNITED           18,667  
Redfearn(9)                    Hartson(53) Lampard(76)
BLACKBURN ROVERS        1-0    DERBY COUNTY              23,557  
COVENTRY CITY           3-2    CHELSEA                   22,686  
Dublin(41,82,88)               Sinclair(39) Flo(71)
EVERTON                 1-2    CRYSTAL PALACE            35,716  
Ferguson(85)                   Lombardo(36) Dyer(pen:77)
LEEDS UNITED            1-1    ARSENAL                   27,993  
Hasselbaink(42)                Wright(35)
LEICESTER CITY          1-0    ASTON VILLA               20,304  
Asprilla (2, 72)               Carbone(8) 
SOUTHAMPTON             0-1    BOLTON WANDERERS          15,206  
WIMBLEDON               1-1    LIVERPOOL                 26,106  
Gayle(55)                      Owen(pen:71)

LEAGUE TABLE (after 9 August 1997)
Pos Club                          P    W    D    L   GF   GA   GD   Pts
 1. Manchester United             1    1    0    0    2    0    2    3
 2. Coventry City                 1    1    0    0    3    2    1    3
 3. Newcastle United              1    1    0    0    2    1    1    3
    West Ham United               1    1    0    0    2    1    1    3
    Crystal Palace                1    1    0    0    2    1    1    3
 6. Blackburn Rovers              1    1    0    0    1    0    1    3
    Leicester City                1    1    0    0    1    0    1    3
    Bolton Wanderers              1    1    0    0    1    0    1    3
 9. Liverpool                     1    0    1    0    1    1    0    1
    Arsenal                       1    0    1    0    1    1    0    1
    Leeds United                  1    0    1    0    1    1    0    1
    Wimbledon                     1    0    1    0    1    1    0    1
13. Chelsea                       1    0    0    1    2    3   -1    0
14. Everton                       1    0    0    1    1    2   -1    0
    Sheffield Wednesday           1    0    0    1    1    2   -1    0
    Barnsley                      1    0    0    1    1    2   -1    0
17. Aston Villa                   1    0    0    1    0    1   -1    0
    Derby County                  1    0    0    1    0    1   -1    0
    Southampton                   1    0    0    1    0    1   -1    0
20. Tottenham Hotspur             1    0    0    1    0    2   -2    0

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Michael Kenrick 1997