BY SAM SMITH
Michy Batshuayi offered the perfect response to a spikey exchange with manager Roy Hodgson, scoring a late equaliser to help Crystal Palace to a 1-1 draw with Everton at Goodison Park.
Hodgson had urged Batshuayi to prove his worth in this fixture rather than for Belgium against Belarus, a game in which the on-loan Chelsea man scored. Batshuayi had suggested a lack of opportunities at club level in an interview conducted while on international duty.
In the 85th minute, the 27-year-old substitute took Wilfried Zaha’s pass in his stride and slid an effort across goal and into the corner. It came after James Rodriguez had given Everton the lead early in the second half.
This was an entertaining game that, at times, was end-to-end.
Ebere Eze tested Robin Olsen with a powerful strike but it was one of few first-half chances for the South Londoners, despite some neat passes and build-up play. It would take until the second half, long after Rodriguez’s goal, that the Everton goalkeeper would be troubled again.
Instead, Vicente Guaita was by far the busier shot-stopper. Without the Spaniard, Everton might have had far more than just the one goal. He first kept out Dominic Calvert-Lewin when the England forward raced through on goal and then made a double save to deny Richarlison in a similar scenario.
Richarlison was on a mission to beat Guaita but ultimately failed. He curled a free kick wide and then missed the target again, this time heading over from a set piece. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s early second-half effort was destined for the bottom corner until Cheikhou Kouyate diverted the ball away.
The duel between the Richarlison and Guaita was key in the build-up to Everton opening the scoring. The forward’s initial toe-poked effort was saved, but Seamus Coleman picked up the rebound, waited for support, and teed up Rodriguez to stroke home.
Palace improved after the goal. Olsen was equal to a swerving Eze strike from distance and the Swede also denied Zaha and Jordan Ayew.
Hodgson deserves huge credit for this win. Palace were progressive and each of the 73-year-old’s substitutions had an eye on improving in attack. On came Jeffrey Schlupp, Jean-Philippe Mateta and Batshuayi. To offer the latter a chance was evidence of the former England boss’ excellent man-management.
And the latter might have justified his case for more starts. The Belgian had failed to come off the bench in each of Palace’s last five matches – his last appearance was in February’s 3-0 defeat against Burnley.
“I get a breath of renewed energy when I come into the national team, because it’s very hard for me at my club,” Batshuayi said last week. Hodgson returned: “I would advise people that when they do go away and say that to be a little bit careful.
“Because playing 60 minutes against Belarus and scoring one of eight goals is not quite the same as if he comes on against Everton and helps them to a 3-0 win by scoring a couple.”
This was not quite a couple of goals, but his strike – hard and low across Olsen from a tight angle – earned Palace a point. Hodgson will point to the fact that it was just Batshuayi’s second goal of the season, but the striker will see it as a reminder of his qualities.
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