EVERTON 2 CRYSTAL PALACE 3
EVERTON manager Roberto Martinez blamed stage-fright after Crystal Palace delivered a huge blow to his side’s bid to qualify for the Champions League last night.
Goals from Jason Puncheon, Scott Dann and Cameron Jerome earned Palace a fourth consecutive Premier League victory for the first time since 1995 and rubberstamped their safety from relegation. Everton’s reply, through Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas, was not enough to sustain their run of six successive wins or to lift them back above fourthplaced Arsenal, one point ahead with four to play.
“We wanted to win so much that we stopped being ourselves and that is what we have to learn from,” said Martinez. “It’s a real disappointment, a hurtful result. The first half we were fearful.” Palace boss Tony Pulis, who has transformed them from relegation certainties to a team 11th and 10 points from the drop zone in less than five months, deadpanned: “Yeah, we were very good.”
Puncheon set the visitors on their way with his fourth goal in three games in the 23rd minute, sweeping in after Yannick Bolasie’s cross caused panic. Dann’s downward header from a corner extended the lead on 49 minutes, and although Naismith prodded in for Everton inside the six-yard box just after the hour, Puncheon teed up Jerome to shoot low past Tim Howard and clinch a potentially decisive result, despite Kevin Mirallas rounding Julian Speroni in the dying moments.
RUN-IN: TOP FIVE
Norwich City (A) 20 April; Chelsea (H) 27 April; Crystal Palace (A) 5 May; Newcastle United (H) 11 May
Sunderland (H) 19 April; Liverpool (A) 27 April; Norwich City (H) 4 May; Cardiff City (A) 11 May
West Brom (H) 21 April; Crystal Palace (A) 27 April; Everton (A) 3 May; Aston Villa (H) 7 May; West Ham (H) 11 May
Hull City (A) 20 April; Newcastle United (H) 28 April; West Brom (H) 4 May; Norwich City (A) 11 May
Manchester United (H) 20 April; Southampton (A) 26 April; Manchester City (H) 3 May; Hull City (A) 11 May