It might be too late for Dominic Calvert-Lewin to force his way back into the England fold for the World Cup but there remains plenty of time for the striker to shape Everton’s season. Gareth Southgate was looking on as the fit-again forward helped engineer an emphatic victory over a strangely subdued Crystal Palace.
The England international scored his first goal of an injury-plagued campaign and was involved in the second for Anthony Gordon as Everton halted a three-match losing run with their biggest win of the season. Dwight McNeil’s excellent third sealed an impressive display by Frank Lampard’s team that left Patrick Vieira simmering with barely concealed anger. Asked to explain the Palace performance, Vieira replied: “It wasn’t a performance from us. We didn’t play, we didn’t compete and we made it easy for Everton.” What went wrong? “Everything.”
Palace failed to match Everton’s energy, industry and attacking intent throughout. In Calvert-Lewin, the hosts had the outlet and quality that Lampard has craved in the final third all season. An England return appears remote for the 25-year-old with only three more Premier League games before Qatar, but this was a vivid demonstration of his importance to Everton. “It’s every boy’s dream to go to the World Cup,” said Calvert-Lewin, who clearly has not given up on a late inclusion. “All I can do is play the best I can for Everton and score goals and see where that takes me.”
Lampard also believes England’s door may still be ajar for Calvert-Lewin. The Everton manager said: “Gareth knows him really well and has taken him to tournaments before so it’s not about finding anything new about him. It is about him being fit and firing and if he can sustain that going into the break it will be Gareth’s choice. It is out of Dominic’s hands but what he could control today he certainly did. I’m delighted for him. He has been frustrated but today you saw his fitness and sharpness.”
Calvert-Lewin’s breakthrough, on only his second start of the season, reflected the performance of both teams. There was no sign of three successive defeats affecting Everton’s confidence as they pressed Palace into submission early on. The striker hunted down Luka Milivojevic deep inside the visitors’ half to steal possession from a hesitant Palace captain. The dirty work done, Calvert-Lewin immediately set off for the opposition box to receive a return ball from Alex Iwobi. His first touch took him away from a tumbling Marc Guéhi and created space for a precise, low finish beyond Vicente Guaita. It was the forward’s first goal since securing Everton’s Premier League status with a diving header against Palace 156 days ago.
Palace awoke from their lethargy midway through the first half but rarely tested Jordan Pickford. When Odsonne Édouard breached the home defence and looked to release Wilfried Zaha, Séamus Coleman, 13 years to the day since his Everton debut, showed excellent awareness and pace to intervene. The veteran dominated Zaha all afternoon and denied him with a superb tackle inside the area when Palace made a determined start to the second half. Conor Coady followed suit with a vital touch to divert Eberechi Eze’s effort wide when he looked set to convert Jordan Ayew’s cross to the near post.
Everton brought themselves the comfort of a second goal after a flowing move instigated by Pickford’s brave pass out to Coleman. Calvert-Lewin found Iwobi, Demarai Gray found Amadou Onana, who released Vitalii Mykolenko down the left. The Ukraine international’s low drive was spilled by Guaita into the path of Anthony Gordon, who tapped into an empty goal. The winger was clearly onside when Mykolenko shot yet was initially flagged offside. VAR set the record straight, much to the delight of Idrissa Gana Gueye, who sprayed a water bottle into Gordon’s face.
Calvert-Lewin and Gordon departed to standing ovations before substitute McNeil added a delightful third. The summer signing darted away from two tired challenges and released Iwobi inside the area. Iwobi backheeled the ball first time into the path of the former Burnley winger and he sealed victory from close range. “It’s nice to have a comfortable win at Goodison Park,” said Lampard. “We haven’t had many of those.”