Crystal Palace 1
Everton 3

Crystal Palace were counting the cost of a horrendous blunder by goalkeeper Julian Speroni, which turned the game in Everton's favour on Saturday.

Mark Hudson's first goal in Palace colours had given Iain Dowie's side a ninth minute lead, which would have been doubled had Alan Stubbs not made a breathtaking goal-line clearance to deny Andy Johnson on 15 minutes.

Palace were dominating their first home game of the season and threatening to run riot in front of 23,666 at Selhurst Park, until £750,000 summer signing Speroni had a rush of blood to the head.

Having collected a hopeful long ball, the Argentine put defender Tony Popovic under pressure with an ill-advised throw, and when the ball was returned, he opted to dribble round the on-rushing Kevin Campbell, instead of kicking.

The result was disasterous for his side, as Campbell nicked the ball past him, before being upended by the clumsiest of trips for a clear-cut penalty.

Thomas Gravesen dispatched the penalty low and hard to Speroni's right, to hand David Moyes the initiative in a game that was slipping away from them. The Danish midfielder, briefly a summer target for Iain Dowie, went on to orchestrate Palace's downfall in the second half, curling home from the edge of the box and chipping over the top for Marcus Bent to seal the win, despite Gary Naysmith's late dismissal.

A cagey start saw Palace's new look line-up struggle to find the cohesion that took them to the play-offs. Leaving Michael Hughes on the bench, Dowie opted for a defensive central midfield pairing of Aki Riihilahti and defender Fitz Hall, to combat the powerful Gravesen and Lee Carsley.

The move worked well in the first half, as dangerman Gravesen was denied possession and Palace carved a regular supply route to wingers Joonas Kolkka and Wayne Routledge, and strikers Johnson and Dougie Freedman, recalled because of Sandor Torghelle's ankle injury.

It was 19-year-old Routledge who made the break-through on nine minutes, getting to the byline and whipping a wonderful cross to the back post where Hudson stooped to powerfully head home.

Four minutes later Naysmith's diagonal ball caught the Palace defence napping but Marcus Bent lobbed over the bar from 12 yards out.

Then Freedman sent Johnson clear of the Everton backline with a wonderful through ball. Palace's top marksman danced around Martyn and appeared to have slotted home from an acute angle, but Stubbs was on hand to clear off the line.

Despite Speroni's Rene Higuita tribute, Palace still dominated until the break. On the half hour, Freedman again set Johnson clear of the defence but he could only strike a powerful low drive straight at Martyn.

Two minutes later, Routledge played Johnson in on the right, but Stubbs was able to make the block. Gravesen bent a free kick over the bar and Freedman was unlucky to see his well-struck volley from a Kolkka corner drift over the bar.

Emmerson Boyce and Naysmith were booked, before Palace headed down the tunnel no doubt confident of victory.

For all their possession and incisive passing in the first half, Palace struggled in the second, with Hall and Aki working hard, but creating little.

Speroni made a great one-handed save from the lively Bent, but it was midfield hardman Gravesen who dominated proceedings. With an hour gone the Dane picked up the ball on the edge of the box and was given an age by Hudson to curl into the top right corner from 22 yards.

Referee Mark Clattenburg waved away a sure-fire penalty when Hibbert brought down Johnson as he bore down on goal but with 10 minutes to go he sent off Gary Naysmith for his second bookable offence after Speroni had again denied Bent.

Dowie had brought on Ivan Kaviedes for an impressive 15 minute cameo, but with eight minutes to go, it was that man Gravesen who lobbed the sluggish defence for Bent to apply a cool finish past Speroni.

On the evidence of the first-half, Palace will trouble a lot of Premiership sides this season, but the second smacked of cannon-fodder, as the rudderless Eagles hardly created a chance, even against 10 men.

Nevertheless Dowie was upbeat: "We've got to try and be more ruthless and clinical when we are in the ascendancy, because we were in the ascendancy. When they got that goal they got a massive lift but there's no blame culture at this club. If it hadn't been for some sloppy second-half defending then we may have got something out of the game."


Man of the Match Andy Johnson On another day he could have had a hat-trick, but was denied by Martyn and Stubbs. Missing a target man to play off, AJ's tireless work-rate and clever runs troubled the visitors throughout.

Palace: Speroni 5, Boyce 6 (Kaviedes 77 6), Hudson 6, Popovic 6, Granville 6, Routledge 8, Riihilahti 7 (Derry 73 6), Hall 7, Kolkka 6, Johnson 8, Freedman 7.Not Used: Hughes, Borrowdale, Kiraly.Booked: Boyce.

Everton: Martyn, Hibbert, Stubbs, Naysmith, Carsley, Osman (Pistone 75), Yobo, Gravesen, Kilbane, Campbell (Ferguson 54), Bent (Watson 85).

Not Used: Wright, McFadden.

Sent Off: Naysmith (71).

PALACE Everton 9 Shots On Target 7 6 Shots Off Target 7 6 Fouls against 18 6 Corners 6 1 Yellow Cards 1 0 Red Cards 1