Everton 2 Crystal Palace 3: Roberto Martinez defiant that Everton still hold the key to their Champions League hopes
Martinez's side suffered a shock defeat at home to leave them a point behind fourth-placed Arsenal with just four games left to play
Thursday 17 April 2014
Everton boss Roberto Martinez has stressed he remains encouraged about his side's chances of securing a top-four Barclays Premier League finish despite their damaging 3-2 home loss to Crystal Palace on Wednesday.
Avoiding defeat would have seen the Champions League-chasing Toffees move back above Arsenal into fourth place, and a win would have re-established them a two-point cushion over the Gunners.
But instead they remain fifth, a point behind Arsenal with both clubs having four games left.
Everton play Manchester United at home on Sunday and also have to host Manchester City, while their other matches are at Southampton and Hull.
Arsenal, whose goal difference is inferior to Everton's by three, face Newcastle and West Brom at home and have away clashes with Hull and Norwich.
Martinez said: "I don't think Arsenal will get full points between now and the end of the season.
"When you are one point away from them with a goal difference in our favour, it still very much relies on what we do. I truly believe it will be in our hands.
"We are in a very good position. If you look at it after the weekend (when Everton were two points ahead of Arsenal in fourth), it is a disappointment, but if you had looked at this at the start of the season, you'd think it is a magnificent position.
"It is a unique challenge and opportunity. We are excited from that point of view.
"And the way we finished the second half, it gives me great encouragement."
Palace deservedly went 1-0 up through Jason Puncheon's first-half strike and then 2-0 ahead early in the second half when the unmarked Scott Dann nodded in.
Substitute Steven Naismith reduced the deficit before Cameron Jerome's effort made it 3-1, and Kevin Mirallas then slotted home in the 86th minute, but Everton's late pressure could not salvage them a point.
Martinez, whose team were previously on a seven-game top-flight winning run, said: "It is a reaction of disappointment because the result is a hurtful one, especially with the expectations we had and the real desire that we brought into the game.
"I thought in the first half we wanted to win so much that we forgot about the simple basics that you need to do to win a football game.
"The way we defended carried somehow a bit of fear and that left us a bit exposed."
Palace now look safe, with this win - their fourth in a row - taking them up to 11th and 40 points, 10 clear of the relegation zone.
And their manager Tony Pulis, who succeeded Ian Holloway in November, said: "I started at Hull and we had four points. Now we have 40.
"It is a remarkable achievement from the players - they have been absolutely fantastic.
"It is nice to say we are going to be a Premier League club next year with four games to go."
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