Teenager Vaughan has Palace heading for the trapdoor

Everton 4 Crystal Palace 0
Click to follow
The Independent Football

The race has been painfully long, but as the finish line of the Premiership marathon approaches, the prize of Champions' League football is moving ever closer for Everton. A run of three successive defeats had left David Moyes's team in danger of dropping out of the top four for the first time since September, but yesterday's emphatic victory at Goodison Park takes them four points clear of Liverpool, their closest challengers, with only six games remaining.

The race has been painfully long, but as the finish line of the Premiership marathon approaches, the prize of Champions' League football is moving ever closer for Everton. A run of three successive defeats had left David Moyes's team in danger of dropping out of the top four for the first time since September, but yesterday's emphatic victory at Goodison Park takes them four points clear of Liverpool, their closest challengers, with only six games remaining.

To complete Everton's joy, James Vaughan broke three records after coming on as a second-half substitute. At 16 years and 271 days, Vaughan became Everton's youngest debutant and goalscorer, not to mention the youngest scorer in Premiership history, beating James Milner's record for Leeds United.

It was a crushing blow for Crystal Palace, who have now conceded 13 goals in their last three away matches and are starting to run out of chances to secure their Premiership future. Forthcoming home games against Norwich City and Southampton will be crucial.

To rub salt in their wounds, two of Everton's goals were scored by Tim Cahill, who was poised to move to Selhurst Park from Millwall last summer until Simon Jordan, the Palace chairman, called off the move, blaming the breakdown on the player's agent. Cahill promptly joined Everton and is their leading scorer with 10 goals.

Mikel Arteta dominated the midfield with panache and authority and it was the Spaniard who set the ball rolling after only seven minutes, stroking a free-kick into the top corner after Gabor Kiraly, the Palace goalkeeper, had handled outside his penalty area. However, for much of the first half it was Palace who looked the brighter, with Michael Hughes twice going close with long-range efforts.

Palace's hopes might have been raised by the departure of Alan Stubbs with a shoulder injury, but it was Everton who finished the first half on top. Kiraly produced a brilliant save from Duncan Ferguson's header, while Leon Osman headed over with the net gaping.

Cahill had a quiet first half, but within nine minutes of the break his opportunism, combined with Palace's failure to track his runs, had secured the points. Marcus Bent's pass caught Darren Powell flat-footed, enabling Cahill to drive into the roof of the net from eight yards, and the midfielder was on hand to head home at the far post after Kevin Kilbane's run had left Mikele Leigertwood and Fitz Hall for dead.

Palace promptly created their two best chances, Sandor Torghelle striking a post and Wayne Routledge shooting wide, but it was Everton who provided the final flourish. After a flowing move that tore Palace's right flank apart, Vaughan was on hand to steer home Kilbane's cross at the near post just 13 minutes after his arrival. Who needs Wayne Rooney?

Goals: Arteta (7) 1-0; Cahill (47) 2-0; Cahill (54) 3-0; Vaughan (87) 4-0.

Everton (4-4-2): Martyn; Hibbert, Weir, Stubbs (S Watson, 26), Naysmith (Vaughan, 74); Osman, Arteta, Cahill, Kilbane; Bent (Carsley, 67), Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Wright (gk), McFadden.

Crystal Palace (4-5-1): Kiraly; Leigertwood, Hall, Powell, Granville; Routledge, Hughes, Riihilahti (B Watson, 57), Soares, Lakis (Torghelle, 57); Johnson. Substitutes not used: Speroni (gk), Hudson, Borrowdale.

Referee: U Rennie (South Yorkshire)

Booked: Everton Hibbert. Crystal Palace Kiraly.

Man of the match: Arteta.

Attendance: 36,519.

Comments