Jordan Pickford made two crucial saves as 10-man Everton and Crystal Palace played out a goalless draw at a very windy Selhurst Park.
The England goalkeeper, who endured a mixed 2018-19 campaign, blocked efforts from Jordan Ayew and then Max Meyer as Palace put the visitors under pressure in the second half.
German Meyer also went close in the first half when his goalbound effort looped behind off the foot of Seamus Coleman.
Marco Silva’s Everton dominated much of the first period with Gylfi Sigurdsson firing a yard wide before full-back Coleman smacked a shot into the body of goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
Sigurdsson produced another effort that was blocked on the line and team-mate Richarlison curled a sumptuous effort narrowly wide of Guaita’s upright.
Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, who handed in a transfer request and was the subject of a summer window bid from the opponents, came on in the 65th minute to warm applause.
He failed to affect the scoreline as did the 76th minute sending off of Morgan Schneiderlin, who picked up a second yellow for a foul on Luka Milivojevic, as Everton kept Roy Hodgson’s men at bay in the closing stages.
It was a 2018-19 season of contrasts for Pickford. He entered it as England’s number one after his World Cup heroics and exited it with some questioning whether he deserved to retain his spot.
The former Sunderland keeper made four errors that led to goals in the league last campaign and that count does not include a farcical rugby tackle on Newcastle’s Salomon Rondon which resulted in a penalty much to the delight of the St James’ Park support.
He could ill-afford more of those lapses of concentration in the opening game at Selhurst Park. Instead, he produced an outstanding display, making himself big to deny Ayew and Meyer.
He also remained alert with seconds remaining as Connor Wickham came charging in at the near post in an attempt to convert Zaha’s near-post delivery.
Both sides must have wished they had a Zaha operating at 100%. Everton, who had a bid of £52m for the winger turned down in the transfer window, could have done with his guile and pace to open up the Palace defence in the second half.
As for the Eagles, they held on to a player who provided 10 goals and five assists last season but then told the club he wanted to leave.
Hodgson suggested in the build-up that the winger was not in the right frame of mind, so it came as no surprise he did not start. When he was finally introduced, with 25 minutes to go, would he be greeted with cheers or jeers from the home support? It was largely the former.
He made little impact on the match in the short time, bar one piece of play when he fed the ball to Patrick van Aanholt who almost found Christian Benteke at the far post.
If Hodgson can get Zaha’s mind right then it could be another positive season for Palace.
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Source – BBC