Belgium stars Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke took centre stage at Goodison Park on Friday as the latter rescued a 1-1 Premier League draw for Crystal Palace against Everton.
Lukaku continued his fine form as the former Chelsea man netted his fifth league goal of the campaign, but Everton were unable to bounce back from last Saturday’s defeat at Bournemouth, as Benteke equalised after the break to secure a commendable point.
Palace’s defence had already come under threat from Lukaku on a couple of occasions before he curled home a fine free-kick in the 35th minute.
The visitors were not behind for too long, though, Benteke’s excellent header early in the second half restoring parity and ushering in a frantic period of end-to-end football.
Both sides enjoyed periods of supremacy as the match approached its climax, with Gareth Barry and Joe Ledley going close, but ultimately there was nothing to separate the teams.
Everton were full of intent right from the off at Goodison and it was Yannick Bolasie in particular who caused his former colleagues issues during the early exchanges.
The tricky winger crafted the first opening in the ninth minute, cutting inside Wilfried Zaha and clipping a brilliant cross in towards Lukaku, who headed wide with the faintest of touches.
Lukaku was presented with another chance 10 minutes later after Ross Barkley robbed Joe Ledley and fed the striker, but the Belgian’s right-footed effort was saved with ease by Steve Mandanda.
Palace battled their way back into proceedings well and looked a threat through Zaha, though they soon found themselves behind.
Damien Delaney was penalised for a high foot on Phil Jagielka – who actually handled the ball – just outside the area, and Lukaku rifled a crisp effort over the static wall and beyond the helpless Mandanda ten minutes before the break.
Palace were level just four minutes into the second period, however, as Benteke met Joel Ward’s looping cross with a brilliant header and found the net via the right-hand post.
But Alan Pardew’s men were lucky to not fall behind again just a few moments later. Bolasie glided into the Palace area and laid the ball on a plate for Idrissa Gueye, only for Martin Kelly to produce a crucial block.
Everton saw another chance go begging in the 67th minute as Barry’s glancing header was cleared at the right-hand post by Jason Puncheon, though Palace remained a real threat.
Ledley tested Maarten Stekelenburg with a header of his own nine minutes later, but the Everton keeper made no mistake when plucking it out of the air.
The excellent Lukaku turned provider eight minutes from the end, flicking a clever pass into the area for Seamus Coleman, however the defender sliced his effort over the crossbar from just inside the box with what proved to be the final opportunity.