Rafa Benitez responded to Everton fans who booed his call to replace Richarlison in Everton’s defeat at Crystal Palace, citing a “calf problem”.
With Everton trailing 1-0 at Selhurst Park, away fans made their frustrations known to their manager when Benitez made a double substitution just before the hour, putting in Salomon Rondon and Anthony Gordon to replace Fabian Delph and Richarlison. The Toffees lost the match 3-1, although Rondon scored from the bench.
Richarlison, who scored in the 2-1 win over Arsenal in Everton’s previous game, looked extremely frustrated at being knocked out when he did.
Benitez put his arm around the striker and tried to comfort him on the wing, although that didn’t improve Richarlison’s mood as he walked sulkily to the bench.
Explaining the decision to replace him, Benitez cited a calf problem and said the player knew there was a strong chance at half-time that he would be replaced to protect him before an intense bout of play.
“Richarlison has a calf problem, we knew it at half-time,” said Benitez Sky Sports.
“We were thinking about changing him but we didn’t because we gave him five minutes to see how he was doing. We didn’t want him to get injured with so many games and he wasn’t affecting the game so do the substitution as you know what’s going on.
“But you can’t always explain that. I’m disappointed that people don’t realize you make substitutions and they’re fine, as Rondon was a key player for us with the way he held the ball. Richarlison wasn’t helping. when he moved his arms, when he knew we’d give him five minutes at half time to see how he was doing.
“He said at half-time, ‘give me five minutes and we’ll see how I feel’ – I can’t explain to all the fans what’s going on.”
More to follow …