London (AFP) – Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson lambasted the interpretation of the handball rule after his side became the latest victim of a soft penalty award in a 2-1 defeat by Everton on Saturday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men extended their perfect start to go top of the Premier League as Richarlison’s controversial spot-kick split the sides after Cheikhou Kouyate cancelled out Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s fifth goal of the campaign.

Eagles defender Joel Ward was penalised for handball after the video assistant referee advised Kevin Friend to consult the pitchside monitor.

“I have to make bold statements, which I make no apologies for. I have despair about a rule that I believe is ruining the game of football,” said Hodgson.

The former England manager was equally scathing of the easy awarding of penalties for handball when his side were the beneficiaries for their second goal in a 3-1 win at Manchester United last weekend.

“I predict what will happen is players will start flicking the ball on to a hand and screaming handball,” added Hodgson. “A really good game destroyed by a decision.”

Everton held on in the second half to make it three successive league victories and five wins in a row in all competitions, suggesting they could be contenders for a top-four finish.

“It is good to see the spirit in the team in this moment. We have started the season well,” said Ancelotti.

“We have to look only for the momentum, that is good in this moment. In a busy time with another game on Wednesday, we have to keep the motivation, ambition and we are doing really well. The danger is behind us all the time when we do not behave properly.”

The visitors went ahead with their first serious attack in the 10th minute.

Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez unfurled a sublime pass into Seamus Coleman and the captain cut back for Calvert-Lewin to net with conviction.

Palace hit back in the 26th minute when Kouyate got between Michael Keane and Richarlison to head his second goal for the club.

The Eagles richly deserved it and yet they were almost immediately pegged back when VAR had to look at a handball incident involving Ward on the half-hour mark.

Richarlison’s cross had hit the Palace full-back on the shirt sleeve and it was not deemed a spot-kick, but it was only a brief let-off for Hodgson’s men.

In the 40th minute, James’s superb pass was headed by Lucas Digne onto Ward’s hand in the penalty area.

Friend pointed to the spot after using the pitchside monitor and Richarlison fired into the corner to put Everton back in front.

Calvert-Lewin should have grabbed his sixth goal of the season and put the game to bed in the 51st minute, but his effort from James’s corner sailed wide.

As rain poured down in south London, Palace pressed for an equaliser, with Wilfried Zaha and Ebere Eze having shots blocked.