"The more things change..."
Why oh why can't we play for 90 minutes? If we did, we
would be at least 5 points better off (Villa and Birmingham) and
probably a few more (City)...
As it is, we are back in our bottom-half-of-the-table position,
hovering uncomfortably close to the bottom three; with games against
United, Arsenal and Leeds coming up, we cannot afford to slip up
against the other mediocre to poor sides in the near future.
Unfortunately for us, Fulham are anything but poor!
Thriving in Europe they have now added a cutting edge to their
passing and will provide a very stern test to Moyes's Blues.
Six months ago, David Moyes walked into the Everton hotseat and
watched as an Unsworth-inspired Blues ripped 3 points from Fulham
despite losing Gravesen to a red card very early on.
Earlier in the season, a Smith-led Everton had capitulated at
Craven Cottage as Weir was also ridiculously dismissed after being
kicked by Hayles.
What this time?
Whilst our Oriental experiment is showing very promising signs,
with Li Tie a constant in our midfield and Wei Feng pushing for a
slot at the back, Fulham's has been even more successful.
Inamoto, signed from Arsenal after an excellent World Cup, has
simply looked world class. Driving from midfield, all action
and scoring goals, he is a player that every team would like.
How he and Li Tie match up could be very very interesting!
Elsewhere, Cameroon international Woma has also added to a
previously competent back-four which, supported by Van De Sar, is
unlikely to hand over very many chances.
Upfront, Marlet has not yet justified a very high �10M fee and
Saha has scored less than the simple British combatant Hayles.
The goal threat from Fulham tends to come from midfield more than
the forwards with Legwinski and Malbranque, as well as Inamoto, more
than capable of getting their names on the scoresheet.
For us, Radzinski and Campbell have shown they could be a
partnership that could score a few despite my belief that Campbell
is past it. The biggest problem to me is not the defence but
the inability of the midfield to put together a full 90 minutes.
Whatever the reason is, Moyes has to sort it.
If we keep conceding possession as easily as we did against Villa
in the first half and in the last 10 minutes of the second, then any
team in the Premiership will hurt us.
Gravesen, Li Tie and whoever must use the ball better. With three
upfront and two of them with blistering pace, it shouldn't be that
And then the defence? Stubbs out, Yobo in. Wei Feng
to be challenging Weir's place. Pistone... come back soon!
The defence is a shambles (11 goals in 7 games) but some of that
does come from the constant pressure they are under. If the
midfield sort themselves out and compete against Fulham, a very
unusual clean sheet may arise.
I'm not too confident for this one but we are unbeaten at home.
I think a 1-1 draw would be a decent result but it is essential that
we start well. Fulham are too good to give a headstart to but
if, for once, we can start well and score the first goal of the
game, we could still knick it.
(NB: no mention of Rooney - lets leave him alone for a bit!)
We started slowly - again. As against Middlesbrough, we
were pegged back far too easily and for fifteen minutes we were
skating on thin ice. In one particular break it took a
terrific save from Wright and a goal-line clearance from Unsworth to
keep the ball out. All this as Yobo seemed to be bewildered by
the pace of the game.
Then suddenly it changed. Gravesen took control in midfield, Li
Tie started getting the best of Inamoto � and Yobo found the pace
of the game. The whole attitude was transformed and the game
became more evenly balanced. Before we could take stock of the
change there was a chance as Van De Sar was exposed chasing out for
the ball with Carsley, but the Irishman could only turn the ball
into the side netting. Radzinski came racing into the box on
another occasion but his pace meant that he was unable to control
his swing at the ball and he fell with the goal at his mercy.
Everton continued to press forward, taking control and able to
rebuff everything that Fulham offered and all this time Yobo grew in
both stature and confidence. With the impressive Nigerian at
his side, Weir looked more assured than he had all season.
Even after the youngster fluffed a volleyed clearance, slicing it
towards the Everton goal so that the Scot needed to tidy it up,
there was no dampening of confidence from either player.
Half-time beckoned and a 0-0 score line was looking likely when
Everton was awarded a free kick outside the Fulham area.
Pembridge hovered over the ball while the referee booked a Fulham
defender and on the referee's signal he delivered a perfect cross
into the box, which Campbell rose to and flicked into the far corner
off the post. King Kev looks so much sharper this season and
I'm now eating my words about his demise as he's re-found the form
he was in when he arrived.
At 1-0 we started to swagger � and a terrific Radzinski feed
into Gravesen, who was driving through the midfield with Fulham
backing off was despatched into the net from 25 yards with supreme
confidence by the Dane. Two goals inside a minute and both of
them to us! Unbelievable! The half-time interval was so
much better at 2-0.
If Fulham expected us to sit back and defend in the second half,
they were disappointed as we pressed forward for more.
Throughout the half we created chances with any one of maybe half a
dozen players having decent opportunities to add to the goal tally.
Gravesen saw another drive come back off Van Sar, who somehow got
down to his right to parry the ball.
Radzinski, following up, was surprised by both the height and the
pace of the ball and was only able to divert the ball beyond the
post after some aerial contortions. He also saw the ball come
back off the right post from a snap shot on the turn and the left
post from a curling shot beyond the keeper, but his best chance was
dealt with by Van de Sar with some comfort; but I must question the
fact that a penalty wasn't awarded as the Canadian was dragged back
before he shot, leaving him off balance at the critical point.
Unsworth saw a shot from outside the box pushed over the bar by the
Fulham stopper and Li Tie saw an effort go a-begging.
But by far the best defensive moment from a Fulham perspective
was a save by Van de Sar from a tremendous Kevin Campbell header
that had goal written all over it.
Fulham had a couple of chances, but nothing of real note and even
a very tired Mark Pembridge was able to cope with what came his way.
In the end we deserved the result and it was the Everton swagger
that triumphed when the runes held that Fulham would take the
points. But what the runes didn't prophesy was the reaction of
Kevin Campbell to comments that Andy Melville hurled at him as he
lay outside the margins of the pitch after he (Campbell) had been
clipped on the ankle by the Fulham defender.
The situation suddenly erupted into anarchy as players from both
sides each defended their man against the criticisms of the other
side. Referee Dunn failed to take immediate charge and the
melee reached the point where it looked as though it was going to
reach the state of the incident at Craven Cottage last year, but as
suddenly as it had erupted, it settled down: until Van de Sar
somehow fell to the floor in front of the perplexed Weir and an even
more confused referee. At this point the referee regained full
control and yellow cards for both Campbell and Melville were almost
the last actions of the game as Everton recorded only their second
clean sheet of the campaign, to win 2-0.