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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
Premier League
  19 March 2010; 5:30pm
Everton 
2 1
 FULHAM
 Coleman (36')
 Saha (49')
Half Time: 1-0
Dempsey 62' 
Attendance: 33,239
Fixture 30
Referee: Michael Oliver

Match Summary

David Moyes enters his 10th year as Everton manager with the return of his first opponents, Fulham.  Everton have an impressive 100% home record against Fulham in the Premier League... but wins remain at a distinct premium and what little creative spark there was in this current squad has been cut out with the loss of Mikel Arteta to a hamstring injury.  Fellaini, the enigmatic midfield defensive rock, is also missing for the rest of the season, but Tim Cahill returns after hopefully recovering from pushing his body beyond the limits to play for Australia in the Asia Cup an unneeded effort that has denied Everton meaningful service from their leading scorer for the best part of three months!!! Will we see the real Tim Cahill step up into the void today?

Or will it finally be the day Magaye Gueye gets his league debut?  The "secret weapon" appears on the bench after apparently recovering form an injury.  Andy Johnson returns to Goodison, playing upfront for Fulham, managed by Mark Hughes, once of this parish.

A Neville long throw won the first Everton corner, taken well by Baines. Cahill was next to pump one in from the left wing, Everton starting toward the Gwladys Street.  Johnson's first effort was to overrun the byeline. After a dozen or more throw-ins down the left, in the first 6 mins, play was finally switched to the right and it eventually fell to Osman wide left of the area but his hurried shot was hopeless. 

Hibbert blocked Dempsey well for a corner to two to Fulham, Dembele pushing Howard over.  At the other end, Baines tried a rather hopeful volley.  Osman's technique let him down badly when he failed to control a very opportune knockdown but neither side were doing much beyond resolute defence, with Neville gifting Johnson a free-kick on 14 mins that Murphy planted on Dempsey's head, thankfully directed well away from the Everton goal.

Cahill won a corner but it did not get past Johnson, the first defender; Johnson then returned the honour, and Hibbert won a nice duel to dispossess Murphy.  But a quarter gone and the game was as shapeless, formless, and downright boring as we have come to expect, the Goodison crowd understandably quiet until Saha won Everton's third corner and almost the first chance for a shot on goal that just would not come.

Everton's fourth corner was delivered very well by Osman but diverted away from the waiting Saha.  Cahill won Everton's fifth after good work by Osman and it resulted in a Saha header that was bundled off the line. A great Baines cross was tamely headed to the keeper by Rodwell.

Rodwell had a shot blocked in the next attack on the half-hour, and it seemed nothing of note would happen before half-time, but Baines switched a ball back to Osman instead of looping in yet another cross and it inspired Osman to pick out Coleman at the far post with a peach of a cross and he planted his header fair and square beyond Schwarzer for a worthy opening goal that would hopefully energize what was in danger of becoming a turgid mid-table end-of-season display.

The next attack and Coleman was fouled but Baines drilled it off the wall as Johnson blatantly infringed the 10-yard rule with no punishment from the ref. Dempsey might have done better at the other end but Distin did enough to put him off as half-time was signalled.

Rodwell woke up a little and went on a fairly impressive run, winning a free-kick that Baines touched a foot or two to Saha who lashed it into the bottom corner, hopefully wrapping this one up after less than 5 mins of the second half. Everton finally relaxed a little, Coleman going on a run but mistiming his cutback, Baines getting in his run but Haggeland defending it away. Osman booked for silly shirt-tugging that led to a few potshots by Fulham.

Coleman was really having fun, running at Fulham and shooting, forcing a save from Schwarzer. But at the other end, the Everton defence parted for Dempsey to put Fulham right back in the game. 

Hibbert was next in the book for a studs-up challenge, and Cahill, who had done remarkably little, was then replaced buy Heitinga as Everton looked to hang on to what had been thought was a comfortable lead.

After a dreadful spell where Everton could not lift themselves above the level of dross, Bily finally replaced the almost completely invisible Rodwell.  Coleman went on another run but it was Keystone Cops as he ran into Osman in the Fulham area and collapsed in a heap.

With 10 mins left, from a bizarre corner, Osman delivered a great ball for Jagielka to head just inside the post but Salcido was there on the post again to head it away.  Distin did well to contain AJ, who was then replaced by Gudjohnsonen. 

A free header for Zamora was thankfully squandered as the click ticked on and the Blues appeared to have weathered the storm. Saha seemed to land a little heavily and nay have done his ankle in.  The stretcher came on, as did Beckford.

5 mins of nervy added time, Beckford did get free but his shot was very poorly executed. And that was pretty much it. A victory snatched from the jaws of a threatening draw.

Michael Kenrick

 

Match Report

Another year, another home win over Fulham, but this was a victory secured despite a dreadful, defensive-minded second half performance that seemed destined for a while to end in Everton dropping another two points having put themselves into a seemingly unassailable 2-0 lead. Indeed, had Fulham not been only sightly less potent in front of goal than their hosts, Mark Hughes's side would surely have taken away a point from a fixture the Cottagers have now lost for10 straight seasons.

Fulham's defensive record on their travels was bettered only by Manchester City coming onto this fixture and combined with Everton's own problems in attack — not helped by a rusty Tim Cahill being pitched into a surprise return instead of the more mobile Jermaine Beckford — it was somewhat surprising that the Blues were comfortably up by two goals with less than 50 minutes gone.

They controlled the first half but with Saha often dropping far too deep and a succession of long kicks from Howard producing nothing of note, the Blues carved out only two geniunely clear-cut chances in the first 45 minutes. The first came after Cahill's shot from the angle had deflected behind and Saha rose to meet the ensuing corner, guiding a downward header towards the inside of the post but then seeing Carlos Salcido clear it off the line.

The second arrived at the end of what was arguably the Blues' best move of the half. Leon Osman, continuing on the left after Mikel Arteta's injury, exchanged passes with Leighton Baines, the latter feigning a cross superbly before cutting the ball back to Osman who floated an inviting cross to the back post. Seamus Coleman was on hand to set himself and plant a text-book header back across Mark Schwarzer and into the opposite corner to make it 1-0 after 35 minutes.

The visitors had barely figured as an attacking force and didn't have much more to show from the first period than Clint Dempsey's thrashed shot from the angle that flew narrowly wide of Tim Howard's post.

And Fulham fell 2-0 behind just four minutes after the break when Dickson Etuhu barreled through Jack Rodwell to check the youngster's powerful run on the edge of the penalty area. Baines tapped the ball to his right to allow Saha to drive an unerring shot through the legs of Danny Murphy in the defensive wall and straight past Schwarzer.

2-0 up but far too complacent, Everton proceeded to sit back on their lead and invited an uncomfortable amount of pressure from Hughes' men, the pendulum of possession swinging emphatically back in the Londoner's favour.

Damien Duff had their first sight of goal in the 55th minute but shot straight at Howard from the edge of the box, a mistake that Dempsey didn't repeat from a similar position seven minutes later. Duff crossed from the right flank, substitute Bobby Zamora laid the ball back perfectly for Dempsey and the American powered a low shot past his international teammate Howard to halve the Blues' lead.

It was a goal that had been coming, but rather than try and reclaim the initiative, Moyes elected to exchange the tiring Cahill not with Beckford but with John Heitinga, presumably in an effort to shore up the midfield. Though the Dutchman did his best on occasion to gift possession to Fulham when it seemed easier to find a Blue shirt, Moyes will no doubt feel vindicated by the fact that Dembele's 70th minute shot that flew well wide from 20 yards was really the only time that Howard's goal was seriously threatened for the rest of the match.

Indeed, it was the home side who looked more likely to score on the rare occasions when they did manage to put something meaningful together at the right end of the pitch. After a mix-up between Schwarzer and Salcido have gifted Everton a corner with 10 minutes left, Phil Jagielka connected with Osman's corner and he looked to have made it 3-1 before the Mexican defender again cleared off the goalline.

And after Saha had been stretchered off with a worryingly serious-looking leg injury, Beckford raced onto a long defensive clearance and made his way towards goal but when he finally got his shot off after coming inside a defender, it was a weak, scuffed effort that was easily saved. Five minutes of injury time elapsed and the referee blew the final whiistle to the relief of the home faithful.

A win by a two-goal margin would have lifted the Blues into seventh place, just two points behind neighbours Liverpool, but as it is they sit eighth on goal difference with the two teams immediately above them — Kenny Daliglish's filthy horde and Sunderland — meeting at the Stadium of Light tomorrow. A Europa League spot still looks unlikely but with the Premier League as unpredictable as it is this season, nothing can be ruled out if Moyes can keep the wins coming.

On the evidence of today, it's hard to see that happening. There just doesn't seem to be enough attacking threat, midfield creativity or defensive solidity to provide the foundation for a solid run down the stretch, particularly if Saha is missing for any length of time, But while the points remain there to be won, there is hope and plenty still to play for.

Player Ratings: Howard 6, Hibbert 7, Jagielka 7, Distin 7, Baines 7, Rodwell 6 (Bilyaletdinov 6), Neville 6, Osman 7, Coleman 8*, Cahill 6 (Heitinga 5), Saha 7

Lyndon Lloyd

Match Preview

Shorn of Marouane Fellaini, Tim Cahill and now Mikel Arteta, Everton's quest for an increasingly unlikely Europa League qualifying spot continues with a a second successive home game, this time against Fulham who lie two points behind in 11th place. It will be the first fixture of David Moyes's 10th year in charge of the Club and, coincidentally, it's against the same team that formed the opposition for his first match in March 2002.

Moyes was already facing an uphill battle in terms of midfield selection before Arteta had to be helped off the pitch against Birmingham with a grade two hamstring tear but the Spaniard's absence will make things all the more harder, as the Blues' vain attempts to break down Alex McLeish's defence showed.

And the opponents from West London won't be any easier this weekend. Only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals on the road this season than Mark Hughes' side so while they've only won once on their travels so far this season — and they've lost their last 17 games at Goodison, a Premier League record — they'll still be a tough nut to crack. Even more so if they come to "park the bus" as most teams have now figured out is the best strategy against Everton.

Phil Neville missed the Birmingham draw with a hamstring strain that looked as though he might be out until the end of the month but reports from the training ground this week suggest that the Captain could figure if he passes a late fitness test.

Whether he would take up his usual slot at right back in place of Tony Hibbert or take over from John Heitinga in midfield is another question. Heitinga hasn't set the world on fire in the central midfield holding role but he did score a peach of a goal last time out so that alone might be enough for him to keep his place.

The rest of the team will probably remain unchanged from that which played the bulk of the Birmingham game — expect Leon Osman to play left midfield and Seamus Coleman on the right.

A win by two goals and defeat for both Sunderland and Bolton would put the Blues into seventh place and right on the heels of Liverpool in the chase for Europe, one that may yet prove futile if 5th is the one and only Europa League slot. But one step ata time for a team desperately short on creativity and firepower...

* Unfortunately, we cannot control other sites' content policies and therefore cannot guarantee that links to external reports will remain active.

Match Preview
Match Summary
Match Report
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Match Reports
2010-11 Reports Index
< Birmingham (H) Aston Villa (H) >
EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard
  Hibbert :63'
  Jagielka
  Distin
  Baines
  Coleman
  Neville
  Rodwell (77' Bilyaletdinov)
  Osman :55'
  Cahill (69' Heitinga)
  Saha (88' Beckford)
  Subs not used
  Mucha
  Anichebe
  Baxter
  Gueye
  Unavailable
  Arteta (injured)
  Barkley (injured)
  Cahill (injured)
  Fellaini (injured)
  Neville (injured)
  Agard (loan)
  Akpan (loan)
  Silva (loan)
  Turner (loan)
  Vaughan (loan)
  Wallace (loan)
  Yakubu (loan)
  Yobo (loan)
FULHAM (4-4-2)
  Schwarzer
  Salcido
  Hangeland
  Baird
  Hughes
  Etuhu (60' Zamora)
  Duff (75' Kakuta)
  Murphy
  Dembele
  Dempsey
  Johnson (84' Gudjohnsen)
  Subs not used
  Stockdale
  Kelly
  Greening
  Davies
Premier League Scores
Saturday
Aston Villa 0-1 Wolves
Blackburn 2-2 Blackpool
Everton 2-1 Fulham
Man Utd 1-0 Bolton
Stoke 4-0 Newcastle
Tottenham 0-0 West Ham
West Brom 2-2 Arsenal
Wigan 2-1 Birmingham
Sunday
Chelsea 2-0 Man City
Sunderland 0-2 Liverpool


Team Pts
1 Manchester United 63
2 Arsenal 58
3 Chelsea 54
4 Manchester City 53
5 Tottenham Hotspur 49
6 Liverpool 45
7 Bolton Wanderers 40
8 Everton 40
9 Sunderland 38
10 Stoke City 37
11 Newcastle United 36
12 Fulham 35
13 Blackburn Rovers 33
14 Aston Villa 33
15 Blackpool 33
16 West Bromwich Albion 33
17 West Ham United 32
18 Wolverhampton Wanderers 32
19 Birmingham City 31
20 Wigan Athletic 30



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