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Venue: Goodison Park, Liverpool
FA Cup
 Friday 27 January 2012; 8:00pm
Everton 
2 1
 Fulham
 Stracqualursi (27')
 Fellaini (73')
Half Time: 1-1
Murphy (pen: 13') 
Attendance: 25,300
Round 4
Referee: Howard Webb

Match Report

Everton came from behind to beat Fulham and book their place in the FA Cup Fifth Round thanks to two assists from Landon Donovan, Marouane Fellaini's second-half header and the Blues' best performance for many weeks. Denis Stracqualursi made his third start of the season and his industry was rewarded with his first goal in Everton colors, a 27th-minute header that canceled out Danny Murphy's penalty.

The two sides had spent the early going in sparring mode, but while it was the hosts doing more of the probing, helped in part by some lively touches by Magaye Gueye, it was Fulham who went ahead in somewhat controversial circumstances following their first real attack of note.

Danny Murphy's clever ball over the top caught Phil Neville out of position and eluded Donovan, allowing Jon Arne Riise to drive to the by-line and cut it back invitingly for Damien Duff. As the Irishman tried to flick the ball over John Heitinga's blocking tackle, it struck the Dutchman's arm and referee Howard Webb had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Though it was an accidental, ball-to-hand moment, it could have been construed as preventing a shot on goal (even though Duff's touch was not on target) but the subsequent was booking was harsh on Heitinga.

Nevertheless, Murphy stepped up, sent Tim Howard the wrong way and handed Fulham a 13th-minute lead. A familiar position for Everton to find themselves in.

With a bit more composure from young Shane Duffy, the Blues might have been level almost immediately, though. Leighton Baines was fortunate to earn a corner from a below-par free kick from the left but Gueye's resulting inswinger picked Duffy out for a free header but he powered it inches wide of the far post.

A flurry of consecutive corners — six in all — followed five minutes later, and Everton went close with three of them. Gueye's miscue off Fellaini's knockdown was blocked in the six yard box, Tim Cahill forced a parried save from Stockdale at the far post and Duffy saw a deflected shot whistle the wrong side of the post as Fulham somehow survived the barrage.

Shortly before the half-hour mark, however, Everton were level. Donovan picked up Neville's pass down the touchline before cutting back and whipping a perfect cross into the Fulham area. Stracqualursi rose with Hangeland and steered the ball inside the far post before wheeling away in delight at his first goal after six months at Goodison.

That spurred David Moyes's side on the finish the half the stronger of the two sides. Fellaini, by this point in Belgian Beast mode, stepped in smartly to intercept a pass out of the visiting defence before sweeping a shot agonisingly over the bar befroe Donovan arrowed a beautifully controlled shot goalwards that Stockdale could only parry away.

Everton's momentum stalled somewhat in the first quarter of an hour after half time, though. Fellaini was everywhere, breaking things up and pulling strings for the Blues in midfield, Cahill was playing with resurgent confidence following his goal last weekend and Darron Gibson was having his most influential display yet since his recent arrival. But with Baines quiet and Gueye going off the boil a bit after a promising opening, Moyes's team seemed to lack a little potency and urgency at times.

Thankfully, the Cottagers weren't exactly forcing the issue much either. Andy Johnson had the first worthwhile effort of the second period after 62 minutes when he jinked inside and shot low but straight at Howard. And Gibson led a quick counter attack down the other end and exchanged passes with Stracqualursi but his cross flew across the face of goal with no one there to turn it home.

The build-up to the game had been dominated by the American dimension to this Fourth Round tie, not least because of Clint Dempsey's goalscoring exploits in recent weeks. While Fulham's no. 23 was kept very quiet by Messers Heitinga and Duffy, though, Donovan stole the show by laying on the winner with 17 minutes to go. Another great cross from the right by the USA international forward found Fellaini who rose above his marker and looped a header back across the 'keeper into the far corner.

2-1 was so nearly 3-1 just four minutes later as the Blues tried to kill Fulham off. Tremendous anticipation by Stracqualursi saw him step in front of his man to steal the ball in the box and lay it back to Neville who delivered a pin-point cross. Unfortunately, Cahill's header smacked off the crossbar and a combination of Stockdale and a defender managed to stop the rebound from dropping over the goalline, again via the bar.

Martin Jol's side were facing elimination but they lacked the required desperation in the closing stages and, save for a couple of brief moments of concern, the most serious of which coming when Ruiz hammered a left-footer wide from the angle, Everton were able to close the game out fairly comfortably and start looking ahead to the last 16.

This was far from the best performance from a Moyes team and there were long periods, particularly in the first half, when it looked as though those all-too familiar attacking failings were going to be the Blues' undoing. But there were certainly signs that the more playing time Stracqualursi gets, the more settled and confident he looks. He's still a little ungainly and he lacks the acceleration and natural ability of a more complete striker but his workrate and commitment was second to none and his was full value for the goal. You could see what it meant to him, too.

With Manchester City at Goodison next, this was just the kind of improved performance and result that Everton need after a difficult few weeks. Thankfully, after a mercurial first month back in Everton blue, Donovan is producing the goods, making match-winning contributions and causing Evertonians to wish that he would stay for good this time. How we need his pace and dynamism on a full-time basis!

Player Ratings: Howard 6, Neville 7, Duffy 7, Heitinga 8, Baines 6, Gibson 7, Fellaini 9*, Gueye 6 (Drenthe 6), Donovan 7, Cahill 7, Stracqualursi 8 (Anichebe -)

Lyndon Lloyd

 

Match Preview

When it comes to cup competition, the most you can hope for is to be drawn at home and Everton have been handed five straight home ties so far this season. While Goodison Park has been missing the comforts of home for David Moyes's team in the Premier League, the Blues have won three of four in the cup and came very close to topping Chelsea in that ultimately ill-dated League Cup fourth round clash in October.

Top-flight opposition are in store this Friday as Fulham come to town with in-form Clint Dempsey adding to the American interest already provided by Landon Donovan and Tim Howard. Dempsey, whose nine League goals equal Everton's three top scorers' tallies combined, celebrated being named as US Soccer's player of the year by becoming the first American to score a hat-trick in the Premier League as the Cottagers stunned high-flying Newcastle United 5-2 last weekend.

Howard irked Fulham boss Martin Jol this week by suggesting that the West London side relies too heavily on Dempsey for goals and there's no question that Moyes will focusing on keeping the forward quiet as he plots Everton's route into the Fifth Round.

Moyes is still hampered by injuries, however, with Tony Hibbert the only one of his walking wounded available to return after recovering from a groin strain. Phil Jagielka and Leon Osman remain on the longer-term injured list, while Sylvain Distin (hamstring), Jack Rodwell (hamstring) and Seamus Coleman (thigh) are struggling with niggly, recurrent muscle strains.

That leaves Moyes with more or less the same options as last Saturday when his charges struggled to match relegation-threatened Blackburn Rovers and ultimately had to settle for a draw. Though the manager has been known to change things around a little for cup games, it's probable he won't tinker too much, if at all, given the fact that he is facing Premier League opposition.

Tim Cahill ending his long scoring drought will likely see him retain his place in attack and really only left midfield and centre forward appear open to prediction for this one. Louis Saha's struggles for goal just seems to drag on and he might be afforded a rest, while Royston Drenthe's success at Craven Cottage in the League earlier this season could earn him the nod in left midfield.

Moussa Dembele and Mark Schwarzer are Fulham's most notable absentees as they bid to end a horrendous record at Goodison Park. Everton have won all of the last 10 meetings there between the two sides but the Cottagers have never lost an FA Cup tie against the Blues indeed, their last win at Goodison back in 1975 was an FA Cup tie so Moyes will be aiming to prolong history on the one hand and change it on the other.

Certainly, a decent cup run can only help boost morale in the Everton ranks, particularly of some of the strikers can get some goals on the board. The win over Tamworth was the first time the Blues had scored more than one goal since mid-November and that lack of cutting edge up front has been the story of the season thus far.

* 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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2011-12 Reports Index
< Blackburn (H) Man City (H) >
EVERTON (4-5-1)
  Howard
  Neville
  Duffy
  Heitinga booked:14'
  Baines
  Gibson booked:37'
  Fellaini
  Gueye (68' Drenthe)
  Donovan
  Cahill booked:57'
  Stracqualursi (83' Anichebe)
  Subs not used
  Hahnemann
  Hibbert
  Baxter
  Saha
  Vellios
  Unavailable
  Bilyaletdinov (transferring)
  Coleman (injured)
  Distin (injured)
  Jagielka (injured)
  Osman (injured)
  Rodwell (injured)
  Abdullayev (loan)
  Bidwell (loan)
  Garbutt (loan)
  Nsiala (loan)
  Silva (loan)
  Wallace (loan)
  Yobo (loan)
FULHAM (4-4-2)
  Stockdale
  Kelly
  Hangeland
  Baird booked:73' (82' Sidwell)
  Riise
  Hughes
  Murphy (87' Trotta)
  Duff (87' Zamora)
  Dempsey booked:86'
  Ruiz
  Johnson
  Subs not used
  Etheridge
  Senderos
  Frei
  Davies

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