Everton 2 Fulham 1: Match Report

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: Goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer of Fulham is unable to stop Louis Saha of Everton scoring his team's 2-0 goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Fulham at Goodison Park on March 19, 2011 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)


David Moyes celebrated nine years in charge of Everton with a 2-1 win over Fulham - just as it was against the same opposition back in March 2002.

With a place in the top seven the reward for a two goal win I was naturally cautious going into this game - every time we have had the opportunity to make headway in the table we have flattered to deceive. However, Fulham perhaps provided the perfect opposition. The Cottagers have now lost 18 successive league games at Goodison Park and last claimed a point there back in 1959.

Without the injured Mikel Arteta Everton lacked creativity from the outset, though Leon Osman - not always a crowd favourite - put in a industrious performance and seemed determined to try and make the step up in the absence of the Spaniard.

Tim Cahill and Phil Neville were also back in the starting line-up and Neville in particular added bite to the midfield, especially when he felled former Toffee Andy Johnson 35 yards from goal with a crude two-footed challenge on the edge of his own area early in the match.

At the other end it was much of he same - plenty of possession but few chances. Louis Saha's on target header, cleared off the line by Carlos Salcidio and a tame Jack Rodwell effort was the best the Blues could come up with.

That was until nine minutes before the break when good combination play by Baines and Osman down the left saw a hanging cross go in the direction of Coleman at the far post who expertly steered his header beyond Schwarzer and into the net for his sixth goal of the season.

Coleman - who cost Everton a two thirds of what Joleon Lescott earns in a week - has been an inspired signing by Moyes and has come on leaps and bounds this season. The Everton boss wants to rest the Irish international but Coleman pleaded with the Scot this week to keep playing him, and boy are we glad we did.

Just what we needed in the second half was an early goal to settle the nerves and that is what we got. Jack Rodwell made a bursting run before being brought down on the edge of the area. Baines laid the free-kick off to Louis Saha who blasted the ball low under the jumping wall and into the corner of the net.

A Damien Duff long ranger was the best Fulham could muster as Everton looked to be coasting to the two goal victory that would take them seventh. However, the introduction of Bobby Zamora gave them a different dimension and they forced Everton back. The increasingly influential Duff found Clint Dempsey on the edge of the area and the American fired a beautiful low finish past his fellow countryman Tim Howard.

Nerves suddenly enveloped Goodison again as the Londoners gained confidence. Groans then soon swirled around the stadium when Louis Saha went sown in some pain clutching his shin. It isn't clear exactly what is wrong with the Frenchman but he landed with his full bodyweight on his right leg and given the amount of pain he was in - and his injury record - his season could be in jeopardy.

Despite hanging on at times it was Everton who created the best chances in the final quarters. Phil Jagielka - fresh from penning a new contract - looked to have sealed the game with a powerful header only for Salcidio to again deny the Blues with a goaline clearance.

Jermaine Beckford then chased onto a long ball in stoppage time but his shot was tame and easy for Schwarzer.

The final whistle went soon after though and a third win in four lifted the Blues into eighth - well away from relegation danger and in spitting distance of the top six.

It hasn't been a vintage season to say the least but a top six finish is still a real possibility, something that barely seemed possible a few weeks ago. With big changes needed in the summer a solid and successful end to the season would at least give us cause for optimism looking forward.


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