Tim Howard: 7/8
The Veteran stopper made some vital saves at crucial stages of the match and was only going to be beaten by a wonder-goal; Ashkan Dejagah’s falling in that category in my opinion. Imperative stops from Howard, particularly from Moussa Dembele and Lewis Holtby, were an instrumental element to the win yesterday.
Coleman had an excellent game defensively and looked slightly better with the ball than he has in recent weeks although with Deulofeu ahead of him it was important he maintained his position; in case of the possibility of a Fulham break. Kieran Richardson looked lively yesterday afternoon but Coleman dealt with the Fulham winger-come-fullback well and Dejagah’s brief 5-10 minute surge of influence on the game, when he replaced Richardson, was short-lived due to the Irishman’s defensive play.
John Stones: 8
He might have a Terry Butcher-like appearance at the moment but Stones plays more like a Gerard Pique than the iconic Englishman. The former Barnsley man was perfect for Fulham’s high pressing tactic with his composed style of play, especially bringing the ball out from the back. Putting his technical gift aside, the centre-half defended superbly – winning key interceptions throughout.
Sylvain Distin: 6/7
The Frenchman struggled slightly with Fulham’s tactic of pressing the man on the ball in the first half but as the pressing eased off during the game Distin looked more and more comfortable. Defensively, the ageless Distin was excellent as ever and young Dembele couldn’t have wished for a tougher first start for the Cottagers.
Leighton Baines: 6/7
Baines became more of a threat as the game wore on to the Fulham defence. With Osman coming inside he was given the freedom to overlap on several occasions and then when McGeady came on, he showed his versatility with various ‘under-lap’ runs; with the Irishman hugging the touchline. At the other end of the field Pajtim Kasami didn’t conjure much of a contribution, possibly down to Baines’ defensive performance. The England fullback ‘took one for the team’ as the saying goes with a professional foul on Steve Sidwell in exchange for a yellow card when a Fulham attack broke at 1-1 which was a moment I remember as being key in regaining the lead and ultimately winning the game.
Both he and Barry nullified Holtby for most of the game, which was integral in stopping Fulham’s play as he was probably the most likely to cause problems to the Blues’ defence from the start. The central midfielder was excellent with possession – both keeping and regaining it. McCarthy also gave Fulham a taste of their medicine in pressing those in possession, the only difference was that the Irishman can complete that task for 90 minutes and beyond whereas Fulham showed they could not. Some may say that the former Wigan man was at fault for their equaliser but I always think it’s harsh to blame or criticise a player because they’ve slipped, it’s not like slipping is a mistake that the player has made; more like an unfortunate occurrence.
Gareth Barry: 6/7
An average first half for ‘Mr Consistent’ (a common name in this Everton squad) Sunday afternoon but the second half was much better. Barry’s retaining of possession has been essential since his first moments in an Everton shirt and yesterday was no exception, in fact it was more significant given the way Fulham were playing. The holding midfielder was also key in retrieving the ball with some important interceptions and tackles; something we’ve come to expect from the on-loan Manchester City man.
Deulofeu was always a threat to the Fulham defence and John Arne Riise never looked comfortable having the tricky playmaker running at him and more often than not, past him. Whether it was a direct run that lead to a shot or a cross the Fulham defence always looked fearful of the Spaniard’s pace and he was unlucky not to be at the centre of a goal.
Ross Barkley: 6
A slightly harsh rating considering Barkley only played one half and was injured but apart from one run which Sascha Riether brought him down, I can’t remember much of an influence from the youngster; hopefully he’ll be fit for the Arsenal game Sunday.
Leon Osman: 7
Another excellent performance from the stand-in skipper after Tuesday at Newcastle. Osman kept the ball well and took up good positions to get involved with play coming inside from the left to a more central position.
The Belgian probably deserved a goal for his performance and he had a few opportunities to get it. Similarly to Newcastle in the midweek, Lukaku held the ball up for those joining him in attack and there weren’t more than a few isolated occasions when he gave the ball away. The big striker also held the line well to push the Fulham back four just that little bit deeper to our advantage.
Steven Naismith (Ross Barkley 45’): 8
A telling contribution from the Scot and finally I think we are seeing the real Steven Naismith; someone who can have an impact on games not just put in 110%. Naismith could have had at least a hat-trick, due to his intelligent runs and positions he took up. He also played his part in keeping possession ticking over with various first time passes to men around him.
Kevin Mirallas (Gerard Deulofeu 68’): 7/8
Mirallas came on and made an excellent impact having been left out for one and two thirds of games having been quiet in matches previous. He certainly made amends yesterday with an excellent finish to regain the lead.
Aiden McGeady (Leon Osman 77’): 7/8
Whenever I hear the phrase ‘instant impact’ I am now going to think of McGeady’s performance yesterday. The winger gave Riether a torrid time as soon as he entered the fray – when he teed up James McCarthy to re-establish the lead and then a minute later was successful in assisting the winning position be reinstated with a delightful threw ball for Mirallas.
Man of the match: John Stones
The very definition of a ball-playing centre-half. Stones was excellent throughout both with and without the ball and I don’t even think Alan Hansen could pick a flaw in his performance, but if anyone could…
I was close to choosing Steven Naismith as the man of the match and I wouldn’t begrudge anyone in having that view. I also considered Tim Howard and Aiden McGeady for man of the match due to their match winning instances in the game. I just felt having Stones to build that composed, assured platform was significant because in previous years we have faced a high pressing, intense, relegation battling team and we have come out second best, not grinding out the victory. Yesterday was not a glamorous performance and was no were near first gear but it wasn’t a grinded out result either, in the end it was a classy and professional performance with the just rewards at the end.