Everton stopped the rot last week with an all action, balanced performance that saw them beat Crystal Palace 3-0 at Goodison Park. An unchanged side kept the naysayers quiet with a comprehensive victory and with the Blues heading to London to face Fulham, the hope of continued success was growing.
In his pre-match comments, Frank Lampard was pleased to report that Nathan Patterson was back and able to be considered for the squad:
“Patterson is back in the squad for this weekend. It’s a really good [selection] headache. It’s exactly what I wanted. Nathan has been really, really good this season until he got his unfortunate injury. That allowed Seamus to come in, find fitness and performance and I think that hit the peak last weekend against Palace and against Zaha, who is one of the hardest players to play against in that position. It’s a really healthy competition between two lads - one who has been here a long time and one who is coming through. ” [EFC]
Marco Silva was going up against his former club for the first time since his departure in 2019. The Cottagers had won two of the last three matches against Everton although Everton were hoping to win back to back away games against Fulham for the first time after coming away with a 3-2 victory with a brace from Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Not surprisingly, Lampard stayed with the XI that beat Crystal Palace last week. Nathan Patterson was a great addition to the bench and the potential for him to come on later in the game was quite high so that he could begin to build up his fitness after his ankle injury. The return of Patterson meant that Salomon Rondon was not in the team.
Everton were still missing Ben Godfrey, Yerry Mina and Andros Townsend although Mina has now joined first team training.
Fulham manager Marco Silva made two changes to the side that won 3-2 at Leeds, with Neeskens Kebano and Issa Diop returning to the starting line-up, while Harry Wilson and Tosin Adarabioyo dropped to the bench.
Fulham full-back Kenny Tete was available after a five-match absence because of a hamstring injury. Daniel James also returned, having been unable to play against his parent club Leeds United last weekend. Both started on the bench
In front of a crowd of almost 30,000, Everton kicked off with a 4-3-3 formation which was mirrored by the Fulham formation. The travelling Evertonians were in great point and they almost had a reason to cheer when Alex Iwobi put Calvert-Lewin in on goal but the play broke down. With Gray and Gordon switching sides frequently, it was clear that Everton wanted to play on the front foot. It was an excellent block from former Evertonian Antonee Robinson on Gordon and then a fine save from Leno on Demarai Gray’s fizzing shot. The start for Everton was as bright as their shirts!
Fulham finally had an opportunity as Kebano played a lovely ball to William who swivelled and shot only to be repelled by Pickford. The resulting corner forced Pickford into another fine save. Five corners in the opening nine minutes showed how open the game had started. The long diagonal ball over Tim Ream into the path of Gray or Gordon on the right side was clearly the plan to break down the Cottagers. In the 20th minute, Gray played the ball across the box and neither DCL or Gordon could stick it in the net.
Alexander Mitrović received his fourth yellow card for a scything tackle on Gana Gueye. It was checked by VAR for the possible red but nothing changed. The Blues continued to press and when Fulham counter attacked with Robinson bombing down the wing, it was only Conor Coady’s excellent clearance that kept the game level.
It was Coady who had the next chance when Mykolenko crossed the ball and Coady attempted to side foot the looping ball with no success. The sides then traded chances as the game opened up in the final few minutes of the half. A well worked corner from Gray to Tarkowski ended up with Calvert Lewin heading the ball right into the waiting arms of Bernd Leno. Gordon also had a chance but wildly blasted his shot over the bar. Everton were definitely getting chances and ended the half with 44% of the ball and 4 of 8 shots on target. More involvement from Alex Iwobi was needed in the second half.
The second half began and Willian was taken down in the box in the first minute by Gana Gueye but nothing was given as Gaye made contact with the ball. Mitrović met a lovely cross from Willian but could not hit the target. Willian and Robinson were starting to exert themselves down the left side against Coleman. It was Willian who cut inside and forced a fine save from Pickford. Fulham were bossing the game for the first ten minutes.
As the hour mark approached Everton were given a free kick after a great run by Mykolenko. Demarai Gray lay the ball into Amadou Onana who turned and shot just wide. Everton were starting to assert themselves and were controlling the midfield. Lampard was the first to make a switch and the arrival of Nathan Patterson happened just after Mitrović had two opportunities to take the lead. Lampard also brought on James Garner for the final 30 minutes in place of Gana Gueye. Fulham replied by bringing on former red, Harry Wilson.
Calvert-Lewin put the ball in the net in the 70th minute but the offside flag nullified the goal. The teams shuffled the pack again with Dwight McNeil coming on for the Blues and Tom Cairney and Kenny Tete coming on for the home team. The game needed a moment of quality to make the difference. Willian had a chance after a giveaway from Gordon but Pickford smothered the shot. Fulham started to get the majority of the chances but the roar from the travelling Evertonians never diminished.
The final five minutes arrived and any mistake or moment of quality was going to decide the game. Neil Maupay joined the fray after he replaced a quickly fading Anthony Gordon. Alexander Mitrović had another attempt on goal which took him to double figures in the game. Three minutes of extra time did not change the outcome as the final whistle blew.
The team is starting to pick itself and an unchanged side for the third game in a row shows that Lampard is getting a clearer picture of his best eleven. With only two games in the league left before the World Cup, getting the starting 11 as much time together seems to be a good idea. Knowing the starting 11 also give Lampard a greater awareness of how his bench can impact the game. There is also quality on the Everton bench and the changes that were made provided attacking options that gave them a chance to win the game.
It was so good seeing Everton willing to take the game to Fulham. The obvious confidence that was created by the Crystal Palace game was the impetus even though Everton were away from home. In previous matches away from home, Everton sat back and lacked any drive. Having Calvert-Lewin in the box gave his teammates an obvious target. Even Mykolenko was bombing down the wing and was crossing the ball more frequently. The return of Patterson will also add more going forward. Unfortunately, the threat was completely missing in the second half as Fulham took the game to the Blues.
This was another game where the defensive end of our game was solid. Each real chance was met by outstanding saves from Jordan Pickford. The panic and mayhem of last year’s defensive pairings has been replaced by confidence and calm. Last year, the number of corners that Fulham had would have been our downfall. This year, in-swingers or out-swingers are met with a solidity of approach. Coady, Tarkowski, Gueye and Onana have formed a central block that has only allowed 12 goals after 13 matches. This was their first clean sheet away from home this season and it was their first clean sheet away from home in 23 matches.
Pickford, Coady, and Tarkowski were big in the defensive end. It was nice to see Demarai Gray playing well but Alex Iwobi was completely missing and did not influence the way he has over the last few weeks. We had chances today and moving forward we showed promise. The draw puts Everton into 12th in the table. A good away clean sheet. Next up, Leicester at home.