A new season dawns with the chance to renew hope and watch how the many changes that have been made at the club will impact results. A home fixture in front of the raucous Goodison faithful can only help the team if the team is willing to give their all for a positive result.
Sean Dyche named his first team of the season with James Tarkowski passed fit after recovering from a minor knock. There was no Dominic Calvert Lewin, Dele Alli, Seamus Coleman or Dwight McNeil, while Youssef Chermiti’s late signing saw him only appear at half time for his introduction, Arnaut Danjuma was on the bench so the forward play was in the hands of Neal Maupay.
Fulham’s influential Joao Palhinha was ruled out with a shoulder issue with Andreas Pereira making the bench and Tom Cairney faced a fitness test but made the starting lineup. Aleksandar Mitrović, after an unsettled summer took a place on the bench which allowed Raul Jiminez to make his Fulham competitive debut.
Stuart Attewell got the game underway and less than 15 seconds later Neal Maupay put the ball just wide of the post. The game was end to end and Doucoure found himself one on one with Leno and it was the German who won the duel but it was the wide open James Garner who was left frustrated.
The game settled into a back and forth with both teams forcing errors with a high press. Everton were using the counter attack to effect and it was Iwobi who almost broke the deadlock. Fulham were dominating possession with 70% after 20 minutes but there had been nothing to trouble Pickford. Fulham were struggling to build much momentum, with Palhinha and Pereira clearly missed in midfield. Jimenez was dropping deep in a bid to link the play, with Wilson and Willian playing high and wide.
Willian took down Garner and earned the first yellow of the match. Moments later Everton were all over Fulham and it was Maupay again with the big chance and no result. Michael Keane had the ball in the back of the net after Leno jumped over Tarkowski and lost the ball but the referee blew his whistle for a foul. VAR checked with no change in the call.
Alex Iwobi was motoring down the left side showing his pace and strength and a great diagonal ball to Onana ended up on Maupay’s foot with a third clear cut chance missed. One extra minute was added with Everton ending the half on top but lacking the goal to show for their efforts. Expected goals for Everton were 2.08 compared to only 0.03 for Fulham. Leno had 2.65 goals prevented in the first half.
Willian was replaced at the start of the second half by Bobby Decordova-Reid. James Garner showed his quality with a great piece of ball control and then a scything pass to Maupay. Fulham started to get the ball forward but there was still little to trouble Pickford. Marco Silva could not have been happy with his team’s display, and it wasn’t surprising to see Mitrović and Pereira brought on moments after Raul Jiminez hit the post.
The Goodison crowd had their hearts in their mouths when Alex Iwobi pulled up with a groin strain but he soldiered on. It was Mitrović who was on the ground and looked to be substituted but he also recovered to continue. Everton should have been on the scoresheet after Iwobi tested Leno and the parried shot fell to Patterson who rattled the crossbar.
The final 20 minutes arrived and Neal Maupay made way for Arnaut Danjuma to make his competitive debut. Seconds later, Bobby De Cordova-Reid slid the ball past Pickford with their first shot on net. He was left completely unmarked with Garner or Patterson nowhere near. Moments later it was De Cordova-Reid who put the another cross goalward but this one was over the bar.
Everton continued to press forward for the equalizer but it then left room in the back. James Garner was removed with Lewis Dobbin coming on to change the outcome of the game. Iwobi was the next Toffee to be stopped by Bernd Leno as the point blank effort was parried wide. The changes that had been made benefitted Fulham but did nothing to change the outcome for Everton. Mitrović was apoplectic after believing that Tarkowski had used his arm to block the shot but the appeals were ignored.
Everton had a couple of chances to tie the game with Tarkowski coming closest. Arnaut Danjuma was sent clear and the chance was called back for offside. The six extra minutes faded away with Everton’s chance of getting something from the game.
Everton Man of the Match: Alex Iwobi
So many chances, so many missed opportunities. As the teams were announced we were given the news that DCL was unavailable after the birth of his first child overnight. Neal Maupay leading the line ahead of Danjuma, Cannon or Dobbin. Youssef Chermiti was introduced to the crowd but the big question is whether he will get chances to show his quality. The fine balance of bedding in a player and putting him into the deep end will be one that Dyche will have to manage. The solution would be the signing of a more experienced striker in the final 19 days of the transfer window. Will that happen? We cannot rely on Maupay or we are going down.
Much has been made of our lack of goals in the past two years. What we can say is that we allowed only one goal in preseason and the solidity of the backline is an area that should provide a positive base on which to build. Until the goal, Everton had not allowed a shot on net but that moment gave Fulham the lead and ultimately the win.
When Michael Keane scored and the goal was disallowed, it was VAR that was being relied upon to make the right call. Tarkowski did nothing other than stand his ground. Stuart Attewell was very quick to blow his whistle which was probably why there was no check as the goal happened after the whistle. A delayed whistle and then VAR could have been used to check on the foul.