It was announced just hours before the match that Everton’s appeal of the profit and sustainability points deduction would begin tomorrow. Sean Dyche was required to keep the players focused on the match ahead and not be distracted by the circus.
Everton were trying to avoid losing a first league double at the hands of Fulham for the first time in 30 years. After a run of nine defeats in 10 away league matches at Fulham, the Toffees had lost just one of their last seven at Craven Cottage. With only one win in their last eight matches, Everton were looking to turn things around and get back to winning ways.
The main talking point was the absence of Amadou Onana who, according to Sean Dyche, “ did well to finish the game on Saturday. He got a knock on his knee and there’s a bit of fluid in there. We don’t think it’s anything serious, but this one has come around too quick.” Ashley Young started the match along with Ben Godfrey. The big question was how the team would line up.
Seamus Coleman and Abdoulaye Doucoure were absent and Idrissa Gueye was making his way back to England after Senegal was dumped out of the AFCON after losing to Ivory Coast.
Marco Silva made seven changes to the side that started their 2-0 home defeat by Newcastle in the FA Cup. Bernd Leno returned in goal with Timothy Castagne, Tosin Adarabioyo, Joao Palhinha, Tom Cariney, Willian and Raul Jimenez also starting. Harry Wilson missed out entirely having sustained a shoulder injury against Newcastle.
The match kicked off with Everton wearing their salmon shirts with salmon shorts and salmon socks. First time for that I am sure. Any reason why we can’t wear our home strip?
A fine start for Everton and the first really chance fell to Godfrey who received his throw-in back from Young and he drove the ball into the penalty area. Calvert-Lewin did well to hold off the defender and layed it into the path of Harrison just inside the box but he couldn’t quite curl it into the far corner.
It was a bit end to end with both teams willing to take a chance when presented one. Castagne delivered a ball into the area which was headed away by Godfrey but only as far as Antonee Robinson who struck the ball from outside the area. Pickford was there to palm it behind for a corner.
Fulham were enjoying plenty of possession having had 72.2 per cent of the ball. However, they had managed just two touches in the opposition box to Everton’s seven, with Everton looking like more of a threat in the final third since the game got under way.
Young whipped a free kick into the penalty area and Leno was there to palm it away. Tarkowski struck it back towards goal and it deflected onto the bar, before it was poked off the line by Robinson. Two thirds of the ball was over the line, but the Toffees somehow failed to open the scoring!
It was then Fulham who just couldn’t get it over the line. Castagne blasted the ball but Tarkowski somehow blocked it off the line but it fell straight to Jimenez from just outside the six-yard box. Thankfully, he couldn’t hit the target from just a few yards out! A massive opportunity for Fulham.
Branthwaite was in the referee’s book for a challenge on Perreira and moments later a nice ball from Harrison over the top fell to Danjuma who could not get it past Leno. The half ended with both sides having lots of chances but no luck getting the ball over the line. With Luton thrashing Brighton 3-0 we were sitting in the relegation zone.
The second half started with Raul Jiminez giving way for Rodrigo Muniz after the Mexican limped off at half time. McNeil got away with one! Everton looked to play out from the back, but McNeil’s sloppy pass was intercepted. It fell to Muniz who was through on goal, but his effort was saved by Pickford.
Everton went long from a free-kick and Tarkowski rose highest at the back post. His header fell to Godfrey who struck it from inside the penalty area, but it deflected behind for a corner. Garner took the set-piece and it found Calvert-Lewin at the back post... but his header hits the bar.
It was then Fulham’s turn and Antonee Robinson whipped a ball into the box which Perreira could not get the chance on goal. Fulham were on the front foot and Paulinha blasted over the net. Everton were struggling to get out and Fulham had several chances but they could not hit the net. The biggest chance fell to Muniz who had his shot that was goalbound deflected by Tarkowki. The corner then ended up on Everton’s bar after Castagne redirected a header from Decordova-Reid.
Fulham were forced in to a substitution as Issa Diop hobbled off with Tim Reid coming on to take over the central defender road. A number of corners for Fulham tested our backline. Tosin rose above everyone inside the Everton penalty area and fired a header towards goal, but Pickford somehow got his fingers to it and tipped it over the bar! It was an unbelievable stop to keep the game at 0-0!
Branthwaite was on the ground and Evertonian hearts were in their mouths as he took a while to get back up. Fulham continued to dominate and Dyche had seen enough. Young and Calvert Lewin were withdrawn for Patterson and Beto. Three of Beto’s goals had come off the bench so there was something to look forward to for the travelling Evertonians.
With seven minutes to go, Everton had nothing going forward and Dyche seemed to be hedging for a draw. The energy level of the team had dropped dramatically with McNeil looking shattered. A rare foray forward saw Everton get a free kick which was taken by Garner. Tosin got a head to it to deny Tarkowski who was licking his lips in anticipation.
It was then Danjuma who was on the ground and he hobbled off with Dobbin being asked to finish the match which was extended by six minutes. Fulham were going for the kill and it was Muniz who had another chance with a point blank header from six yards but it want straight to Pickford. Beto finally got a touch and his attempted shot was deflected for a corner. Leno was surrounded by three Evertonians and when the ball landed on Beto’s head he could not keep the header down.
Seconds later Beto and Godfrey had so many chances from a corner but it would not fall for them. Finishing was not our thing today but the match did finish with the referee’s whistle.
Man of the Match - This was such a hard match to give someone this accolade. Tarkowski made some great blocks but in the end it was the saves by Jordan Pickford that stood out. Tarks does his job so well but Pickford made the highlight reel. I have to say that Ben Godfrey has been called on recently to fill in and today he did a fine job in a new role for him.
Dominic Calvert Lewin has not hit the net for more than 3 months which just cannot happen when you are the team’s ‘main’ striker. Before this game he had scored 3 goals in 14 starts and 3 substitute appearances. In the end he was on the pitch for 81 minutes, had five shots, two chances created, 10 aerial duels won and he hit the bar. Much like the team, he cannot get the goal to turn things around.
We are just not getting anything right now. The Toffees had the ball cleared off the line while Robinson appeared to have handled the ball inside the box, but the referee was having none of it and VAR saw nothing amiss. VAR did not intervene because his arm was deemed to be by his side. Yes let that sink in.
When are we going to start getting some of these breaks. Hopefully, we get a big one when we have our points deduction reduced after the appeal hearing starts tomorrow.
We have Manchester City and Tottenham on the horizon so the pressure on the team will grow in the media and amongst the supporters. We have to see the false position as a result of the points deduction not reflective of how the team is playing in the big picture. This season may be defined by the points deduction but the team is working for Sean Dyche and in the end it will be results against those around us that will determine the outcome of this season. Let’s just give our all for the next two matches.
Finally, we currently have a threadbare squad. Two goalkeepers on the bench today. Every time a player goes down there is a collective breath taken by Evertonians all over the world. Today, Danjuma went off near the end and it was then up to Dobbin to raise his game to fill in. One thing that I don’t understand is why Dyche is not giving the U23’s a chance. Better to have them on the bench than two goalies. Also, as the clock ticks to the transfer window closing, we just CANNOT let anyone go without having a replacement ready to go. My preference would be to hold onto Branthwaite and any of the others that have been linked with a move away.