Everton 4 - 1 Fulham

Christmas Time and there’s something joyous about going to the match this Festive time of year…and we are blessed this season with three home games (four if you include QPR in the FA Cup) and two away games. All very winnable games on paper. If we can continue this scintillating form – only Roma and Bayern Munich have lost less league games than us throughout Europe – then I would be very interested to see where we are in the table the other side of the Christmas period. Moreover, I would be interested to see where we are in the table following our home fixture against Norwich City and our away trip to the Hawthorns in January before the Anfield Merseyside derby.

I’m getting carried away of course, though it’s difficult not to, particularly after seeing us play poorly and win 4-1. If the team can keep their heads there is no reason why this run can not continue though we must be wary of how injuries and suspensions bite at this time of year and bite they will, exemplified by Gerard Deulofeu pulling up with a hamstring injury in the second half. His impact off the bench will be missed for sure…let's hope we can make the most of the kind fixture list over the next month or so having done so well in our recent supposed difficult run of games.

With Manchester City vs Arsenal on the TV I got to the pub early to catch the game, Ste joining me not long after kick off to witness quite the top-of-the-table clash, the match remarkably finishing 6-3 to Manchester City. Being a Postman it is of course a crazy time of year for Gary and he didn’t get to the pub until about 2.15pm though still managed to force down a few Ciders before we moved on to Goodison Park. By this point I was well on my way. Gary looked into his crystal ball pre-kick off and predicted a 4-1 Everton win.

Everton made two changes from our impressive draw at the Emirates, the match hero Gerard Deulofeu given a starting birth at the expense of Kevin Mirallas, and Leon Osman deputizing for the suspended James McCarthy. Fulham’s XI included ex-Red John Arne Riise, ex-Blue Phillippe Senderos, Scott Parker, Steve Sidwell And Dinitar Berbatov. Anthony Walker officiated, Everton attacked towards the Park End in the first half. Fulham brought with them their usual coach load of supporters.

We began with purpose and were ahead on 18 minutes with something of a typical Leon Osman goal, Leon clipping the ball nicely just inside the post from the edge of the Fulham penalty box. It was the 40th of his Everton career on his 300th Premier League appearance, making a total of a goal every 7.5 games. Not bad service at all for our often understated midfielder. Fulham showed glimpses of returning into the game in the first half but Everton always looked threatening, whilst Distin was capable of moping up most of what Fulham could offer.

Into the break we were one ahead and all smiles, first witnessing a pleasant choir before some sort of crazy rave appeared to take place on the field when what looked like Stewards in high-visibility jackets actually turned out to be performers who all converged onto the pitch to dance to some rave tune. It wasn’t quite the half-time entertainment we have become accustomed too…whatever happened to the ‘Hit The Bar’ competition?

Fulham seemed to use half time to their advantage and came out for the second half in much more positive form and will have been very disappointed to head back to London at the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline. Everton couldn’t dictate play the way they would have liked in the second half and Fulham’s pressure finally told when on 67 minutes Garet Barry felled Kacaniklic in the area. Anthony Walker pointed to the spot, Berbatov tucked home in Berbatov fashion (laid-back run up, a little stagger and calmly stroking the ball into the opposite corner) and it was all square. In truth Fulham should have leveled sooner and would have done had Kacaniklic not skied his effort from six-yards out. Fulham were up for this now, even bringing on substitute Kasami in a positive and bold attempt to win the game…the audacity.

Everton needed to get going again and the crowd urged them on. At 1-1 we were thankfully able to find another gear and pressed for the winner. I don’t think anybody expected a further three goals from Everton but we were certainly grateful for it. The ever-busy Steven Pienaar made a lovely feint as Oviedo’s ball ran through to Lukaku, the giant Belgian played a nice reverse ball back to Pienaar who cut the ball back across goal, the ball deflecting to Coleman who couldn’t miss, even with his left foot, and placed home into the empty net. Coleman was probably the least-deserving player on the pitch to score a goal as some of his crossing had been so, so wayward, but credit to the Irishman for being positive and being in the penalty area to stroke home for his third goal of the season.

Fulham’s spirit had now been broken and they seemed to lose concentration at an Everton corner, eventually culminating in Gareth Barry nodding the ball home just short of the goal-line...Everton now safely over the line at 3-1 with six minutes to play.

We weren’t finished either. Bryan Oviedo had a drive blocked when he was played through but it was Kevin Mirallas who put extra gloss on the scoreline, cutting inside and shooting from about 20 yards out, Stekelenburg should have kept it out but the ball went past him even though he got both hands to the ball. A fella behind us was pretty disappointed with the goalkeepers effort to save it. I can only assume he had a bet on Everton winning 3-1.

That was full time and at the end of play an excellent video was displayed on the large screens with various Everton staff and players singing along to “Bring Me Sunshine” in Festive Christmas gear. It made for an entertaining end to the day.

For now at least Everton have moved into the top four and just four points of top spot. It wasn’t pretty for most of that second half and you have to accept we can’t play brilliant every match, but what was pleasing was how we came back into the game and forced the victory when we had to. Let’s hope we can keep up that perseverance over the coming weeks and try and maintain our place in the top four.

I won’t be covering the Swansea City match so have a fantastic Christmas Day one and all. All the best.

Player Ratings:
Howard: Well he couldn’t do a lot about the goal but was pretty dependable for everything else for which he was called upon. 7
Oviedo: It’s great that we have a dependable, attacking left back to deputise for Leighton Baines. It may be the case that Oviedo will play more if Baines does leave but I admire the way he’s patiently waited for his chance and has now stepped up when required. 6
Distin: Had a very good game defensively. 7
Jagielka: Coped pretty well. 6
Coleman: He got forward to good effect but his final ball was often poor though he did keep on going and ended up in the penalty box to score a very important goal to put us 2-1 ahead. 6
Barry: Did OK. Kept us ticking over though was a little clumsy with the penalty he gave away. 6
Barkley: Had a good game. Was always positive, always looking for the ball and always finding space. One of the more mature performances we’ve seen from him I think. 7
Osman: It’s great that the players who are finding themselves out of the team at times are making it difficult for the manager to leave them out. A nice goal from Osman and he carried the fight to Fulham as much as anyone. 300 games and 40 goals for Everton and he cost us nothing. Hard to complain about Leon Osman in my opinion. 7
Pienaar: My man of the match. Was always busy. He seemed well up for this one, almost as if he was captaining the team at times as he was always yelling instructions to other players and demanding the ball. One of his better performances this season and he can still be a key cog in the team. 8
Deulofeu: Didn’t impact on the game as we hoped, maybe he should continue his role as impact-sub for now…though he won’t be able to do that for a few weeks by the looks of things as he was substituted with a hamstring injury. He’ll be missed over Christmas but it may present an opportunity for somebody else. 6
Lukaku: Always a handful and showed good link up play around the box. I can’t remember too many opportunities for him to score. It’s good when we win and he doesn’t score…it makes you think he will score in the next game. 7

Substitutes:
Mirallas (for Deulofeu): Came on and bagged a goal. Hard to ask for more than that. 7
Stones (for Pienaar): Martinez obviously has a lot of faith in Stones as he always tries to get him on the pitch when possible. Unfortunately for me it’s always down the other end of the pitch with not long to go in the game so it’s difficult to tell much about him. Not on long enough to judge.

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Gerry Quinn
763 Posted 15/12/2013 at 18:44:11
Can any Statistician state when was the last time Everton had such a positive goal difference at this stage of a season?
Patrick Murphy
774 Posted 15/12/2013 at 18:59:35
Gerry - it may well be the best GD we have had in the PL era at this stage but I don't know for sure - The 2004-05 campaign we had a GD of plus 6 at this stage but also had 33 points compared to the 31 we have at present.
Trevor Lynes
811 Posted 15/12/2013 at 20:25:08
Agree with Gerry and Patrick, our goal difference was usually pretty average at best. It is much better now when we don't just rely on set pieces to score.
David Nelson
813 Posted 15/12/2013 at 20:39:39
Gerry, after 16 games during 2007-08 we had +13, having just beaten Fulham 3-0, which took us to 27 points.
Denis Richardson
823 Posted 15/12/2013 at 21:12:43
Unbeaten in 9, only one defeat this season (16 games) and sitting pretty in 5th - it sure does feel good looking at the table at the moment, especially knowing that we should have even more points.

Already played away at Arsenal, City and United and with all of the next 6 games arguably very winnable as we'll be the favourites.....its a blue world at the moment.

Just noticed our next 4 games are against teams all beginning with the letter S, which means absolutely fuck all I guess. Going to enjoy the week and hope for more of the same away to Swansea next weekend. Still feels like Christmas has come early.

When is it okay to start (really) dreaming?

Patrick Murphy
834 Posted 15/12/2013 at 21:36:27
Dennis about 5 minutes from the end of the final game of the season when the boys are a couple of goals to the good and the result helps us to achieve a CL place and even then....it might be too early, don't forget this is EFC we are talking about.
Stewart Lowe
849 Posted 15/12/2013 at 22:03:44
I have just had a £50 bet at 28/1 that Everton become Premier League Champions come May. Am I out of my mind? Or is there some substance to this?

There are so many things going in Everton's favour that make a non-gambling person like me part with £50 on Everton achieving something that they haven't done since 1987. There are only Bayern Munich and Roma in the whole of Europe that have lost fewer games than Everton. We are not talking about 5 games into a new season here, we are talking 16 games and nearly half way through the season, as well as having already played all of the so-called top 6.

Also going in Everton's favour are the results of those big 6 games. We beat Chelsea and Man Utd, we have drawn against Spurs, Liverpool and Arsenal, and our only defeat this season was at the Etihad where nobody comes away with anything. Not only this, but when we play the big 6 for the return fixtures we have already played Spurs, Man Utd, Arsenal and Man City away from home, so bringing the big teams back to a Goodison Park when we are playing this well stands us in an amazing position.

Finally, after the draw at Arsenal, it won't have gone unnoticed at Everton that we don't play another big club until we visit Anfield at the end of January. Until then, we had 7 winnable games in Fulham, Swansea, Sunderland, Southampton, Stoke, Norwich and West Brom. We beat Fulham, so that leaves 6 winnable games in a period of fixtures where all the top teams will be playing each other.

So, with a couple of loans in January to cover for Deulofeu and Gibson, and the fixtures being as kind to us as they are, is my £50 safe, or am I simply deluded?

Simon Lloyd
851 Posted 15/12/2013 at 22:03:06
Paul,

Like your report. Agree with your ratings, as in relative scores between players, although I'd probably give each an extra mark (although I am just a soft arse).

You mentioned the half time entertainment. I was a little worried when Jennifer Jewel took the mike. Skimpy Mrs Santa outfits in blue are all well and good and I would normally approve. However, I attended the game with my 21 year old daughter. I can only say that I was grateful for the restraint showed by the group of lads sat behind us! Only one laddish comment, and that done a little apologetically (even I could see that something had to be said),

Mike Hughes
852 Posted 15/12/2013 at 22:31:05
Stewart #849 - it says a lot that the bookies have us at 28/1 now. I seem to recall we were 250/1 pre-season. I may be out of my mind as well because I think it's there for the taking this year. There is no runaway leader and we're right in the mix. With our run of winnable games I fully expect us to be looking down on the RS when we play them.

(We have a God-given duty to prevent the RS succeeding as (watching MoTD2) they seem to be rampant. Rumours circulating tonight (Planet Spurs) that AVB will be seeking employment.

Now where's my medication?

Phil Sammon
854 Posted 15/12/2013 at 22:43:26
I can only assume I had a couple of twitchers behind me Simon. One of them seemed absolutely determined that a pair of 'blue tits' be brought out 'for the lads' during the performance.
Patrick Murphy
855 Posted 15/12/2013 at 22:41:46
Stewart I'm not a gambling man and I've only ever placed one bet on Everton and that was back in 1984 when I guessed the 2-0 cup final scoreline I got enough for a couple of pints and I was a happy chappy. But I'm not sure if there is substance or substances involved in your placing that bet. I hope you win as it would make all Evertonians delighted and ecstatic for the whole Summer, it has to happen one day if only by chance that some team outside of the bankrolled chosen few manages to sneak the title, we can but dream.

Simon Lloyd
857 Posted 15/12/2013 at 22:56:38
Phil, I was very anxious that the young lady should not catch cold. I really couldn't understand the young men sat in the row behind who felt she was overdressed.

Mind you, she couldn't half sing.

Jim Bennings
907 Posted 16/12/2013 at 10:21:36
I don't like to put money on Everton because past experience tell me it puts the mockers on us doing anything. As an Evertonian for many years I am used to being brought back down to earth with a bang even when everything seems to be sailing along nicely. Its like even after this great run we have been on we just knew that some bad news would come in the shape of Deulofeu getting crocked.

I see no logical reason why we should not be picking up enough points between now and the Anfield derby to keep ourselves right in the mix though. We can only hope that Liverpool have hit a bit of a lull by then and that we perform to our absolute maximum. I hate to say it again but they are looking mustard at the minute and having seen them play, I am surprised because I didn't think they had it in them but they look title challengers more so than Chelsea and Man Utd this season.

We have to keep up what we are doing and see where we are at the start of January after the next four games against the S's... Swansea, Sunderland,Saints and Stoke.

Steve Pugh
938 Posted 16/12/2013 at 12:50:32
Everybody talks about 6 winnable games. I would like to alter that and say that we have 7 very winnable games before we face Villa at Goodison, which I also would expect us to win.
Harold Matthews
947 Posted 16/12/2013 at 12:58:04
Yes, they are all winnable Steve but also very tough. Sunderland won't be a pushover and Southampton scare me to death. 72% possession against City is scary. So much will depend on injuries, suspensions and the odd match where we have one of our off days. e.g. Palace.

The big plus is Martinez. Unlike me, he doesn't appear to worry about anything.

Patrick Murphy
948 Posted 16/12/2013 at 13:36:02
Every single fixture is winnable, but the problem is the team still has to win it. We as fans, especially at Goodison have to get rid of this 'sit back and wait for it all to unfold' mentality, what we need is that old siege mentality we used to have in the darker days, when every good tackle was cheered to the rafters.

We have to convince ourselves that we can be up and around the top sides in the coming months, but our players need the real backing of our support to help to push them home when they are tired or off form. We are not sleepy Arsenal fans or spoilt Man Utd fans – we are Everton fans and we have got to show what that means in the coming games and for the rest of the season.

James Martin
040 Posted 16/12/2013 at 19:42:08
You can slip up in any game, equally you can win any game.

We've dropped points at Palace and WBA at home yet won away at United and beaten Chelsea. We're a good enough side now that, apart from City away perhaps, the opposition is largely irrelevant. If we perform at our best, we're good enough to beat the majority of teams home and away.

It's all about how often we can be at our best and, if we're not, whether we've got the firepower and defensive solidity to win the games we shouldn't. The more times we win the games like Fulham, the more times the players will start to believe that they can win those tight games rather than always just falling short, like they have for so long.

The Christmas stretch will be tough and other teams like Liverpool and (dare I say it) Man Utd will pick up points where we expect them not to (and also hopefully drop them as well). We just need to concentrate on ourselves though and not get complacent just because there's not a load of top sides all in a row.

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