Everton find extra gear to win again

, 30 March, 0comments  |  Jump to most recent
Fulham 1 - 3 Everton

Everton's push towards Champions League qualification, a feat that had looked beyond them five Premier League games ago, gathered pace at Craven Cottage this afternoon as they eventually powered past Fulham thanks to three inspired substitutions by Roberto Martinez.

Steven Naismith came off the bench to provide the impetus for a vital victory as Martinez's side won in the League for the fifth time in succession.

The Blues were unchanged from the side that had demolished Newcastle so effectively but they struggled in the first half to dictate the contest in the manner they had on Tuesday.

Fulham carried the greater threat before half time and a saving tackle by James McCarthy and an excellent save by Tim Howard to palm Lewis Holtby's header over were needed to keep the home side off the scoresheet.

Howard also denied Kevin Richardson and Moussa Dembele while Everton were restricted to just a Ross Barkley shot and the occasional threatening moment from Gerard Deulofeu.

Martinez made the first of three impactful substitutions at half-time, withdrawing Barkley who had taken a knock in favour of Naismith and the Scot's movement and intelligence with the ball made had an instant impact on the Blues' performance.

And within five minutes of his introduction, Naismith opened the scoring, connecting with a clearance from Leighton Baines's corner that deflected off William Kvist's shin before being inadvertently turned into his own net by David Stockdale.

Baines and Romelu Lukaku went close to doubling the lead but Everton's failure to kill the Cottagers off looked like it would be punished when Ashkan Dejagah belted home a superbly-struck shot from 20 yards to make it 1-1 with 19 minutes left.

A crucial double-save by Howard shortly afterwards then proved to be pivotal. The American foiled John Heitinga's first-half header with a point-blank save and then stopped Pajtim Kasami with a low save which kept Martinez's men on level terms.

The Catalan's remaining substitutes then combined to restore Everton's lead. Aiden McGeady threaded an exquisite ball through the Fulham defence to release Kevin Mirallas who fired past Stockdale with a aplomb.

And the Belgian's persistence helped create the killer goal four minutes from time, Baines profiting from a fortunate bounce that allowed him to slide it square to Naismith in front of goal who prodded home to make it 3-1.

The win moves the Blues to within four points of their next opponents, Arsenal, and extends their lead over Tottenham below them in sixth to the same margin with a game in hand over both teams.

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