Everton 1 - 1 Fulham [6 - 7 on Penalties]

I guess it's hard not to get giddy after four successive wins without a goal conceded; or 10 wins in 14 games across all competitions. But that's what we've done this last week ahead of a home League Cup quarter-final against beatable opposition. With all that in mind, it was perhaps inevitable that the rug would be pulled from under us in cruel circumstances.

We arrived at the pub buoyant, enjoying a couple of beers and complimentary hot dogs. Conscious of the queues outside the Gwladys Street ahead of the Fourth Round tie against Burnley, we arrived in good time, and were part of a pumped atmosphere as Everton attempted to reach a semi-final for the first time since 2016.

There was much confusion about the starting line-up, with some of us (including myself, wrongly) feeling Jarrad Branthwaite would be operating as part of a back three with Dwight McNeil at left-wingback, and others feeling he was at left-back. I'm sure how Fulham lined up will have played into Sean Dyche's thinking on this decision, though Jarrad, despite his best efforts, never looked comfortable there.

Fulham began the game well albeit without really seizing the initiative, though Everton soon wrestled control of the game and for a period of at least 10 minutes were all over Fulham, though were unable to get the breakthrough. Dwight McNeil skied a powerful effort well over the crossbar when he might have done better, and Jarrad Branthwaite opted to head rather than volley with a half-chance but was unable to generate sufficient power on the ball to trouble Bernd Leno.

We continued to dominate proceedings, however, and then suddenly a couple of, from our position at least, debatable calls from Graham Scott swung momentum Fulham's way a little. Firstly, he called a handball against Nathan Patterson which looked to me as though he could do little about and was only adjudged to have handled because Willian stopped and appealed.

Following that, Michael Keane and Rodrigo Muniz both challenged aerially for a 50-50 ball, which resulted in Muniz sprawling on the floor and Michael Keane carded, much to the dismay of most of the Everton players. Again, and I haven't had the benefit of seeing a replay, it seemed a tough call to me. This was just outside the penalty area, would a penalty against Michael really have been called had it been 2 yards back? I doubt that.

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This is relevant because, from the restart, once Willian had gone very close with the free kick, we quickly conceded. I thought it was a dreadful ball out to the left by Jordan, seeking out Jarrad Branthwaite when we were overloaded on the right instead. Jarrad could do little more than head the ball to a Fulham player and we were quickly on the back foot again. Antonee Robinson's centre flashed across and into the net.

We assumed it must have been an own-goal and then I saw Michael Keane grimace just in front of me. I've seen that grimace before and assumed it was him. So at the break, though not great, we were certainly a lot better than our visitors but found ourselves a goal behind despite them not registering a shot on target.

The second half was a lot more of the same in the most part – a brilliant effort from Everton, though not producing enough quality to unlock Fulham, who were defending their lead well and making life difficult for us throughout. It also felt like they were benefiting from the majority of the 50-50 calls from Graham Scott.

To the lads' credit, they stayed patient and kept on going. The crowd, desperate for Everton silverware, stuck with them and encouraged them all the way. We eventually got the reward our toils, if not our quality, deserved when substitute Beto gambled, stayed onside, and headed in to level the scores.

With 8 minutes remaining on the clock, plus what turned out to be 7 minutes of stoppage time, we dared to dream. On a few occasions, it felt as though we got a little bit too carried away, but I guess you have to be prepared to lose to win sometimes, and we so nearly did it in normal time when another substitute in Arnaut Djanjuma met a volley splendidly with the full meat of his boot but unfortunately it went narrowly wide of the post. 

So onto penalties it was then, and it felt it was going all too well when we got to take them in front of the Gwladys Street, and also go first. As all the first four lads that stepped up (Beto, Dwight, Arnaut and Michael) buried their penalties with aplomb, and Jordan had saved well from Bobby De Cordova-Reid, it was down to our fifth penalty taker to take us into the semi-final.

Rewind a little while earlier, and while James Garner was sprawling on the turf holding what looked like his ankle, Ste and I wondered who would be taking our penalties if he had to come off, because we had it as an absolute given that he, along with the other four actually, would be one of the penalty takers… 

So I was very surprised when I saw Amadou step up. I mean, does he seem to have that composure when given a chance to shoot? He is a tidy passer, but is he a good striker of the ball? And for heim to be our number five penalty taker – one who, if it gets that far in a shoot-out, pretty much has to score – should he be the man to need to score to put us into the semi-final?

I was surprised he walked forward, but even so could not believe what came next. What the heck was he doing? An abysmal penalty and he can have no excuse. If he runs up, hits it hard but Leno guesses well and saves, then fine. But to take a penalty like that, with the semi-final on the line, is just absurd and he can have no excuses.

James Tarkowski and James Garner did what they had to, before Idrissa Gueye hit the post with his effort. No complaints with Idrissa there – low down the order he stepped up and was a little unlucky. But what on earth was Amadou doing?

I'd have to see the penalties again on TV also, but should Jordan have done better too? He seemed more interested in his eccentrics than his shot-stopping. You could say he did his job in making a good save and giving us the platform to go and win; though conversely, he got close to a few of them penalties, the last one particularly felt like he might have kept out.

So the trophy wait goes on, ended cruelly once again, but credit to the players. Not high on quality, but with the mounting injuries, and relentless fixture schedule, they are giving all they can.

We'll just have to move on and get back at it in the league, and go again for a trophy at Selhurst Park in a few weeks. But isn't it just gutting?

My Man of the Match, if only for total desire and a complete unwillingness to accept defeat, is James Garner. I really wish he'd have taken that fifth penalty.

Keep your heads up high. UTFT.

Reader Comments (17)

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Andy McNabb
1 Posted 20/12/2023 at 08:00:07
Thanks, Paul.

I couldn't even bring myself to read a match report until this one.

You dare to start to dream for a few minutes, and then…

Danny O’Neill
2 Posted 20/12/2023 at 09:07:35
I had to watch this one on the tele.

A very poor, scrappy game. But I guess a lot of cup matches in the later stages, including finals, they often are.

I thought Pickford was unlucky. He got close to a couple and had a hand one of them.

Not for the first time, the officials were poor. And I'm not being biased, but particularly against Everton.

There were a lot of decisions, but when we were down to 9 men for an unreasonably lengthy period stuck out for me.

Dave Williams
3 Posted 20/12/2023 at 11:09:40
Very disappointing but we have bigger fish to fry. If 777 collapses we could be in administration so we need every point possible. Our squad is very stretched with little depth in midfield especially. It could be that avoiding a two legged semi final will be doing us a favour. Not a popular view I grant you but this season is all about staying up in the face of some huge problems to overcome.
Barry Rathbone
4 Posted 20/12/2023 at 11:22:44
Mid table noddies have results like this and that's us.

We can't sneak under the radar like Swansea, Wigan, Portsmouth, Birmingham etc and win a cup because of who we are - teams always take us seriously.

We need a proper challenging outfit and that costs money so keep the worry beads handy it could be another 30 yrs.

John Burns
5 Posted 20/12/2023 at 11:43:44
Paul, your headline sums up my feelings too. I hate anything Pogbaesque and knew as he walked to take the penalty, he was going to miss. So avoidable. So gutting. So so us.
Paul Kossoff
6 Posted 20/12/2023 at 11:56:58
Gutted no, disappointed yes, very. But the thought I had all game was what if we meet the dirty shower in the semi's or the final, you just know that the p t b would never help us beat that lot. Is v a r available in the final?

I would rather not compete than give those bastards a chance to mock us and inevitably beat us, so gutted no, disappointed, bowing down to the inevitable yes. Get our points back, stay in the premier League, avoid administration and have new owners, we get all that then that's better than winning what now becomes the Micky mouse cup that's the important thing here, focus on that, not being unlucky last night, chin up lads coyb.

Barry Rathbone
7 Posted 20/12/2023 at 12:48:02
Paul 6

With you all day long and unless Chelsea rediscover some form this is another easy cup for the shite

Joe McMahon
8 Posted 20/12/2023 at 13:28:38
Barry, and don't forget in 2022 Liverpool beat Chelsea in 2 Cup finals, both on penalties.

Lukaku also had a last-minute winner chalked off by the VAR in one of them as his finger was offside, even though you can't score with a finger.

Everton will never compete with Liverpool as they are never afforded (and never will be) the bias and favouritism Liverpool get.

John Raftery
9 Posted 20/12/2023 at 14:32:06
Thanks for the report, Paul. I also rated James Garner as our Man of the Match. He was one of our very few who showed composure on the ball. That underrated quality is why Ashley Young has been a regular in the team.

As Dave (3) suggests the elimination last night may prove a blessing in disguise, albeit one heavily disguised. We can ill-afford another tranche of injuries which have accumulated this month owing to the burden of playing at full throttle four league games in 15 days. The fixture schedule in January will now be less arduous and hopefully give key players a chance to recover.

Paul Jones
10 Posted 20/12/2023 at 14:48:23
I agree with your calls on the dubious refereeing, Paul. Keane looked like he'd done nothing wrong, but without the benefit of a replay, I couldn't say if this was right or wrong.

I remember Branthwaite going up for a header with Willian (?) later. Both players were committed and a clash of heads followed. The referee elected to book Branthwaite. I couldn't for the life of me see why, as he wasn't leading with his elbows or anything particularly nasty.

A couple of head-scratchers there. But when I saw we were one penalty away from qualification, watching Onana picking up the ball and heading towards the spot was certainly the biggest source of confusion for me. Beyond the odd scrap in the 6-yard box from a corner, he has never looked like he has got a shot in him. And when he missed, I sensed it was advantage Fulham from there on in.

John Raftery
11 Posted 20/12/2023 at 14:53:48
Paul (10),

Was it not Patterson who had the clash of heads with Willian?

Paul Jones
12 Posted 20/12/2023 at 15:05:56
Sorry John, that's right. It was Patterson who got the yellow!
Barry Rathbone
13 Posted 20/12/2023 at 17:52:08
Joe 8

Very true, if they lost the amount of penalty shoot outs we do the trophy haul at anfield would be halved

Jay Timothy
14 Posted 20/12/2023 at 18:44:30
Watched the game at Turnmill in New York City. First time there and what a great place for Evertonians to meet. Was deflated after their first goal goes in but expectations were certainly raised after Beto's goal.

Never really got going in the game and we were all disappointed after the game but, 24 hours later, I'm feeling much better about the season ahead.

Howard Don
15 Posted 21/12/2023 at 01:11:29
Paul, I kept asking the same question, of the mates I sit with, and also the guys I drive in with. What on earth was Onana trying to do?

If I could see any rhyme or reason to it, any method or plan that went wrong, then you shrug and say tough luck, but there was nothing, just no discernable reason behind what he did. I'm still baffled.

Brian Harrison
16 Posted 21/12/2023 at 09:27:26
I would love to have been in the Premier league offices when this news came through.
Billy Shears
17 Posted 21/12/2023 at 20:58:31
Oh to be as fucking ruthless as the RS when it comes to Cup footy... because of the midweek lackluster shit show I fully expect two defeats & maybe a draw at Wolves to end the year.

My major concern is our trip down to London to face Palace in the F.A Cup with very little momentum & confidence!

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