Fulham must dread their annual visits to Goodison Park. Yesterday’s defeat made it 11 in 11 Premier League visits. Fulham’s league record away to Everton now comprises of 20 defeats, four draws and no wins. Martin Jol didn’t turn up due to illness and judging by their performance, some of his players didn’t either.
Everton began in confident mood and found themselves in front after six minutes. A strong run by Steven Pienaar drew a foul and Nikica Jelavic’s free kick hit the wall. Fortunately, for Everton, it came off Pavel Pogrebnyak’s arm. Phil Dowd pointed to the spot, penalty to Everton. Jelavic dispatched the spot kick, with his customary finesse, sending Schwarzer the wrong way. Frei forced Tim Howard into a tip over as Fulham looked for a quick response.
Diarra fired into the side netting after Everton failed to deal with a Fulham corner. At the other end, Jelavic almost grabbed his second with his shot cannoning back off the post following neat control. Everton did not have to wait long for a second as Fellaini rose, unmarked, to head past Damien Duff on the line. The home side’s dominance continued with Distin firing a delightful ball across the six-yard box, the pass only tainted by the lack of movement towards it.
Clint Dempsey, easily Fulham’s best player on the day, fired over under pressure from Jagielka. The American midfielder came even closer, soon after, with a wonderful Howard save preventing Fulham halving the deficit. Dempsey’s effort took a deflection off Heitinga and Howard, falling in the opposite direction, was able to stretch out a hand and tip the ball onto the bar. That was as close as the visitors came all afternoon.
Everton put the game beyond doubt as half time approached. Pienaar claimed another assist with a through ball to Jelavic. Rounding Schwarzer, from a tight angle, Jelavic was able to steer the ball into the narrowest of near post gaps. Having a striker of genuine quality has added another dimension to Everton’s play. The first 36 games of the season saw Everton score just 39 times. With the impact of the new signings, Everton have scored 21 goals in the last eight games.
Tim Cahill entered the fray at half time in place of the lucky Darron Gibson; Gibson is now unbeaten in his last 26 Premier League games. The second half was low-key with Everton content to keep possession and Fulham looking as if they would rather be elsewhere. Everton’s fourth came on the hour mark with Pienaar again instrumental. Neat interplay ended with Pienaar chipping a delightful pass over the Fulham defence. Substitute Cahill was on hand to apply the deft finish and the corner flag took its punishment.
Jelavic, in search of his hat trick, tested Schwarzer with a free kick from distance. Everton continued to monopolise possession – their average passing accuracy is 76%; it reached a season high of 90% yesterday. Phil Neville’s fierce effort struck Hangeland as the Everton captain enjoyed his day in midfield. Fellaini departed to a standing ovation with 15 minutes to go. The big Belgian is revelling in his new advanced role but Everton still miss his presence in the engine room.
Ross Barkley took Fellaini’s place but seemed lacking in confidence. He seemed particularly unsure of his role in terms of tracking back. Barkley’s potential is there for all to see, let us hope he progresses next season. Everton came close to adding another with Schwarzer saving twice in a minute. Pienaar’s effort seemed destined for the far corner with Osman’s shot tipped over as Fulham prayed for the final whistle.
Steven Pienaar edged out Jelavic for MOTM with three assists and a constant presence in all the good things Everton did. The back four will not have an easier game with Heitinga continuing to show why he leads the player of the year voting. Phil Neville used the ball well but for the sake of progression, he is not the answer in midfield. Leon Osman seemed strangely subdued on his 300th Everton appearance.
The problem for Everton is managing to transfer this form into the beginning of a season. The disruptive August transfer windows are one of the main reasons for the early season struggles. David Moyes has no time and no money to replace players with the squad beginning the season under prepared. Year after year, constructive January business solves the problems created in August.
Look at Everton’s form since 2006 (February 1st – end of season) – 06-07: 4th | 07-08: 5th | 08-09: 6th | 09-10: 3rd | 10-11: 3rd | 11-12 (ongoing): 5th. January onwards is perfect for Everton whilst August to January remains the same continual nightmare. Should David Moyes and the board stumble across the magic formula then Everton might just enjoy a consistent season in 2012/2013.
Ratings: Howard 7 Hibbert 7 Jagielka 7 Heitinga 7 Distin 7 Osman 6 Neville 7 Gibson 6 Pienaar 8* Fellaini 7 Jelavic 8
Subs: Cahill 7, Barkley 5, Gueye N/A
Original Source: http://www.toffeeweb.com/season/11-12/comment/editorial/21266.html