Following three straight Premier League defeats, Everton returned to winning ways with a less than convincing victory at Craven Cottage.
The Toffees were boosted by the return of Richarlison to their ranks and within forty seconds, his impact was felt. His bustling run into the box led to the ball bouncing off the in-form Dominic Calvert-Lewin into the net, giving Carlo Ancelotti’s men a dream start. It wasn’t Calvert-Lewin’s cleanest finish of the season but it was yet another example of the England number nine getting into the right place at the right time when in Everton colours.
After such a poor start, it looked like Scott Parker’s side might cave in. But after a string of risky passes out from the back, the Cottagers then began to find their feet and on the fifteenth minute mark, they were level.
Whilst Yerry Mina’s flat footedness certainly gave them a hand, credit must be given to the neat interchange between Fulham skipper Tom Cairney and striker Bobby Decordova-Reid, who fired past a helpless Jordan Pickford to make it all square.
The fifteen minutes or so that followed saw the visitors regain control, with Alex Iwobi, playing in the unfamiliar role of right wing back, asking serious questions of former Everton youngster Antonee Robinson on the Fulham left edge.
It was through a mazy run by the former that saw the Toffees retake the lead. Wading past a whole host of white shirts, Iwobi offloaded to James Rodríguez, who in turn fed the on-rushing Lucas Digne. His delightful low cross met the right foot of Calvert-Lewin once more and with half an hour played on the banks of the Thames, Everton had control once again.
Five minutes later, the Blues had another, with Digne on hand to provide another assist. His dinked cross fell kindly for midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré, who nodded home to put the men in amber firmly in command going into the interval.
If Fulham are to stay up this season, they have to stop conceding goals of this ilk. Not only was Digne given far too much space to craft his cross, the late run of Doucouré was not picked up by any of the Fulham back four. Championship defending? More like schoolboy stuff.
Half-time: Fulham 1-3 Everton
For most, if not all of the second half, Fulham dominated. They were presented with a golden opportunity to make their pressure count when substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek was tripped by Ben Godfrey in the box.
Penalties have been a source of real frustration for Scott Parker’s men so far this season. Following misses by Alexsandar Mitrović and former Toffee Ademola Lookman in previous matches, winger Ivan Cavaleiro was entrusted with spot kick duties. Firing against his own foot, the ball rocketed over Pickford’s bar and left Cavaleiro and his team mates cursing the footballing gods once again.
Moments later, however, Fulham had something to smile about. The evasive Lookman weaved his way past Digne before pulling it back to Loftus-Cheek who, via a deflection off Mina, reduced the deficit to just one.
It was an excellent burst from Lookman, who was Fulham’s brightest spark throughout the match. Whilst at times his decision making let him down, he was a constant nuisance and the primary source of all of Fulham’s attacking endeavours.
In the final twenty minutes that followed, Fulham huffed and puffed with little reward. With Mitrović now on the field, one would have thought the home side would have been slightly more direct in the closing stages but Fulham’s approach was the same.
Buoyed by the energy of substitute Tom Davies, Everton closed the last few moments of the game out reasonably well and secured what was a vital three points. Whilst the positivity and precision of Everton’s attack in the first half will have encouraged Ancelotti, the passivity and timidity of the second illustrates how the Italian’s side are still very much in their infancy and far from the standard required to challenge, let alone qualify, for European football.
Full time: Fulham 2- 3 Everton