Mar 30, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT
Despite a spirited battle by relegation-threatened Fulham, a pair of Roberto Martinez substitutes bagged goals as the Toffees showed too much quality for the Whites who despite their strong effort were less than solid in front of goal.
Steven Naismith, on for an injured Ross Barkley, put the shot on net that resulted in Everton’s first, and Kevin Mirallas hit the winner with under 15 minutes to go on a feed from Aidan McGeady – both substitutes.
Naismith then sealed the winner to ensure his name would appear on the scoresheet.
Ashkan Dejagah, also a replacement for the Whites, hit Fulham’s equalizer that gave them hope but ultimately it wasn’t enough.
The goalkeepers both starred as well, with Tim Howard putting on a highlight-reel performance, and Stockdale’s own goal the only blight on his otherwise stellar tally for the day.
Fulham were by far the brighter side in the first half, but could not muster a goal. Young Moussa Dembele, just 17 years old, was a breath of fresh air at the front of the hosts’s attack, finding teammates with ease in the final third.
The best pass from Dembele came in the 23rd minute, when the Frenchman laid off to a streaking Kieran Richardson, but his low, powerful shot was stopped expertly by a foot save from Howard.
However, the youngster also bungled a few chances of his own, firing well over with space at the top of the box, and also finding himself a free header at the end of a long ball from Lewis Holtby but he put the ball directly at Howard.
Dembele wasn’t alone in his shooting misfortunes, and despite the home side clearly the more incisive in the first half, they were dismal in front of net. Holtby came closest, with a header of his own also producing a wonderful save from Howard to palm over on 27 minutes.
Pacey winger Pajtim Kasami found himself in a great position to find a waiting Dembele but instead tried to take it himself and was dispossessed. The first half also saw John Arne Riise launch one over, as did
Despite their failure to put the ball in the back of the net, Fulham dominated Everton on the ball in the first half with pinpoint tackling and good runs. The home side completed 17 of 23 tackles in the first 45 minutes, and completed 4 of 11 crosses.
However, with the Whites failing to score in the first half despite their positivity, the writing may have been on the wall. Everton made them pay for their wastefulness just six minutes after the break, when a corner fell to the feet of Steven Naismith. His shot wasn’t convincing, but with goalkeeper David Stockdale on the ground the ball took a deflection off William Kvist and then clamored off Stockdale’s foot into the back of the net.
But Fulham were not deterred. The game maintained a back-and-forth nature with both managers making quality changes. Naismith came on for an injured Ross Barkley at halftime and had his obvious immediate impact, and Felix Magath after the goal made a double attacking change akin to their dire table situation.
Magath’s substitutions paid off almost immediately, as Dejagah cut back inside from the left flank, leaving poor Sylvain Distin in pieces on the pitch before striking a worldly into the top corner just seven minutes after coming on.
But the hope instilled from Dejagah’s goal wouldn’t last long. Everton pushed hard to restore their lead, and with a new organization about the side and their quality restored, it was too much for Fulham to hold out.
A break from substitute Aidan McGeady slotted through fellow sub Kevin Mirallas who put the ball into the back of the net 13 minutes from full time, and a controversial third from Naismith in the final minutes left Everton well ahead.
The win for the Toffees moves them within four of Arsenal in the final Champions League position, and the two clubs will meet in a massive showdown next weekend. Meanwhile, Fulham again are left with nothing, and with Crystal Palace beating Chelsea earlier in the week, things look exceptionally bleak at the bottom.
Fulham – Stockdale; Riether, Heitinga, Hangeland, Riise; Holtby, Kvist (Woodrow 64′), Sidwell, Richardson (Dejagah 64′); Kasami, Dembèlè (Roberts 81′).
Goals – Dejagah 71′
Everton – Howard; Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Deulofeu (Mirallas 68′), Barkley (Naismith 45′), Osman (McGeady 77′); Lukaku.
Goals – Stockdale (og) 51′, Mirallas 79′, Naismith 87′
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