Scoreline flatters Everton in Fulham win

Posted by Luke O'Farrell

Seamus Coleman celebrates his goal for Everton against Fulham.GettyImagesSeamus Coleman celebrates his goal for Everton against Fulham.

Few things are certain in football, but Everton claiming a league victory over Fulham at Goodison Park is becoming one of them. Even when short of their best -- Saturday's 4-1 win being one of those days -- there seems to be no stopping the Blues in this fixture.

Just 198 Fulham fans made the journey north and those in attendance saw their side slip to yet another defeat against the blue half of Merseyside; the Cottagers have lost each of their past 21 league visits.

Nevertheless, for the home side, having earned rave reviews for their fluent and fearless football in recent weeks, this was an example of that old cliche about good teams mastering the art of winning without playing well.

The loss of Gerard Deulofeu to a hamstring injury was another sore point. Rewarded for his sparkling form with a starting berth, the Barcelona loanee pulled up in the second half. Fortunately, Kevin Mirallas, his replacement, gave a reminder of his credentials by adding the flattering fourth.

Returning to the football on display; the passing remained accurate, but the movement lacked invention, the pressing seemed lethargic and the defensive trio of Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin delivered the heart-stopping panic passing seen earlier in the season.

In midfield, the pressure successfully applied by Scott Parker & Co. merely drew attention to the absence of the suspended James McCarthy. Everton missed the energy and composure offered by their 13 million pound man. This ensured a period of struggle in the second half when Fulham upped their work rate.

Leon Osman, the man who took his place, scored a goal of genuine quality to open the scoring after neat footwork in the buildup. Elsewhere, the steadying presence of Gareth Barry, who conceded a contentious penalty, registered the third with a header from all of 2 yards.

That Roberto Martinez's men eventually rose above the mediocre and extended their unbeaten record owed much to the intelligent influence of Steven Pienaar. The legs are slowing down as the years advance, but the positional awareness and cleverness on the ball easily compensate.

There is a constant willingness to seek possession; Pienaar never hides regardless of form. His appreciation of the space around him created the assist for Osman's opener. Similarly, his second-half dummy and subsequent final-third composure presented Seamus Coleman with the simplest of finishes for the decisive second goal.

Flying in at the back post to secure his third of the season, Coleman continues to cement his position as the standout right-back in the division. Along with Pienaar, Coleman was one of the select few to survive the performance dip.

Overall, although the football incurred more howls of despair than delight, this was the necessary result heading into the festive fixtures. The performance must improve, there is no doubting that, but this kind of clinical finishing is imperative against sides in the lower reaches.

Perhaps most pleasing, though, was the spirit shown when Dimitar Berbatov drew the visitors level. Rather than let heads drop and allow the game to drift away from them, Everton regrouped and reasserted a degree of control -- the decision to drop Barkley into central midfield was a key factor.

Scoring four for the second home match in succession, it is a sign of the times that a 4-1 scoreline can leave one with a sense of frustration. More than anything else, that speaks volumes regarding the level of expectation harnessed since the arrival of Martinez. Despite the inconsistencies evident at times, especially during the second half, this remains a side on the up.

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