European dream still alive after Everton's late escape
Everton 2 Fulham 1
Monday 26 April 2010
It was David Moyes's 47th birthday and, when it comes to presents, most football men would settle for a last-minute penalty.
Not since 1959 had Fulham earned so much as a point at Goodison and they were 23 seconds away from achieving another when Chris Baird's extended leg thudded into Tim Cahill's chest. Mikel Arteta, his eyebrow laced with seven stitches and his brain still pounding from a first-half clash of heads, converted the spot-kick.
The man from the club's official website who had written that Everton's faint hopes of overtaking Liverpool to qualify for the Europa League were now "extinguished" was forced, like the rest of us, to revise his judgement. It is just possible there will be European football here next season, but it is not something Moyes dwells on.
Roy Hodgson, who had made nine changes to the Fulham side that had travelled to Germany by coach and fought Hamburg to a goalless stalemate, was angry and deflated.
"I thought it was unbelievably harsh and I thought the move began with what should have been our throw-in," he said. "It is very difficult for me to be anything other than depressed when a great performance is taken from me in the 95th minute." The Fulham manager added that he was not confident that Bobby Zamora would be fit for the second leg of their Europa League semi-final.
Mark Schwarzer, most assuredly will and the Fulham keeper's heroics carried on seamlessly from where he had finished in the Nordbank Arena. Perhaps the best of his saves was the finish to a thrilling Everton move, in which Louis Saha's back-flick was played on by Yakubu to Cahill, only for the Australian midfielder to be denied by his countryamn at the near post.
At the interval, Moyes had replaced Diniyar Bilyaletdinov with Victor Anichebe and four minutes later the Nigerian's soft header bounced twice and sneaked into the very corner of Schwarzer's net. It was judged by some to have been an own-goal, although this would have been overly harsh on Chris Smalling, who may have been participating in a shadow side but demonstrated why Sir Alex Ferguson thought him worth bringing to Manchester United next season.
Nursing an outfit whose season began in July in Vilnius and facing an improbable European semi-final on Thursday, Hodgson made extensive changes but Fulham nonetheless performed with verve and discipline. They had, however, not scored in the league away from Craven Cottage since January and required a dreadful back-pass from Leighton Baines to break through. As Baines's face wore the look of someone who has just realised he had forgotten to pick the kids up from nursery, Erik Nevland tucked the ball home and ran over to celebrate with Fulham's fans – all 142 of them.
Everton (4-5-1): Howard; Hibbert, Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Pienaar, Neville (Saha, 60), Cahill, Arteta, Bilyaletdinov (Anichebe, ht); Yakubu (Baxter, 87) Substitutes not used: Turner (gk), Yobo, Senderos, Wallace.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Baird, Smalling, Shorey; Riise, Greening, Dikgacoi, Dempsey; Okaka (Stoor, 88), Nevland (Elm, 78). Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler (gk), Kelly, Adranik, Buchtmann, Briggs.
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).
Booked: Fulham Pantsil.
Man of the Match: Schwarzer.
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