Everton 3 Fulham 0: Yakubu's treble rewards patience of Everton faithful
A hat-trick from Yakubu, his first for the club since his 11.25 million summer move from Middlesbrough, provided Everton's faithful with an early Christmas present in what was their last home game before Boxing Day and extended his side's unbeaten run to 10 games. Happy days at Goodison. But for Fulham, who have yet to win a League game at Everton in 20 attempts and have also now failed to register an away win in their last 25 League games, the prognosis is more concerning.
Everton's manager, David Moyes, was a quietly content figure afterwards, as well he might be. Having seen his men secure a place in the last 32 of the Uefa Cup in midweek, he was happy to give his players credit for playing to their full potential. And more than happy to reflect upon the way his new Nigerian forward than whom only Thierry Henry has scored more Premier League goals in the last four years is shaping up.
"When we signed Yak he had an incredible goalscoring record for Portsmouth and Middlesbrough and we were hoping he would carry it on here. If he did I felt it would keep us in the top half of the League and add another dimension to our game. As it has proved."
After a busy but largely featureless first half in which both teams struggled at times to master a pitch made slippery by incessant rain, the Goodison faithful's patience was rewarded within five minutes of the re-start as a header from Fulham's central defender Dejan Stefanovic went up rather than out, allowing Tim Cahill to spin and drive in a shot which Antti Niemi could only parry. The ball ran back through the legs of the hapless Stefanovic and Yakubu who had been rested for the Uefa Cup win over Zenit St Petersburg rammed it into the net.
Fulham's manager, Lawrie Sanchez, felt this was the moment when the match tipped Everton's way and he also felt the goal was offside. "It's the usual thing with officials and us," he observed gloomily.
Within a minute, Fulham's former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy had almost forced an equaliser with a low drive that Tim Howard scrambled round the post. But the home roar returned just after the hour following a well-rehearsed move as Mikel Arteta's corner from the left was flicked on at the near post by substitute Phil Jagielka and Yakubu claimed his second goal with a nod at the far post.
Arteta should have made it 3-0 in the 71st minute after Yakubu had set him up but missed the yawning goal as Elliot Omozusi slid in to challenge.
Yakubu completed his treble in the 79th minute, supplied by a through ball from the showboating Steven Pienaar. Turning inside the sliding challenge of Stefanovic, he drove home a shot inside the post before wheeling away to celebrate his ninth goal of the season.
Fulham had begun with a spirit of optimism, forcing two corners within the first three minutes. But despite the flair of the former Evertonian Simon Davies on the right and the drive of Steven Davis in the centre of midfield, they could make nothing of it. And when Northern Ireland's goalscoring icon David Healy came on for the last 25 minutes, you would hardly have noticed him.
Sanchez struggled to explain the continuance of a dismal run which began before he took charge at Craven Cottage towards the end of last season. "We have got close, but we haven't been able to see it through," he said.
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