Fulham in Europe despite defeat by Everton
Fulham 0 Everton 2
Sunday 24 May 2009
Everton clinched fifth place in the Barclays Premier League and warmed up for next week's FA Cup final with a comfortable victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Two goals from Leon Osman, one in each half, was enough to earn the Toffees all three points against a lacklustre Fulham.
But the home side still ended the season on a high note as Tottenham's defeat at Liverpool enabled them to finish seventh and secure a place in the new Europa League next season.
It was a remarkable transformation for the west London side who narrowly escaped relegation to the Coca Cola Championship last season.
Manager Roy Hodgson was given a standing ovation before the kick-off, but his side failed to rise to the occasion and struggled to make any impact against the FA Cup finalists.
Indeed Fulham had a lucky escape as early as the third minute when a cross from Osman was headed against the cross bar by Louis Saha.
Three minutes later Mark Schwarzer was forced to dive low to his right to keep out a 20-yard shot from Jack Rodwell.
Fulham's first real opportunity arrived in the 10th minute when a low cross from Erik Nevland just eluded Zoltan Gera at the far post.
Five minutes later a lovely curling cross from Paul Konchesky was met at the far post by Gera but his header was well saved by Tim Howard.
Everton hit back with Tim Cahill testing Schwarzer from 20 yards but the Fulham goalkeeper dealt with the threat by diving low to his left.
Fulham were looking more dangerous now and Gera sent a thunderous effort just over the bar from 25 yards.
Clint Dempsey should have done better when Nevland's clever back-heel provided him with a shooting chance on the edge of the penalty area in the 20th minute.
But the American midfielder waited too long to despatch his effort and Joleon Lescott blocked his eventual shot.
The home side were showing more invention than the FA Cup finalists and Gera was a constant threat on the right flank. On the half-hour Everton's Steven Pienaar forced Schwarzer into a save when he let fly with a 25-yard shot.
The Fulham goalkeeper had to clutch the ball at the second attempt as it bounced awkwardly in front of him.
Former Fulham striker Saha almost broke the deadlock in the 37th minute when his 18-yard shot looked destined for the corner of the net.
Saha had not reckoned on the agility of Schwarzer who dived to his left to tip the ball around the post for a corner.
The Fulham keeper has been the busier of the two and his heroics had enabled the home side to keep on level terms.
But Fulham proved they were dangerous on the break when Gera found Diomansy Kamara at the far post.
The unmarked Kamara should have done a lot better but he screwed his shot wide from an acute angle.
But Everton took the lead in the 45th minute when Pienaar's ball enabled Osman to beat the offside trap, round Schwarzer and place the ball into the empty net.
It was just reward for the Toffees who had bossed the first half and restricted the home side to long-range shots.
In the 54th minute Schwarzer had to be at his best again to keep out a firm header from Saha.
Saha forced the Fulham keeper to turn his effort round the post after Osman's cross had found him unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box.
Fulham had raised their tempo but there was little invention in attack. A free-kick on the hour brought another long-range effort from Gera but it failed to trouble Howard.
Referee Mike Riley refused to award Fulham a penalty when Kamara appeared to be illegally bundled over by Leighton Baines.
Fulham defender Brede Hangeland and keeper Schwarzer were guilty of a lack of communication in the 64th minute but luckily for the home side, Everton were not quick enough to take advantage of the mix-up.
John Pantsil ran 40 yards before shooting wide of the target as Fulham continued to search for an equaliser.
Fulham replaced Nevland with Bobby Zamora in the 68th minute but it was Everton who looked the stronger of the two sides.
Schwarzer had to be alert to cut out a cross from Osman as Cahill looked to profit on the edge of the six-yard box.
Fulham squandered a great chance to equalise in the 84th minute when Zamora got clear of the Everton defence but his shot was superbly saved by Howard.
Osman made sure of a fifth-place finish for the visitors when he cut inside and curled a 20-yard shot beyond Schwarzer in the 87th minute.
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