A fourth-round FA Cup tie which became a test of fitness, character and finishing at Loftus Road last night ended with Fulham exhausted but elated, Everton exhausted and deflated. As in the first tie at Goodison Park Fulham had been stunned by a last-minute equaliser from Francis Jeffers. This cancelled out Junichi Inamoto's first goal since the opening day of the season and forced extra-time.
Everton's resilience, the impact of Jeffers, a substitute, and the growing threat of Wayne Rooney, made them favourites in the added period but Fulham, too, would not give in. Lifting themselves, they rallied and Steed Malbranque's goal earned them a fifth round London derby at home to West Ham United. It will be a repeat of the 1975 final, only this time Fulham are the top-flight side, West Ham the hopeful giantkillers. Fulham's only disappointment was the poor crowd, less than 12,000, at least a quarter of them Evertonians.
"I'm very proud of my players," said Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager. "We could have felt sorry for ourselves. After we conceded I thought Everton might go on in extra time but we showed tremendous spirit and courage."
While Fulham otherwise continue to enjoy their unexpectedly successful season Everton, who approached the campaign with such anticipation, are left with the mundane struggle against being drawn into the relegation battle. Although they have won more FA Cup matches than any other team they have yet to defeat Fulham in five meetings. Last week's draw at Goodison Park, earned with a last minute equaliser, is their best result.
Their prospects of bettering that were not helped by injuries but Duncan Ferguson's absence was perhaps a blessing. The build-up had been dominated by Luis Boa Morte's claim that Ferguson had racially abused him in the first tie. The accusation has been denied but an official complaint to the Football Association is pending as, said Coleman, other players said they heard the alleged remark.
Even prior to these matches a clash rarely went by without a red card. Two more should have been waved within 15 minutes last night with Boa Morte, inevitably, involved. Malbranque had already shot wide when Lee Carsley caught Boa Morte - who else? - high and late. Paul Durkin declined even to administer a caution. Nor did he when Boa Morte exacted revenge with a two-footed assault into Carsley's chest. From this unpromising beginning the game settled down though Durkin eventually booked Carsley, for a foul on Sean Davis.
Fulham dominated the early stages with Everton looking disorganised and short of confidence. Inamoto and Boa Morte both went close before the former released the latter behind Alessandro Pistone after 24 minutes. Boa Morte struggled past Nigel Martyn but the sticky surface slowed him and Pistone was able to clear the ball.
Everton gradually settled and ought to have scored before the interval. First Tomasz Radzinski, sent clear after Alex Nyarko caught Davis in possession, hit the post. The Canadian then crossed from the left but Rooney, unchallenged, fluffed his header enabling Carlos Bocanegra to head out from under his crossbar as Carsley followed up. Fulham responded with Davis dribbling through only to be denied by a superb save from Martyn.
The match, previously laboured, maintained this high tempo and continued with both sides creating and missing chances. Everton's Kevin Kilbane had a volley spectacularly blocked by Moritz Volz. Boa Morte's drive brought another good save by Martyn from which Everton counter-attacked, Radzinski flashing a shot wide.
Finally Fulham broke through. Boa Morte drew three of Everton's wan midfield towards him providing Inamoto with time to line up a 25-yard drive low to Martyn's left.
With Everton's season drifting away David Moyes made changes, among them the introduction of Jeffers. It was to prove a shrewd move though Fulham first had chances to settle the tie. However, Inamoto shot loosely, and wide; Boa Morte, curled his shot on to the roof of the net; and Malbranque blasted another chance past the far post.
A team which fails to take such opportunities is often punished and so it proved as Carsley headed a deep cross back across goal and Jeffers outjumped the far taller Zat Knight to glance a header past Edwin van der Sar. Jeffers could then have won the match but chipped over when sent clear. Into extra-time and, after a sublime pass by Rooney, he repeated the failure.
Fulham were on the ropes but, 12 minutes into the added period, Everton let them escape. Volz linked with Boa Morte who again drew defenders before finding the unmarked Malbranque. For once the finish was true and this time, despite a series of goalmouth scrambles in a frantic finish, there was no coming back.
Fulham (4-1-4-1): Van der Sar; Volz, Knight, Goma, Bocanegra; Djetou; Malbranque, Inamoto, Davis, Boa Morte; Hayles (Sava, 81). Substitutes not used: Crossley (gk), Petta, Rehman, Green.
Everton (4-4-2): Martyn; Hibbert, Pistone, Unsworth, Naysmith; Carsley, Gravesen, Nyarko (Watson, 62), Kilbane; Rooney, Radzinski (Jeffers, 62). Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Linderoth, Clarke.
Referee: P Durkin (Portland).Reuse content