Saha strikes but Everton fail to sparkle

Everton 2 Fulham 1
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The Independent Football

Nine years and 418 games ago this week, Everton manager David Moyes opened his Goodison Park managerial career with a home victory over Fulham. Many things have changed in the intervening years but the sense of unpredictability and frustration that surely comes with following his side remains as potent as ever.

"It's a dangerous result, 2-0," Moyes said after watching his side take that lead and then do their best to throw it away. "It was a good victory and we had to grind it out. We let them back into it a little from 2-0, I don't know if we came off the gas or if Fulham upped their game.

"When they got the goal it was tough, they had a lot of the ball and we had to dig in, but with the players we had out there in that situation we knew we could do that."

Two goals up and cruising to 2-1 and hanging on. Everton love to make it difficult for their fans and no more so than in this encounter. Seamus Coleman and Louis Saha gave them a comfortable looking lead and all seemed well with the world. And then, from nowhere, Clint Dempsey halved the deficit and Everton became nervous, although they just about did enough to deserve it.

Saha, a former Craven Cottage resident, looked bright and sharp from the off, Leon Osman probed on the peripheries while Coleman's burgeoning talent was also ably displayed. A Saha header was knocked off the line by Carlos Salcido but Everton finally broke Fulham's resistance before the interval as Coleman headed a superb Osman cross past Mark Schwarzer to calm the home fans' concerns. If that unsteadied Fulham, Everton's second four minutes after the restart threw their afternoon entirely off its axis. Or so it appeared.

Saha fired a low free-kick from 25 yards that Fulham's defensive wall helpfully did its best to avoid and the effort left Schwarzer unsighted and helpless. That appeared to be that but Dempsey's beautifully-taken left-foot effort just after the hour mark exacerbated the idea that Everton struggle to finish off games.

Dempsey reacted quickest in front of an Everton defence that had slush in its veins but further chances were squandered – and Saha was carried off after a nasty looking fall. Again, some things never change.

"We are disappointed really," Fulham manager Mark Hughes said.

Attendance: 33,239

Referee: Michael Oliver

Man of the match: Coleman

Match rating: 6/10