Saha's pay-as-you-play deal a credit to Everton

Everton 1 Fulham 0
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The Independent Online

David Moyes believes Louis Saha could be a key component in Everton's season even if the injury-prone Frenchman plays no more than 20 matches. The former Fulham striker headed his first goal in his ninth appearance to disappoint his former club, prompting the Everton manager to dismiss the idea that signing him was a gamble.

Saha, who had cost Manchester United £12.5m when he left Fulham in January 2004, joined Everton in August with no up-front fee in a deal Moyes regarded as too good to pass up. "It enabled us to sign a top quality player without having to shell out at the time," he said. "I wouldn't say it was a no-brainer but it put us in a position to take a centre forward we could not have afforded to buy.

"His injury record was an issue. I think he played only about 18 games last season but I thought that if I could get 18 or 20 games out of him that would be 18 or 20 better chances to win games with the quality he has and in that respect it was worth the risk."

Saha's goal, created by Leon Osman's cross, came three minutes from time in a contest Fulham felt they should have won after seeing Jimmy Bullard and Danny Murphy gain the edge in midfield and Zoltan Gera and Bobby Zamora both hit the woodwork.

But Everton rode their luck and, after ending an eight-match winless streak with successive 1-0 victories, have crept stealthily from 16th place into the top eight.

One win in seven leaves Fulham uncomfortably close to the bottom three, although manager Roy Hodgson remains upbeat. "I saw enough to encourage me to think we can have a good season," he said. "We deserved better today but did not take our chances."

Saha said: "That first goal in an Everton shirt has given me and the team a real boost." The 30-year-old added: "There are no mixed emotions because it was against Fulham. It is just another game. It is true that it is a bit special when I play against Fulham, I have good memories of my time there. But now I can only have thoughts for Everton."

Goal: Saha (87) 1-0.

Everton (4-1-3-2): Howard; Neville, Yobo, Jagielka, Lescott; Osman; Pienaar (Anichebe, 76), Fellaini (Saha, 61), Arteta; Cahill, Yakubu (Vaughan, 84). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Hibbert, Baines, Rodwell.

Fulham (4-1-3-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Murphy; Davies (Nevland, 89), Bullard (Baird, 83), Gera (Dempsey, 88); Zamora, Johnson. Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler (gk), Gray, Stoor, Andreasen.

Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).

Man of the match: Bullard.

Attendance: 31,278.

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