In the penultimate minute of normal time at Craven Cottage yesterday, Andrew Johnson slid in Bobby Zamora, who rounded Tim Howard. Zamora had the simplest chance to win the game 2-1 for Fulham, but he shot wildly high. "At that moment in time, I thought it was over and done with," said Everton manager David Moyes afterwards.
This open, enthralling advert for English football was not nearly over. The very next minute, Royston Drenthe flicked a header on, and Louis Saha outpaced Aaron Hughes – just on as a substitute – and shot Everton into the lead. The Everton fans erupted, and there was more to come. In added time, Drenthe's free-kick from the left was headed out to the edge of the box, from where Jack Rodwell thumped it back and into the bottom corner.
Both managers acknowledged the primacy of ruthlessness in games this open. "You take your chances or you don't, and it can be costly one way or the other," said Moyes. "It's not about possession or playing better," Jol said ruefully, "it's about chances and creating chances. We should have won this game, we had a great chance from an open goal. We are all sick."
There are few patterns in a game this manic, but one clear trend was the decisive contributions of Drenthe, which won Everton the game. The Dutch 24-year-old, on loan from Real Madrid, thumped Everton into a third-minute lead before setting up their two winning goals. His touch was the best on the pitch and, allied with his stocky physique, he was always able to push past challenges and into space. He showed identifiable flashes of the 20-year-old who won "Golden Player" at the 2007 European Under-21 Championship, enticing Real Madrid to pay Feyenoord €14m (£12.2m) for him.
"He did a lot of good things today, he scored a really good first goal," said Moyes. "He's a good lad around the place, you can see by his celebrations that he's very much part of the group, and we enjoy having him."
It requires some confidence to take on a 30-yard shot after two minutes of an away league game, but Drenthe does not look like a footballer prone to self-doubt. Jack Rodwell won the ball in midfield and laid it off the Dutchman. Drenthe smashed the ball first-time inside Mark Schwarzer's right-hand post.
Everton pressed for a second, and it was Drenthe's puckish flick to Tony Hibbert which allowed the right-back to cross for Apostolos Vellios, who could only direct his free header over the bar.
Drenthe's swagger was not entirely to Everton's benefit, though. He repeatedly left Hibbert exposed to John Arne Riise's overlapping runs, allowing him to fire in crosses at will, and Riise's pass to Danny Murphy set up a shot which Howard tipped on to the post. One minute later, Moyes swapped Drenthe and Leon Osman to give Hibbert more support.
Ultimately, it took a tactical advance from Martin Jol to draw Fulham level as 19 minutes into the second half he withdrew Danny Murphy for Bryan Ruiz, adopting essentially a 4-1-5 formation in pursuit of the game. Ruiz was stationed on the left of the front-line, and within three minutes, he received the ball in space on the edge of the area and chipped perfectly beyond Howard. The Costa Rica international might not have adjusted to the pace of the English game yet, but there can be no doubts about his technique.
Booked: Fulham Johnson, Sidwell, Baird. Everton Distin.
Man of the match: Drenthe.
Referee: L Probert (Wiltshire)
Football's worst misses
Ronny Rosenthal Despite being nearly 20 years ago in 1992, the memory of Rosenthal's miss never fades. Having rounded the Aston Villa keeper, the Liverpool striker only had to roll the ball into an open net but hit it against the bar from seven yards.
Nwankwo Kanu Often labelled an unpredictable player, nobody could have foreseen Kanu's miss against Middlesbrough for West Brom – the lanky striker got in a muddle and somehow managed to squirm the ball over the bar from a yard out.
Robbie Keane Drawing at home to relegation rivals Blackburn Rovers last season, an unmarked Keane kicked air instead of the ball from just three yards. out. Blackburn stayed up, West Ham United went down and Keane disappeared to Los Angeles.
Fernando Torres The £50m man broke Man Utd's offside trap and shimmied brilliantly past David De Gea, only to shank his shot wide with the goal gaping.Reuse content