Fulham rally not enough as Everton's first half swagger carries the day
Fulham 2 Everton 3
Fulham recovered from an abject first half to make a game of it, but could not quite do enough to prevent a fourth home defeat of the season.
There looked to be no way back after they were unpicked at will with swaggering regularity by a rampant Everton during the first 45 minutes – once again showing too many defensive frailties.
But to their credit, they managed to get on the front foot to pen Carlo Ancelotti’s men in their own half for much of the second half and pulled a goal back through Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
However, they paid for another penalty disaster – this time Ivan Cavaleiro the one to make a hash of the kick as he slipped in his run-up and ballooned over after striking the ball against his standing foot.
The Whites found themselves a goal down inside a minute to a goal from Dominic Calvert-Lewin, and before the first-half was out, the new England striker had continued his incredibly rich vein of form by adding a second and Abdoulaye Doucoure had headed home a third.
Scott Parker’s side responded well, with Bobby Reid firing in an equaliser for his fourth goal of the season, but the visitors’ mastery of the midfield ensured a constant flow of chances for them and Fulham simply had no answer.
Richarlison, James Rodriguez and Alex Iwobi ran them ragged and there might have been even greater damage. Alphonse Areola did well to keep out a goalbound Rodriguez drive and another cross from the left was nearly put away by Richarlison during a sobering first half for the hosts.
Fulham’s start could not have been more dire. In trying to play out from the back, they contrived to lose possession in the final third – Reid the culprit, though he was given the ball when cramped for space. Richarlison took it on and his low cross was bundled in at the near post by Calvert-Lewin. We had only been playing about 45 seconds.
Reid lifted spirits by taking the ball well at pace from Tom Cairney to get past Yerry Mina before tucking past Jordan Pickford after 15 minutes, but Everton were soon back on top, scoring twice in six minutes.
Alex Iwobi and James Rodgriguez worked the ball from the right to feed Lucas Digne on the left and his low cross was turned home by Calvert-Lewin, with Tosin Adarabioyo unable to close down the Toffees’ marksman.
Another eye-catching move once again exposed Fulham’s weakness down the right flank and Digne’s cross was met by the towering head of Doucoure.
Cavaleiro was preferred as central striker to the off-form Aleksandar Mitrovic, but the Portuguese looked uncomfortable in that role and reverted to playing out wide after an hour, when the Serb was brought on.
But it was arguably the introduction at the same time of Loftus-Cheek which altered the mood. The on-loan Chelsea midfielder won a penalty after being fouled by Ben Godfrey and although Cavaleiro became the latest Whites player to make a terrible mess of a spot-kick, there was a first goal for the Whites moments later for Loftus-Cheek.
The midfielder took a pass from Ademola Lookman before finding the net with the aid of a deflection off Mina.
With 20 minutes to go, it suggested we might be in for a rousing finish, but the visitors regrouped and managed to comfortably keep Fulham at bay.
Fulham: Areola – Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Robinson – Lemina (Zambo Anguissa 69), Reed – Decordova-Reid (Loftus-Cheek 58), Cairney (Mitrovic 58), Lookman – Cavaleiro. Subs not used: Rodak, Odoi, Ream, Bryan