Two goals in a minute at the end of the first half ensured Everton returned to winning ways by beating a below-par Fulham outfit at Goodison Park this afternoon.
The home side exploited the early exit of Alain Goma, who limped off after coming off worse in a clash with Kevin Campbell, to take full control of a contest that the visitors had started brightly. Campbell headed home a free-kick on stroke of half time and that blow became a double whammy as Thomas Gravesen stroked in a second past Edwin van der Sar after running through a fragile Fulham defence.
The game ended with unsavoury scenes after a brawl between a number of players after an off-the-ball incident involving Luis Boa Morte. For the second time in the space of the year, a match between these sides will be the subject of an inquiry from the Football Association after featuring in the referee’s report.
Jean Tigana cut a frustrated figure on the touchline as Fulham faded alarmingly after making the early running. Sylvain Legwinski tested Richard Wright’s reflexes with a shot and only a brave clearance from David Unsworth prevented Steed Malbranque from opening the scoring from the rebound. Barry Hayles saw a goalbound shot blocked and Malbranque fired fractionally wide from distance from a flowing move.
Everton gradually gained a foothold in midfield and their first serious chance owed everything to Lee Carlsey’s persistence. The midfielder chased a last cause and challenged van der Sar on the byline. Fulham’s goalkeeper let the ball slip but the prone Carsley could only improvise a finish and found the side netting. The visitors did pay the penalty for a clumsy foul on Carsley by Pierre Wome, with Campbell glancing in Mark Pembridge’s wonderfully whipped free-kick. Everton then scored from their next attack with Gravesen allowed to advance through several white shirts before firing past a helpless van der Sar.
The home side could have scored several more in the second half. van der Sar got fingertips to a rasping drive from distance by Unsworth and then made an incredible save to keep out a close range header from Campbell. Tomasz Radzinski rattled the post after a Gravesen cross fell kindly for the Canadian inside the Fulham box and, by that time, an overwhelmed Fulham side were happy to hear the final whistle.
After the restart, Gravesen continued to drive Everton forward only for the home side to be denied time and again by Van Der Sar.
Unsworth produced a 30-yarder that the Dutchman managed to tip over the bar.
Then he made a miracle point-blank save from Campbell’s diving header.
Soon after, Gravesen’s cross was deflected to Tomasz Radzinski, whose instant shot cannoned off the post.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Wright; Hibbert, Weir, Yobo, Unsworth; Carsley, Tie Li, Gravesen, Pembridge; Campbell, Radzinski. Subs (not used): Gerrard, Stubbs, Naysmith, Ferguson, Rooney.
GOALS: Campbell (45), Gravesen (45).
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Finnan, Wome, Knight, Goma (Melville 27); Davis, Legwinski, Malbranque, Inamoto (Boa Morte 55); Hayles (Sava 60), Marlet. Subs (not used): Taylor, Clark.
BOOKED: Wome, Hayles, Melville.
REFEREE: Steve Dunn (Avon).