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Just how much Steve Marlet’s desire to leave Fulham hindered the Londoners’ preparations for a trip to Goodison Park we might never know, but Chris Coleman’s side never recovered from a dreadful start on Merseyside – conceding three goals in the space of 45 minutes where they were completely outplayed. The returning Wayne Rooney ran riot as Gary Naysmith, David Unsworth and Steve Watson effectively put the contest out of Fulham’s reach well before half-time.

Coleman axed Marlet, arguably the star of an absorbing opening-day win over Middlesbrough, from his starting line-up before kick off after the French international demanded to be allowed to return to his homeland. Even though the visitors almost went in front when David Unsworth almost scored the most comical of own goals, it was Everton who made the sharper start. Their adventurous approach play quickly drew appreciation from the Goodison crowd and it took just seven minutes for Naysmith to fire the Toffees into the lead.

Rooney was already proving a handful for the Fulham defence and the teenager showed his physical strength to easily hold up a cross from Watson and tee up Scottish international Naysmith, whose unerring drive from twenty yards left even the experienced Edwin van der Sar grasping for air. Another outstanding individual finish saw Watson double Everton’s lead in the 21st minute. Rooney’s long ball bypassed the Fulham midfield before Watson and Naysmith ferried possession across the edge of box and Unsworth crashed home a glorious low strike from outside the area.

Worse was to follow for Fulham ten minutes before the break. Rooney bullied Alain Goma into gifting him possession far too easily and, although the England international was unable to score himself from an acute angle, Watson made no mistake with the follow-up. A furious Coleman fumed at the naivety of Fulham’s defending on the touchline and sent on Barry Hayles to breathe new life into Fulham’s attack at the interval.

The second half was a much more even affair, even if some of the intensity had gone from the game given Everton’s commanding advantage. Richard Wright made excellent saves from Steed Malbranque on two occasions and youngster Malik Buari. Hayles had already been denied by the England goalkeeper before getting on the scoresheet with twenty minutes left. The forward did well to spin in the box and hook home Malbranque’s corner – and suddenly some belief flowed through Fulham veins again. Saha sent a header wide and Wright pawed away a clever chip from Luis Boa Morte, but the away side’s all too generous defending meant this was a case of what might have been.

EVERTON (4-4-2): Wright; Pistone, Yobo, Stubbs, Unsworth; Watson, Linderoth, Pembridge, Naysmith; Radzinski, Rooney (Chadwick 74). Subs (not used): Simonsen, Weir, Li Tie, Osman.

BOOKED:
Pistone, Watson.

GOALS: Naysmith (7), Unsworth (21), Rooney (35).

FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Bonnissel, Goma, Djetou (Knight 56); Legwinski (Hayles 45), Clark, Inamoto (Buari 62); Malbranque, Boa Morte, Saha. Subs (not used): Crossley, Sava.

BOOKED: Hayles, Volz, Malbranque, Goma.

GOAL: Hayles (69).

REFEREE: Neale Barry (North Lincolnshire).

ATTENDANCE: 37,604