First half goals from Collins John and Brian McBride ended Fulham’s relegation worries as they beat Everton at Craven Cottage.
Chris Coleman’s side, who have so often been looking over their shoulders at the drop zone this season, had to survive a nervy final quarter of an hour with ten men after influential midfielder Papa Bouba Diop was dismissed for a second bookable offence. But Everton, still chasing a Champions’ League spot, had left themselves with too much to do after the home side secured a two-goal cushion in the first half.
Everton suffered an early blow when Australian midfielder Tim Cahill limped off injured after a tackle with Lee Clark. Fulham quickly took control and went in front on fifteen minutes. Poor defending allowed former Everton former Tomasz Radzinski to get a shot away and when the rebound fell kindly for John, the young Dutch striker smashed the loose ball beyond Nigel Martyn. The Everton goalkeeper almost provided a freak equaliser – his long, bouncing clearance nearly caught out Edwin van der Sar – but that was a rare moment of concern in a first half that Fulham dominated.
John fired another powerful shot wide after excellent approach play between McBride and Boa Morte before Radzinski had a goalbound effort blocked. Duncan Ferguson went close with two headers, but it was a former Everton man who scored the critical second goal. McBride rose brilliantly to direct a majestic header into the top corner from a floated Boa Morte ball in and Fulham had some breathing space.
Everton made a decent fist of mounting a second half comeback with Ferguson posing problems for the hosts in the air. The giant Scot created a good chance for Lee Carlsey, who poked wide of van der Sar’s goal, and after Diop was sent off, substitute James Beattie brought the best out of the big Dutchman by forcing two fine saves in quick succession.
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Volz, Rosenior, Knight, Goma; Diop, Clark, Radzinski (Jensen 63), Boa Morte; McBride, John (Cole 61). Subs (not used): Crossley, Bocanegra, Pembridge.
SENT OFF: Diop.
GOALS: John (15), McBride (39).
EVERTON (4-4-2): Martyn; Watson, Weir, Yobo, Pistone; Arteta (McFadden 64), Cahill (Osman 13), Carsley, Kilbane; Bent (Beattie 64), Ferguson. Subs (not used): Wright, Plessis.
BOOKED: Pistone, Arteta, McFadden.
REFEREE: Steve Bennett (Kent).