For the best part of 50 minutes, Fulham offered a convincing riposte to the conventional wisdom that they are brittle travellers. Lawrie Sanchez’s side, who have long found an away win as elusive as a London bus in the rush hour, were well-organised and determined at Goodison Park this afternoon and could have pilfered an early lead had Diomansy Kamara’s shot crept inside the far corner rather than scurrying across the face of goal. However, Fulham’s familiar defensive frailities resurfaced after the half-time interval, allowing Yakubu to help himself to a simple second half hat-trick, and extending Everton’s unbeaten run to ten matches.
David Moyes would have had some stern words for his side at half time after they only belatedly tried to force the pace in the first period. Their fitful football, only slightly interrupted by an injury to Leighton Baines, produced only two moments of real concern for Antti Niemi. The Fulham goalkeeper saved well from Joleon Lescott and also got his gloves to Mikel Arteta’s deflected free-kick. Much of the match was scrappy and mundane, fought out mostly in physical midfield battles.
It seemed to be meandering along in much the same vein when Yakubu popped up to break the deadlock. Tim Cahill wriggled into some space in the Fulham area and, although Niemi half smothered his shot, the rebound broke loose to the Nigerian striker, who rather unconvincingly scrambled it over the line. That setback did spark Fulham into life. Danny Murphy drilled a low shot from the edge of the area that was well parried by Tim Howard in the Everton goal.
Fulham were pushing players forward to try and get back into the contest and space opened up at the back. The home side were eager to make the most of it and Leon Osman went close when his powerful shot stung Niemi’s fingertips. Everton didn’t have to wait long for the second goal that put the game beyond Fulham. The visitors were sleeping at a set-piece as Phil Jagielka was left unmarked to flick on Arteta’s near-post corner and Yakubu eased a header post Niemi from six yards.
The rout was completed with just ten minutes left. Stephen Pienaar showed off his fine footwork to bamboozle a couple of Fulham defenders before Yakubu crowned a slick move with a lovely measured finish to make it 3-0. The hat-trick hero took his leave early, replaced by James McFadden, to rapturous applause from the Goodison Park crowd. Plenty to ponder for beleaguered Sanchez.
EVERTON (4-5-1): Howard; Neville, Baines (Jagielka 23), Yobo, Lescott; Osman, Arteta, Cahill (Johnson 82), Carsley, Pienaar; Yakubu (McFadden 82). Subs (not used): Wessels, Anichebe.
GOALS: Yakubu (51, 61, 79).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Omozusi, Konchesky, Hughes, Stefanovic; Davis, Murphy (Seol 74), Davies, Kamara; Kuqi, Dempsey (Healy 64). Subs (not used): Warner, Bocanegra, Baird.
BOOKED: Kamara, Omozusi.
REFEREE: Steve Bennett (Kent)