Fulham’s familiar failings were laid bare on another disappointing night at Goodison Park long before a far post header from Marouane Fellaini knocked the Whites out of the FA Cup. An under-strength and out-of-form Everton side, shorn of several key players, outfought the Londoners and more than merited their fourth round victory, despite going behind to an early Danny Murphy penalty.
David Moyes was rewarded for his enterprising team selection that saw one of his few new additions, Denis Stracqualursi, partner Magaye Gueye up front and the Argentine rewarded his manager’s faith by scoring his first goal for the club shortly before the half hour mark. It was no coincidence that both Everton’s goals came courtesy of crosses from Landon Donovan, whose delivery from the right flank and boundless energy, underlined just how important he has become to Moyes, even early in his second stint on Merseyside. How Everton must wish they could turn the American’s loan into a permanent deal.
Fulham looked on course to preserve their unbeaten FA Cup record against Everton when Danny Murphy’s spot-kick gave them the lead after Johnny Heitinga was harshly adjudged to have handled Damien Duff’s short. The home fans were incensed by the penalty award and referee Howard Webb’s decision to show the Dutch defender a yellow card and their mood hardly improved when the former Liverpool midfielder kept his cool from 12 yards. Murphy had played a key part in the move that led to the goal as he played a pass behind Phil Neville to release the overlapping John Arne Riise, who crossed for Duff.
But Martin Jol’s side were unable to build on their early lead. Instead, it was Everton who piled on the pressure. Young centre half Shane Duffy headed wastefully wide from close range and David Stockdale then did brilliantly keep out a Tim Cahill header. Stephen Kelly headed another Duffy effort off the line, as Everton forced six corners in a four-minute spell, but Fulham’s overworked defence couldn’t hold out for much longer. Donovan darted away from Riise all too easily and his floated cross was perfect for Stracqualursi, who out-jumped the off-colour Aaron Hughes to equalise.
The home side were by far the more adventurous in the second half, although Brian Ruiz spurned a glorious chance to restore Fulham’s lead before the break. The Costa Rican’s tame shot was easily foiled by Tim Howard, which was especially galling given that three of his team-mates were in good positions alongside him. Stockdale saved well at the feet of the advancing Stracqualursi, whilst Andy Johnson – the surprise choice ahead of Bobby Zamora in a lone striking role – failed to work Howard when he cut in from the left after an hour.
The game drifted through some mundane periods, largely devoid of quality, before another Donovan delivery sealed Everton’s place in the last sixteen. This time Fellaini climbed above Kelly to guide a looping header back across Stockdale and into the far corner. Fulham’s response was fitful, with Jol’s belated introduction of Zamora and a debut for young Marcello Trotta failing to spark his side into life. Ruiz squandered the only chance the visitors fashioned towards the end by volleying a Zamora lay-off into the side netting from the edge of the box.
EVERTON (4-4-2): Howard; P. Neville, Baines, Heitinga, Duffy; Gibson, Fellaini, Cahill, Donovan; Stracqualursi (Anichebe 83), Gueye (Drenthe 68). Subs (not used): Hahnemann, Hibbert, Saha, Vellios, Baxter.
BOOKED: Heitinga, Gibson, Cahill.
GOALS: Stracqualursi (27), Fellaini (73).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Stockdale; Kelly, J.A. Riise, Hughes, Hangeland; Baird (Sidwell 82), Murphy (Trotta 87); Ruiz, Dempsey, Duff (Zamora 79). Subs (not used): Etheridge, Senderos, Davies, Frei.
BOOKED: Baird, Dempsey.
GOAL: Murphy (pen 14).
REFEREE: Howard Webb (Rotherham).