Josh Maja pounces as Fulham punish lacklustre Everton to glimpse safety

Fulham’s Josh Maja scores his side’s second goal.
Fulham’s Josh Maja scores his side’s second goal. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/AP
Fulham’s Josh Maja scores his side’s second goal. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/AP
at Goodison Park

Last modified on Mon 15 Feb 2021 00.10 EST

There remains a gulf between Fulham and Premier League safety but Scott Parker’s side will feel nothing is beyond them after recording a historic victory at Everton.

Fulham had never won a league game at Goodison Park, not taken even a point here since 1959, but two goals from full debutant Josh Maja injected belief as well as three vital points into their fight for survival. Parker must hope this represents a turning point in Fulham’s season, and not only on account of a first win in 13 Premier League games.

His team dominated throughout, played with style and purpose, and never gave Everton hope of a win that would have taken them level on points with Liverpool in fourth. It is three defeats in four home league games now for an Everton team that drops in attitude and application whenever expectation is upon them.

The longest winning run in top-flight history, a 22-game sequence dating back to 1961, was comfortably dismantled.

“We were fantastic from start to finish,” Parker said. “It’s well documented that we’ve missed big chances this season, but the constant belief I get when analysing our performances comes from the big chances we are creating. We have just not been clinical enough. Tonight we were and it was nothing short of what we deserved. This is big.”

Fulham were in control from the opening whistle and for all the failings in the Everton performance, and there were many, it was their relentless pressing that made life difficult for Carlo Ancelotti’s side. “We couldn’t manage the difficulties,” said Ancelotti after his 50th game as Everton manager. “It was a high-intensity game and we were tired after playing two hours on Wednesday and the pressure they put on our centre-halves we didn’t deal with.”

Parker’s attacking options took another hit before kick-off when Aleksandar Mitrovic tested positive for Covid-19. Maja, currently on loan from Bordeaux, made his first start in place of the Serbia international with Bobby Decordova-Reid floating to menacing effect behind him. Their work rate and movement amply compensated for Mitrovic’s absence. Everton were kept on the back foot throughout the first half by Fulham’s energy and sharp, incisive passing.

The visitors should have edged ahead when Decordova-Reid flicked on Ademola Lookman’s corner at the near post. His back-heel struck the far post with Robin Olsen rooted but both Ola Aina and Joachim Andersen failed to convert inviting rebounds. Harrison Reed was outstanding in the Fulham midfield, closing down options to Everton’s attack and supporting his forwards, and he went close from the edge of the area after more good work from Decordova-Reid and Lookman.

The former Everton winger was next to threaten his old club after a slick exchanges of passes with Decordova-Reid. Lookman cut inside Séamus Coleman and Ben Godfrey but dragged his shot wide of the near post.

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

By this point Everton had not managed one attempt on Fulham’s goal. Perhaps swayed by the success of a similar system at Wolves, Ancelotti opted to start with Gylfi Sigurdsson in attack in the absence of the injured Dominic Calvert-Lewin.

Richarlison offered the promise of pace from the left, James Rodríguez ingenuity from the right, but it was a strange selection with the deadline-day signing Josh King available and Everton needing fresh legs after their FA Cup exertions against Tottenham on Wednesday.

All three were anonymous and it was no surprise when Richarlison was switched to centre-forward shortly before half-time.

Coleman struck a post with Everton’s first genuine threat of note but it was a fleeting moment of promise from the home side.

Fulham took a deserved lead moments after the restart when Aina and Lookman prised open Everton’s right flank with ease. The left-back muscled his way past Abdoulaye Doucouré, no simple feat, before playing a one-two with Lookman that took Coleman out of the equation. From the byline, Aina drilled his cross behind Godfrey and Mason Holgate to give Maja a gift of a first Fulham goal from close range.

The Nigeria international did not have to wait long for his second Fulham goal. It again arrived from their left flank, Lookman sizing up his options before picking out Reed unmarked in the centre. The midfielder swept a powerful shot from 25 yards that was tipped on to a post by the Everton goalkeeper, but the rebound fell perfectly for Maja to score into an unguarded net.

“We are a confident team,” Parker added. “And the games we have coming up now are massive.”

comments (0)

Sign in or create your Guardian account to join the discussion.

comments (0)

Sign in or create your Guardian account to join the discussion.