Everton are now feeling like Champions
FULHAM 1 EVERTON 3
Fulham - Dejagah 71’ Everton - Stockdale (og) 51’, Mirallas 79’, Naismith 87’
Man of the match - Steven Naismith (Everton)
A half-time substitute, Naismith played a big part in the visitors taking the lead as he swung the ball forward for goalkeeper David Stockdale to deflect into his own net five minutes after the break.
Fulham netted an equaliser when Ashkan Dejagah picked out the top-left corner with his thunderbolt, beating a diving Tim Howard. Everton reclaimed the lead through Kevin Mirallas with just over 10 minutes remaining and Naismith poked the ball home after picking up Leighton Baines’s cross in the box.
Naismith, the man of the match, told Sky Sports 1: “It was a big win, especially at this stage of the season. You’d probably take results over performances, but today we were probably a bit lethargic in the first half but it shows the quality we’ve got amongst us.
“We stuck in and by the end of it we were controlling the game.”
He said Roberto Martinez, the manager, “wanted us to be a bit lively going forward and there was a lot of space to make things happen and that’s what I was trying to do”.
He added: “Looking at the first goal, the ball came to me on the edge of the box and I was just trying to get it on target and the last one for me was trying to seal the win and take some pressure off at the end of the game.”
As the opening goal goes down as an own goal after taking a deflection off Stockdale, Naismith made it clear the important thing was the points.
Asked if the third goal made up for not being awarded the opening one, he added: “It does. If I hadn’t scored the third everyone would be complaining about that.
“But, overall, the main thing is the result.”
Everton made it five successive league wins and put four points between themselves and sixth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, who lost to Liverpool.
Martinez’s men are within touching distance of the top four again after falling off the pace in February and are looking to snatch the last Champions League place from Arsenal, who are four points ahead but have played one more match.
“This time of the season you’re pushing for Europe and the wins are vital so you need to get them,” Naismith said.
Baines, the England international, echoed his teammate’s sentiments and agreed the second-half substitutes had a significant impact on the outcome.
“It was tough and we knew Fulham would have stages in the game where they’d be on top but we stuck in,” Baines said. “The substitutions made a massive difference and changed the game.
“All the subs had a hand in turning the game around,” spreading some credit to Miralles and Aiden McGeady.
“Performance-wise, we weren’t at our best, but I think that shows what we’re about, being able to grind results out, stay in the game and win games,” he said.
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Published: March 30, 2014 04:00 AM