Everton 4 Fulham 1
Everton: Osman 18', Coleman 73', Barry 84', Mirallas 90+1'
Fulham: Berbatov (pen) 67'
Man of the match: Steven Pienaar (Everton)
LIVERPOOL // Contradictory as it sounds, defence can prove the best form of attack. Or defenders can be, anyway. As Everton scored four goals to return to the top four, their challenge for a Uefa Champions League place continues to be propelled by their overlapping full-backs.
In their last four games, both Bryan Oviedo and Seamus Coleman have scored twice and just when Fulham were threatening to take a first point at Goodison Park since 1959, the Irishman delivered the pivotal goal. It was a sign of the licence to attack he and Oviedo have been granted by Roberto Martinez.
“Everything we try to do is brave and attack-minded,” the Spaniard said.
In that respect, Coleman personifies his team. Martinez’s boldness has brought its benefits as Everton’s lofty league position shows.
The other paradox is that, while the deep-lying midfielders give the full-backs the platform to advance, both, Leon Osman and Gareth Barry, scored. So, too, did the substitute Kevin Mirallas. It summed up Everton’s progressive ethos that, rather than seeing the game out, the winger surged clear to drill in a fourth goal.
Everton ended with a replacement scoring and started with a strike from a reserve. Only playing because James McCarthy was suspended, the long-serving Osman illustrated his enduring value to Everton. When Steven Pienaar found him with a precise pass, he had the presence of mind to spin away from John Arne Riise before placing his shot past Maarten Stekelenburg.
“Leon was the real brain of the performance,” Martinez said.
And yet the events of the next 55 minutes supported both managers’ view that the eventual scoreline was harsh on Fulham. Everton only really threatened from corners, Stekelenburg making a superb save to deny Romelu Lukaku and Sascha Riether clearing Oviedo’s drive off the line.
Meanwhile, Fulham, more purposeful than they were in the dog days of Martin Jol’s reign, began to pose a threat.
“There were some really good signs,” said manager Rene Meulensteen. “Four-one didn’t reflect the game.”
Their one goal was signposted as Tim Howard saved from first Scott Parker and then, a minute later, Steve Sidwell while Alex Kacaniklic miscued the rebound over the bar. Everton failed to heed the warning. Barry bundled Kacaniklic over and Dimitar Berbatov, with trademark nonchalance, stroked in the resulting penalty.
“When they scored, the mindset changed,” Martinez said. “We just wanted to win the game.”
And they did as, thanks to a marauding full-back, the match took a decisive turn Everton’s way. Belying his job description, Coleman materialised 100 yards from his own net to slide in a shot after the influential Pienaar reached the byline and Stekelenburg pushed his low cross out.
“Seamus is at his best when he gets in those positions,” Martinez said. “He is a footballer that gives so much going forward.”
The win was then garnished by Barry, bundling the ball over the line after Stekelenburg had saved from Lukaku following another corner, and then Mirallas. Yet the key goal had come from a man paid to keep them out.
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