Frank Lampard will be both pleased and a little disappointed following this scoreless draw at Fulham – pleased with the clean sheet and solid defensive showing but, maybe disappointed at the bluntness of the attack, particularly in the second half.
Craven Cottage has been home to Fulham FC since 1896 and whilst the remodelling of the Riverside Stand represents a major, modern facelift, the Cottage retains an almost olde-worlde feel, with a friendly, welcoming atmosphere unlike so many other top-flight stadia – long may it continue to do so too !!
Prior to kick-off at Craven Cottage, five points and five places separated Fulham from Everton with Marco Silva’s team proving, so far, to be much more comfortable in the top flight than many thought they would following last seasons promotion from the Championship.
There was a marked contrast in the statistics of both clubs so far as Fulham with striker Aleksandar Mitrovic in good form have outscored the Blues 22-11 whilst defensively, it’s the Blues who’ve looked much harder to overcome have conceded just 12 goals to the Cottagers 22.
In Marco Silva, the London outfit have a head coach many Evertonians feel didn’t get a fair assessment before his time at Everton was brought to an end. Silva himself, speaking on Friday, didn’t appear to hold any grudges towards his former employers when he noted, “It’s completely the same. It will be good to see some people who we shared very good moments with, other moments not so good. It’s part of our life, our careers as well, be good to see some good people, some good professionals as well. Before the match, after the match, during the match, we want to win. They want the same, and I think it will be a normal game.”
The Blues emphatic return to form in beating Crystal Palace last weekend wasn’t lost on the Portuguese coach when he commented, “They reacted really well in their last game after three defeats in a row, the reaction from them at home was really good. They will come here in a good mood but, they know that they will play against a team that is in a very good moment as well. We really enjoy to play each game at home with our fans behind us. We have to be as competitive as we can to beat them.”
Silva had no major injury concerns to deal with, his selection options boosted by the availability of fullback Kenny Tete after a hamstring injury and Daniel James who missed last weekend’s win at Leeds as part of his loan agreement. Having deliberated, Marco Silva named his starting line-up: Leno, De Cordova-Reid, Diop, Ream (c), Robinson, Reed, Palhinha, Kebano, Pereira, Willian and Mitrovic.
Blues boss Frank Lampard was understandably delighted with the manner of the victory over Crystal Palace but, is expecting his side to use that performance as a springboard to reach greater heights. In Friday’s media briefing he remarked, “We are working towards something daily. You get games when things come together and a lot of positives are there. There are always things you can improve, too. As much as it was good, it’s important to also reflect on what can be better.”
He emphasised adding, “We’re moving in a good direction and we needed a result and a performance [against Palace]. The lads delivered but, it’s important we do that consistently now and improve. I was pleased with the application of the lads in every position and in every relationship on the pitch. They took on what we wanted to do and did it really well. That’s with and without the ball.”
And he stressed, “We can never become complacent. It was a good moment last week, but now we go to a difficult opposition who are playing well themselves this weekend, so it all starts again.”
Lampard gave Blues fans a boost on Thursday when he advised, “Patterson is back in the squad for this weekend. It’s a really good selection headache. It’s exactly what I wanted. Nathan has been really, really good this season until he got his unfortunate injury. That allowed Seamus to come in, find fitness and performance and I think that hit the peak last weekend against Palace and against Zaha, who is one of the hardest players to play against in that position. It’s a really healthy competition between two lads – one who has been here a long time and one who is coming through. They get on really well and I’m more than happy with the situation.”
Looking for a victory to close the gap and lift his side into the top half of the table, Lampard named his unchanged starting eleven: Pickford, Coleman (c), Coady, Tarkowski, Mykolenko, Onana, Gana Gueye, Iwobi, Gray, Gordon and Calvert-Lewin.
On a pleasant late October evening, our referee in this tea-time kick-off was John Brooks.
The Blues in their all gold away kit kicked off with, once again, tremendous travelling support right behind them with an early rendition of Spirit of the Blues. Dominic Calvert-Lewin got away from Ream on a ball from Alex Iwovi, his quick cross into the area being smuggled to safety by the Fulham defence. The first raid by the home side saw Willian feed Reed before trying to get a head to a cross from De Cordoba-Reid. Gordon won the first Everton corner on five minutes and a cross from Mykolenko picked out Gray who saw his powerful shot turned behind by Leno for a second corner that came to nothing.
Jordan Pickford showed his reflexes to turn a Willian shot from close range over the bar and the resulting corner saw Mitrovic send in a header that the England Number One again reacted well to to acrobatically tip it over the bar. Fulham were enjoying their start and Reed with a shot from distance saw them earn a fourth corner in a lively opening ten minutes by both sides.
Former Everton junior Antonee Robinson on an overlap earned a fifth corner off the shin on Seamus Coleman, Dominic Calvert-Lewin at the back post clearing the set piece cross away to safety leading to a period of Everton possession to take some of the sting out of Fulham.
Mitrovic made what looked a very painful landing from an aerial challenge and needed a moment or two of treatment before rejoining the game. Everton should have opened the scoring on 19 minutes as Onana and Iwobi exchanged passes for the latter to find Gray in space wide left, his low cross into the six-yard area not getting the finish it deserved from either Dominic Calvert-Lewin or Anthony Gordon arriving late at the back post. Gray then skipped inside and away from De Cordoba-Reid to send in a low shot that Leno smothered easily.
Mitrovic was yellow carded for tackle that saw his boot clearly impact the right ankle of Gana Gueye, who thankfully was okay to carry on after attention from the physio, the Serbian somewhat fortunate not to get a straight red card. A Fulham raid at speed saw Robinson again on the overlap to take a ball from Willian and cross into the area where Coady put it behind for a corner that saw a Pereira shot go wide of the target.
Reaching the half hour mark, the game was still nicely poised, Everton not overly-committing to attack, respectfully wary of the pace in the Fulham side that saw them win another corner that ended with a deflected shot from Reed falling nicely for Pickford to gather. Everton got forward to win another corner of their own from the left, that Gray failed to beat the first man with, the second cross from Mykolenko seeing a side-footed volley from Coady go straight into the arms of Leno. Willian with a cross field ball picked out Mitrovic who skipped inside Coleman to shoot only for Coady to stand firm with the block.
Gordon with a cross from the right found Dominic Calvert-Lewin and he tried in vain to find Gray on his left, Fulham getting the ball away to in a free kick in midfield. A good tackle by Mykolenko then saw him overlap past Gray to cross deep where Iwobi won a corner on the right and a training ground move saw Gray cross to find Tarkowski who couldn’t beat Leno with a decent header.
Into the last five minutes of the half and Mykolenko with another good challenge denied Fulham and won a goal kick, from which Everton went long for Onana to pick out Gordon who got away from his marker only to lift his shot from a tight angle well over the bar. One added minute was signalled with Fulham in possession, and they were happy to just pass it around and see out time – scoreless at the break with both goalies having made good saves in an entertaining half with, that cross Gray that Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Gordon failed to get on the end arguably the best chance of the game so far.
Half Time: 0-0
No personnel changes for the start of the second half that saw Everton attacking the Putney End where the, again, sold out section of supporters were encamped. An early challenge by Gana Gueye on Willian saw the home crowd howling for a penalty, the referee and VAR deciding against their claims. Willian involved again fed Pereira to cross for Mitrovic whose header was just too high to trouble JP.
Robinson again on a charge down the Fulham left crossed into the box where Mykolenko took no chances in clearing into touch. An Everton counter petered out as Gordon failed to find a team mate with a low cross and Fulham break away for Willian to test Pickford with a powerful shot. More excellent defending by Mykolenko denied Kebano at the expense of a corner that eventually saw the ball shepherded back to Pickford.
A lovely turn by Mykolenko took him away from De Cordova-Reid who was booked for pulling the shorts of the Ukrainian, the free kick seeing a header from Tarkowski fall for Onana but he screwed his shot wide of the post. Reaching the hour mark and another charge down the left by Robinson created a chance for Mitrovic that saw him shoot well wide, and Nathan Patterson prepared to be the first change. Mitrovic then blasted a deep cross from De Cordova-Reid high into the seats behind Pickford’s goal.
Amadou Onana was booked on 63 minutes after catching the ankle of Pereira and Everton made it a double change with Nathan Patterson and James Garner replacing Seamus Coleman and Idrissa Gana Gueye respectively.
Fulham were picking up the pace and Everton were having to do some stout defending to keep them at bay Coady with a clearing header from a Willian cross and Mykolenko with a strong block on a shot from Ream. Fulham replaced Kebano with Welsh international Harry Wilson on 67 minutes.
Into the final twenty minutes and the ball finally hit netting as Dominic Calvert-Lewin took a pass from Iwobi to race clear, round Leno and ‘score’ only for the offside flag to deny him. However, with Fulham pushing forward in numbers, could a quick break or a route one approach might yet see the Blues capitalise?
With fifteen minutes to go, Dwight McNeil became the third Everton change replacing Demarai Gray, Fulham responding with Cairney and Tete replacing Pereira and De Cordova-Reid.
Coady and Tarkowski with a combined block saw Fulham hit double figures for corners and add an eleventh that eventually led to Willian cutting in from the left to shoot straight at Pickford. It was backs to the wall stuff now as Robinson crossed towards Mitrovic who completely missed his kick. Everton were happy to pass the ball around at the back to eat up some time.
Tarkowski was brave to stoop and head a cross from Robinson behind as Mitrovic closed in. Willian with a mazy run got away from both Gordon and Patterson, his ball into the six-yard area being cleared hastily by McNeil after a good touch by Garner. Mykolenko with a terrific header cleared a cross from Cairney intended for Wilson but, Fulham kept the pressure on to win another corner that came to nothing.
Neal Maupay replaced Anthony Gordon on 86 minutes ahead of Wilson getting a lecture for fouling Mykolenko from behind.
Three added minutes were announced as Mitrovic crashed another effort high over the Everton goal and into the seats. Fulham were still coming but a cross from Palhinha aimed towards Wilson sailed harmlessly out of play.
After the fireworks against Palace last weekend, this was something less exciting but, a workmanlike effort with Vitalii Mykolenko outstanding saw them live up to the old Harry Catterick mantra of ‘never come home with less than you travelled away with.’
Full Time: 0-0