The pre-match omens were almost too greatly in our favour; a fixture that has been won by the home side on the previous 15 occasions, an Everton side that would surely have one eye on the F.A. Cup final, a Fulham team that still needed a point to secure European football and were keen to end our best ever season on a high. In the end it was too good to be true and we found out just how big the difference is between the team that finishes 5th and the team that finishes 7th.
Everton were very good today. They seized on our weaknesses, gave us no time on the ball, cut out the threat of Murphy and took their chances when they came. Saha was excellent in the solo front man role, hit the crossbar early on and reminded us all of what we lost when he left. It was Steven Pienaar though, who proved to be the driving force. Surging forward time and again, and eventually capitalising on a mix up between Hangeland and Paintsil to find Leon Osman, who slotted home to give the Toffees a half time lead.
Fulham tried hard to find a way back in the second period. Dempsey, who had looked our best player in the first 45, had a number of efforts blocked. Paintsil pushed on more and more, one tantalising run ending with a shot that we all hoped might fly in but ended up veering wide of the post. Hangeland also started to try and force the game our way. A sliding tackle to prevent a breakaway left the opposition player on the floor, whilst Brede picked himself on and continued to charge forward. A neat pass to Dempsey (I think) led to a fee kick which we unfortunately wasted. If this does turn out to be Brede's last game for the club it at least gave us another glimpse of how important the Norwegian has become. I got the impression he really wanted another win today.
A series of subs saw Zamora replace the flagging Nevland. Given more time he might have made a difference, but he didn't do a lot for his reputation slicing one effort hopelessly wide and firing a decent effort straight at Tim Howard. Dacourt replaced the erratic Gera to make what may be his last professional appearance and Chris Smalling replaced Aaron Hughes. Hughes receiving a well deserved ovation as he left the pitch. The game was over when that man Osman neatly collected a cross from the right wing, danced his way through the centre of our defence, and then sent a curling left foot shot crashing past Schwarzer. A goal worthy of winning any game.
Despite the result the party atmosphere remained (helped slightly by the news filtering through from Anfield) and we had the chance to applaud a team that has achieved our highest finish in the top flight.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes (Smalling 77), Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Murphy, Etuhu, Gera (Dacourt 73), Nevland (Zamora 68), Kamara
Subs not used: Zuberbuhler, Gray, Stoor, Baird
Everton: Howard, Hibbert, Yobo, Lescott, Baines, Neville (Gosling 79), Cahill, Rodwell, Pienaar (Vaughan 86), Osman, Saha (Castillo 79)
Subs not used: Nash, Jo, Jacobsen, Fellaini
Goals: Osman (45, 88)
Referee: M A Riley (W. Yorkshire)
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