Scroll to Photostream above left for match photos, click on the statistics tab for match stats; manager reaction below
Steven Pienaar scored the only goal as Everton’s bid for European football received a timely boost with this routine victory over Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur’s draw at Wigan Athletic.
Pienaar pounced early in a first half to produce the only goal of the game against a side whose attacking threat was blunted by the early departure of their leading goalscorer Dimitar Berbatov.
Everton began the day six points off fourth-placed Chelsea and although they closed that to three the Stamford Bridge side have a match in hand.
Significantly, however, fifth-placed Spurs drew at Wigan meaning their cushion over the Merseysiders is now only three points.
Everton made a strong start with Marouane Fellaini’s early header saved by goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer and with the hosts enjoying plenty of penetration down the right it was no surprise when they took a 16th-minute lead. Kevin Mirallas and Leon Osman combined to play in Seamus Coleman close to the byline for him and when he cut the ball back to Pienaar on the penalty spot the South African side-footed home with aplomb.
Since his return to the club from Tottenham Pienaar had scored 10 goals in 46 Barclays Premier League matches, having managed just nine in 104 during his first spell. The 31-year-old’s contribution this season to 11 league goals – six for himself and five assists – is also his best top-flight return.
Victor Anichebe looped a long-range header wide as the Cottagers struggled to contend with the Toffees’ onslaught and matters worsened for Martin Jol’s charges when the injured Berbatov exited on the half-hour to be replaced by Mladen Petric.
Fellaini passed up Everton’s two best chances before half-time, curling one effort wide after neat interplay by Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic, before team-mate Anichebe blocked his goalbound effort.
In between those Jelavic could not decide whether to shoot or cross to Anichebe having been sent clear by Coleman and ultimately screwed the ball across goal.
Fulham’s first chance came just before the break when Kieran Richardson’s cross rolled just out of the reach of Petric at the far post. They improved in the second half, however, and Urby Emanuelson might have hit the target from Alex Kacaniklic’s cross 10 minutes after the interval had he shown greater composure.
Mirallas’s tumble in the area had the Belgium international appealing for a penalty but despite contact from Stanislav Manolev the Everton forward was already falling over. The Belgian’s next intervention was brilliant, however, flicking it over Manolev before hitting a volley which Schwarzer palmed away.
Anichebe then sent a header just wide of the far post as Everton finally regained the dominance they had enjoyed in the first half and Fellaini should have wrapped up victory five minutes from time only to somehow bundle over Leighton Baines’s cross from close range. In added time substitute Ross Barkley forced a good save from Schwarzer when put clean, but the match was destined to end in a low-scoring affair.
Everton manager David Moyes:
"It was harder work than it needed to be but we played well at times. It was a terrific footballing goal. On that occasion we finished it off, it was nice intricate play and a good finish. I thought Steven Pienaar knitted us together a little bit and he scored a good goal as well so that will do him the world of good.
"At 1-0 there was always a chance they could score. I thought our football was excellent at times but we didn't really turn that good football into goals.
“All we can do is try to win our games. If we can do that and see how we do - we have beaten last year's total with those points today and that hopefully shows a sign of progress.
We will try to keep it going until the end of the season and if we do get in Europe we will have certainly earned it because the sides above us are all good sides. People were saying we couldn't afford to lose any games. The important thing is to keep trying to win the next game.”
Fulham manager Martin Jol:
"At the start you saw they [Everton] were eager, hungry, and they caused us some problems but it was only 1-0. They were a bit more physical and that showed in the first half.
"In the second half we were better in possession and with a little bit more luck we could have had a point but they could have scored two or three goals as well.”
|05 May 2013||v Liverpool (A)|
|12 May 2013||v West Ham (H)|
|19 May 2013||v Chelsea (A)|
|14 Dec 2013||v Everton (H)|
|22 Dec 2013||v Swansea (A)|
|26 Dec 2013||v Everton (H)|