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Rene Meulensteen's first away game in charge of Fulham ended in a heavy 4-1 defeat at Everton. After ending a six-match Barclays Premier League losing streak by beating Aston Villa last week, Fulham reacted superbly after being overrun in the first half by Everton and equalised Leon Osman's early opener with a Dimitar Berbatov penalty midway through the second period. However, Fulham were level for just six minutes as Seamus Coleman put the hosts back ahead after 73 minutes, before Gareth Barry and substitute Kevin Mirallas put gloss on the scoreline with late goals.
The result, which extends Everton's unbeaten home run in the Premier League to 17 games, moves Roberto Martinez's side up to fourth, while Fulham remain in the relegation zone. Everton controlled the early exchanges and their first real opportunity came when Phil Jagielka glanced a Steven Pienaar corner wide. However, Martinez's men did not have to wait long for their dominance to be rewarded and Osman broke the deadlock after 18 minutes following a slick passing move.
Bryan Oviedo and Pienaar combined well down the left before the South African fed Osman on the edge of the area. The 32-year-old first shaped to shoot with his right foot, before cutting back onto his left and bending his shot past Maarten Stekelenburg to mark his 300th top-flight appearance in style. Everton were buoyant after going ahead, with Gerard Deulofeu becoming increasingly influential down the right.
The Barcelona loanee, who was rewarded with a start after coming off the bench to score Everton's equaliser at Arsenal last week, beat John Arne Riise with ease before firing a low delivery across the six-yard box that just eluded Romelu Lukaku in the 21st minute.
Lukaku went even closer to doubling the home side's advantage when Barry's header deflected off him from close range, only for Stekelenburg to pull off a superb reaction save. Everton continued to probe for a second before the break, with Stekelenburg again called into action just after the half-hour to deny Coleman.
Martinez's side failed to maintain their tempo and fluency immediately after the interval, though, and were fortunate to stay in front when Alex Kacaniklic spurned a golden chance four minutes into the second half. Tim Howard could only palm Steve Sidwell's long-range effort straight at Kacaniklic, but the Swede shot over from six yards with the goal at his mercy.
Fulham's confidence was visibly boosted by Everton's low-key start to the second period, and Berbatov brought them level from the spot after 66 minutes shortly after Deulofeu was withdrawn due to a hamstring injury. Referee Anthony Taylor awarded the penalty after Barry had clumsily collided with Kacaniklic inside the area, and Berbatov stepped up to send Howard the wrong way.
Despite the visitors looking the more likely to go ahead, Everton's first slick passing move of the second period resulted in Coleman restoring their advantage. Sharp interplay between Pienaar and Lukaku down the left ended with Stekelenburg palming the South African's cross straight into the path of Coleman, who had the easy task of tapping in his third goal of the season.
Everton sealed the points five minutes from time when Barry nudged home from two yards after Fulham had failed to deal with a corner, before Mirallas, who came on for Deulofeu, got in on the act in injury time.
Everton manager Roberto Martinez: "Rene has got them going [Fulham] and they all know what they are fighting for but today their goal changed our mindset and I am not sure how far we can go but I have the perfect blend of players and when we find that consistency I expect us to do well."
"[Deulofeu's hamstring] doesn't look great, it's a soft-tissue injury, he pulled his hamstring. We will do the scan straight away, he felt it and we will assess it, he is like a sprinter and the hamstrings are exposed in those sort of injuries. We don't know how big the tear is but we expect him to be out for a little bit of time. We have to be patient to get him ready for an important final third of the season."
Fulham head coach Rene Meulensteen: “In the first half Everton played some good stuff and deserved to be 1-0 up but the way we played in the second half was brilliant. But their second goal killed us and that was a shame. We said we had to be a bit more positive and we had chances, played some good stuff and then got the equaliser. Everton are bursting with confidence and when they had chances they took them.
"The spirit and energy is back in the team, this is just a hard defeat to take. We need to brush it off, get to the training ground and prepare for the next game."
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|26 Dec 2013||v Sunderland (H)|
|29 Dec 2013||v Southampton (H)|
|01 Jan 2014||v Stoke (A)|
|11 Jan 2014||v Norwich (H)|
|20 Jan 2014||v West Brom (A)|