Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Everton was all the more difficult to take after Fulham put in an extremely positive display against one of the Barclays Premier League’s most in-form sides.
The Whites had 23 attempts on goal – 13 in the first half and 10 in the second – but found Toffees goalkeeper Tim Howard in top form on multiple occasions. On 27 minutes a Lewis Holtby header was on its way into the back of the net before Howard showed good agility to tip it over. He then denied Moussa Dembélé a first Fulham goal on the stroke of half-time when he was well positioned to keep his header out.
It was going to take something special to beat the United States international, and that is certainly one way to describe Ashkan Dejagah’s equaliser on 71 minutes. After that, the Whites had glorious opportunities in quick succession to take the lead, but Howard was proving imperious as he kept out efforts from John Heitinga and Pajtim Kasami.
The visitors managed nine attempts fewer but were aided by a degree of fortune with two of their goals as the first one was going wide until the luckless David Stockdale diverted it into the net, while there was a definite case for offside against Leighton Baines and Steven Naismith for the third.
It’s their clinical finishing which has been crucial to Everton’s recent winning run, as both Swansea City and Newcastle United dominated the shot count in their last two matches, but both sides found themselves on the end of a defeat. On Sunday they boasted a 50 per cent shot accuracy, compared to Fulham’s 35 per cent.
In terms of overall play, the side in blue saw more of the ball (61.8 per cent) and made approximately 200 more passes than the Whites, but the distribution figures don’t go entirely their way. A significantly higher proportion of Fulham’s passes were considered to be attacking – 72 per cent compared to Everton’s 57.8 per cent – while Felix Magath’s men made seven more key passes.
The Whites also whipped in seven crosses more than our opponents managed, with a better cross completion, too, although the overall pass accuracy statistics reflect fractionally more in Everton’s favour; 83 per cent to our 77.
Defensively, the numbers are dominated by Fulham, with 35 tackles to Everton’s nine; 83 per cent of which were successful compared to the Toffees’ 67 per cent success rate. Holtby was the home side’s most productive individual in this department, making 12 tackles, and winning 11.
The playmaker had a solid game at the weekend against his boyhood club and was unfortunate to not open the scoring when his placed header was kept out by Howard. He was Fulham’s busiest individual with 71 touches of the ball, although there were several Everton players who bettered that total.
One of which, perhaps surprisingly, was Howard. The 35-year-old was involved in a remarkable 79 ball events which goes some way to demonstrating the attacking mindset Fulham offered. During his 90 minutes on the pitch, Howard made seven saves, three interceptions and caught five crosses.