Josh Maja’s first Premier League goals gave Fulham a huge boost in their relegation fight with a 2-0 win over a lethargic Everton.Fulham controlled Sunday night’s game from start to finish at Goodison Park but were facing a familiar headache when their dominance had not been rewarded before half-time, with Bobby Reid’s header against the post the closest they had come.
But Maja struck a well-worked opener three minutes into the second period for the perfect Fulham welcome on his first start for the club, before doubling the lead just after the hour after Harrison Reed struck the woodwork.Seamus Coleman had also shot against the goalframe before half-time, but it took Everton 76 minutes to muster an attempt on target, as they missed the chance to move level on points with Liverpool, ahead of a tough schedule where they visit Manchester City and Liverpool in the next six days.Conversely, the result builds Fulham’s hope of a great escape as they lifted themselves back within seven points of safety – and should Newcastle lose at Chelsea on Monday Night Football, they will have the opportunity to reduce that gap to four next weekend.
Everton: Olsen (7), Coleman (5), Holgate (5), Godfrey (5), Digne (5), Gomes (5), Doucoure (5), Davies (4), Rodriguez (5), Richarlison (4), Sigurdsson (5).Subs: Keane (5), King (4), Bernard (5).
Fulham: Areola (6), Tete (7), Andersen (6), Adarabiayo (6), Aina (7), Lemina (7), Reed (8), Loftus-Cheek (7), Reid (7), Maja (9), Lookman (8).
Subs: Cavaleiro (6), Anguissa, Onomah (n/a).
Man of the match: Josh Maja.
Maja the man as Fulham make chances countIt was certainly a bold call of Carlo Ancelotti to retain seven of the starting line-up from Wednesday’s 120-minute FA Cup win over Tottenham – and from the off, it showed.
Fulham were quicker into the challenge, sharper on the ball. Maja swung at a poor Robin Olsen punch from a free-kick, before another set-piece came even closer to the opener when Reid’s flick from a corner struck the base of the post.
So many times Scott Parker has watched his side fail to make their momentum count, and it could easily have happened again had Coleman’s long-range effort been more clinical and not rebounded out off the woodwork.This time, they were not swayed. Fulham remained unrewarded before half-time but three minutes into the second period, Ola Aina and Ademola Lookman combined well with a one-two to tee up Maja, who slid in at the back post for his first Premier League goal.The pressure continued to come, with a second goal a big step towards a rare victory for the Cottagers, and after Lookman had fired just over from Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s nice run and find, Maja again showed his striking credentials to react fastest and tap home when Reed struck the post.Finally, with a quarter of an hour left, a half-cleared corner was half-volleyed goalwards by Gylfi Sigurdsson to give Alphonse Areola his first save of the night.Soon substitute Josh King was close to reducing the arrears when bundling home Andre Gomes’ wonderful cross, but was needlessly offside as Everton’s limp comeback efforts ended with nothing, leaving Fulham to draw hope from a richly deserved win, their first since November.
What the managers said…Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti: “Today was not good, we had problems everywhere, they put a lot of pressure on our defence and we were not able to build up properly. I think we were affected on the physical aspect because they played with a lot of intensity and we were unable to manage this.”On whether the win over Tottenham impacted things: “I think physically we knew it was a difficult game. But we were not able to do what we prepared. I think the physical aspect affected us a lot.”It is an unpredictable season, we lost a lot of games at home, we’ve won a lot away. We now have a difficult game on Wednesday and we try to be better.”Fulham manager Scott Parker: “From start to finish, we were superb. The way we went about it, large parts of the game, had a real control about us.”The difference today was we’ve put the ball in the net, there’s not been much difference about the last 13-14 games. We’ve drawn a lot, and I keep talking about the fine margins. I keep saying to this team you can’t keep producing what we’re producing without it turning a bit.”I said in the week I’d be more concerned if we weren’t getting the chances, and today we put them away. I’m very, very pleased.”Man of the match – Josh MajaWhat Fulham have lacked is someone to put the ball in the back of the net. Maybe they’ve now found him.The distance of his two strikes combined barely reached the penalty spot but it’s not wonder goals Fulham have been searching for, it’s a striker’s instinct.The first was a smart back-post run off Ben Godfrey, which left him a simple finish. For the second, he was alert to Reed’s rebound, something Michael Keane and Godfrey were certainly not.Fulham had scored three goals in the six games before this, Maja almost matched that in barely an hour. It is very early days, but this is a promising start.Opta factsEverton have lost three of their last four Premier League games at Goodison Park (D1), as many defeats as they suffered in Carlo Ancelotti’s first 17 home games in charge in the competition (W8 D6).Fulham picked up their first ever away win at Everton in league competition, on what was their 28th attempt. Coming into this evening’s game, they had lost each of their last 22 away league games against the Toffees.Everton have only kept one clean sheet in their last 15 Premier League games at Goodison Park, with that coming against Chelsea back on December 12th of last year (1-0).Fulham picked up their first Premier League victory since November 2020 versus Leicester (2-1), ending a run of 12 games without a win in the competition (D8 L4).Everton have lost five of their last seven Premier League home games against newly-promoted teams (W1 D1), including each of the last two – 0-1 v Leeds United last November and 0-2 v Fulham tonight.Aged 22 years and 49 days, Josh Maja is the second-youngest player to score on his first Premier League start for Fulham, after Collins John v Blackburn in April 2004 (18y 178d).What’s next?Everton’s next game is their re-arranged match with Manchester City on Wednesday; Kick-off at 8.15pm.Fulham travel to Burnley earlier the same evening; Kick-off at 6pm.