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Match Report - Fulham 2 Everton 1

last updated Saturday 10th January 2004, 8:52 PM
Louis Saha cast aside his differences with Fulham by tucking home a first-half penalty to help the Cottagers halt their slide down the Barclaycard Premiership table.
Fulham midfielder Steed Malbranque
Fulham midfielder Steed Malbranque delighted fans with his first goal since Man U in October
Steed Malbranque Stories

The 25-year-old marksman has made no secret of his desire to join Manchester United - Sir Alex Ferguson made a fresh £10million bid for the player this week - and is reportedly no longer on speaking terms with manager Chris Coleman who has blocked the transfer.

Saha's goals have swept Fulham into European reckoning and Coleman can not afford to lose his prized asset, but any suggestion that the former Metz forward might engineer a move to Old Trafford was emphatically dismissed this afternoon.

Along with countryman Steed Malbranque, he was a constant threat to Everton, looking sharp around the penalty area and chasing every ball as Fulham secured only their second league win in six outings.

He bagged the first from the spot two minutes before half-time after Malbranque had been hauled down by Gary Naysmith - referee Mark Crossley was well positioned and instantly signalled for a penalty - to send the Cottagers on their way.

Malbranque then showed his predatory instincts moments after the interval to double the lead and although Everton pulled one back through Kevin Kilbane with 10 minutes to go, Fulham had already done enough to secure all three points.

It could have been very different had the visitors taken their first-half chances with strike trio Francis Jeffers, Tomasz Radzinski and Kevin Campbell - Wayne Rooney started from the bench - all proving wasteful.

But Fulham could also have killed the match off before the interval had they shown a little more composure in front of goal as Saha, Malbranque and the combative Sean Davis all going close.

Indeed, the Cottagers carved Everton open with barely a minute on the clock when Davis concluded his run across midfield by passing to Malbranque who weaved his way into the area before testing Nigel Martyn with a powerful drive.

Match Stats Fulham Everton
Goals 2 1
Goal attempts 14 11
On Target 10 5
Corners 5 7
Off sides 1 1
Fouls 19 9
Yellows 0 0
Reds 0 0
source: sporting life/Sky
Campbell made a mess of a fine opportunity at the other end and Everton threatened again in the seventh minute when Jeffers found Radzinski at the far post but his header was kept out by the sharp reactions of Edwin van der Sar.

Martyn stopped a long-range effort from Davis - the keeper spilled the ball forward but Saha could not reach it in time - only for Everton to go straight back on the attack with Kilbane missing a sitter after some good work from Radzinski.

Jeffers also failed to make the most of a good chance after doing all the hard work in pulling away from Fulham's defence, but the Cottagers were also wasteful as Saha nodded wide from close range.

If any suspicion over Saha's commitment to the Fulham cause had not already been erased - the Frenchman was clearly giving 100% against the Toffees - then it was ended by his 33rd-minute chase for the ball which resulted in a hefty collision with Kilbane.

Saha won that challenge and was in the thick of the action moments later, flicking on a header which found Davis and the club's academy product was only denied by Martyn after unleashing a blistering shot from the edge of the area.

However, the deadlock was finally broken two minutes before the interval when Naysmith brought down Malbranque as the Frenchman was racing in on goal and referee Mark Crossley immediately signalled for a penalty, which Saha tucked home.

Fulham began the second half in the best possible way with Everton's defence allowing Malbranque the time to unleash a perfectly-placed shot inches out of the reach of a despairing dive from Martyn and into the corner of the net.

David Moyes threw on Rooney in the 56th minute and the England striker went desperately close - van der Sar was on hand to save the day - as Everton poured forward in a bid to slash the deficit.

Substitute Duncan Ferguson was also denied by the Dutchman. Luis Boa Morte was also kept out by fine keeping following his lightning run into the box, before Everton finally pulled one back.

Kilbane picked up the ball in midfield, ran a few paces forward and then pulled the trigger from 30-yards out, lashing home a spectacular strike which arrived too late to salvage the match for the visitors.

Fulham Van der Sar, Djetou, Melville, Knight, Green, Clark, Sean Davis, Malbranque, Legwinski, Saha, Boa Morte (Petta 83).

Subs Not Used: Crossley, Inamoto, Sava, Hayles.

Goals: Saha 45 pen, Malbranque 46.

Everton Martyn, Hibbert, Unsworth, Weir, Naysmith, Radzinski (McFadden 57), Linderoth, Carsley (Rooney 56), Kilbane, Campbell (Ferguson 57), Jeffers.

Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Pistone.

Goals: Kilbane 81.

Att: 17,103 Ref: G Poll (Hertfordshire).
Source PA Sport by Duncan Bech
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