Fulham 2-3 Everton: Visitors take points from entertaining spectacle
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The goals were flying in left, right and centre on a sunny day by the Thames as visitors Everton defeated Fulham 3-2 at Craven Cottage.

Four goals came in the first half alone, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin giving the Toffees the lead inside a minute before Bobby Decordova-Reid's equaliser. Scott Parker's men soon fell behind again, however, as Calvert-Lewin bagged his second and Abdoulaye Doucoure headed home a third on 35 minutes.

In the second half, Ivan Cavaleiro scuffed a penalty before Ruben Loftus-Cheek pegged a goal back for the hosts, but the Toffees kept it tight and trudged over the line to end their winless run and gain three valuable points on their travels.

The result sees Fulham remain just above the relegation zone in 17th, subject to other results later on in the game-week, while Everton rise to fifth for now.

Story of the game

The hosts made two changes from the side that fell to defeat away at West Ham United just before the international break, with Mario Lemina replacing Zambo Anguissa in midfield and Cavaleiro coming in for Aleksandar Mitrovic, a move which saw Decordova-Reid deployed in the striker position and the Serbian dropped to the bench.

Meanwhile, Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti made four alterations following three consecutive defeats. In defence, Ben Godfrey replaced the injured Seamus Coleman and Yerry Mina also came in for Mason Holgate. Alexander Iwobi took the place of Gylfi Sigurdsson to start at right wing-back in a 3-4-3, but the big news for the Toffees was the return of Richarlison after a month on the sidelines.

It was a truly blistering start from the visitors. A poor pass from Decordova-Reid in Fulham's midfield gifted the ball to Richarlison who burst down the left flank, evading challenges before slotting across goal for Calvert-Lewin who simply couldn't miss from a matter of yards out.

Suffice to say the Brazilian forward had been a real miss for Everton in recent weeks, but his instant impact on return delighted both his teammates and Ancelotti.

Possessional sloppiness in the opening exchanges prevented Fulham from mustering an immediate response to falling behind, and it nearly saw their disadvantage doubled when Antonee Robinson again passed the ball straight to Richarlison on the edge of his own area, but this time Joachim Andersen was able to tackle and clear.

Just past the 12-minute mark, though, the Cottagers managed to trouble Jordan Pickford for the first time. A surging run from Robinson down the left saw the USA international cross for Decordova-Reid right on the penalty spot. Looking to atone for his earlier error, the 27-year old scuffed his shot but nonetheless forced Pickford into an uncomfortable low dive.

Decordova-Reid would amend that mistake just moments later, though, and in emphatic style. Captain Tom Cairney thread him in behind the visiting defence and the striker went on to squeeze a low effort past Pickford and into the far bottom corner. A great goal from Fulham's perspective, but Ancelotti will have been disappointed with the defending.

The early fun continued when Calvert-Lewin had the ball in the net a second time after latching onto Iwobi's through-ball, but the striker was adjudged to have been offside and the goal was thus ruled out. What would have been a legitimate third goal of the game was then denied by Alphonse Areola, who got two hands to Richarlison's driven effort.

It was non-stop action — two teams with good ability in their ranks, aggressive out of possession and intricate with it. It felt from the off as if we were in for an entertaining watch here.

Everton demonstrated their quality to regain their lead just before the half-hour mark. A good move saw James Rodriguez unleash Lucas Digne down the wing, and the Frenchman slammed the ball across goal for Calvert-Lewin who, again, couldn't miss the chance to claim his brace. VAR checked for offside, but the goal stood.

The match looked even early on, but the visitors were now strutting their stuff. This time Doucoure got in on the action, rising highest to head home a cross from his compatriot Digne and give his side a more comfortable lead.

A couple more minor defensive scares appeared to see both managers resort to more caution in their play, Parker hoping to avoid embarrassment and Ancelotti wary that a two-goal lead meant little in a contest this open. After Everton's third, the game largely petered towards the break, Areola being called into one more routine stop from Rodriguez.

Straight after the break, a good set-piece from Digne found Richarlison in the box, but the 23-year old's prodded effort was matched well by Fulham's goalkeeper whose busy afternoon's shift was far from over.

Unhappy with his side's response after half-time, Parker shuffled his pack on 58 minutes, with Mitrovic and Loftus-Cheek replacing the duo that had combined for Fulham's goal, Decordova-Reid and Cairney. The Cottagers were pushing, but Everton's defence looked watertight.

That is, until the hosts were awarded a route back into the game 65 minutes in when Loftus-Cheek was felled by Godfrey in the box. Mitrovic and Lookman had missed Fulham's last two spot kicks respectively so Cavaleiro stepped up to take, but the Portuguese winger slipped as he moved to strike the ball and skied his effort.

Fulham did manage to halve the deficit just a few moments later, though. Ademola Lookman surged down the right flank and pulled the ball back for Loftus-Cheek who finished with power. With about 20 minutes remaining, it looked to be well and truly game on.

Having the majority of the possession in the second half allowed them to keep knocking at the door, but the Cottagers struggled to break the lines of the Everton defence and create clear goalscoring opportunities, and the visitors held out for what on balance was a deserved victory.

Takeaways from the match

Defence Fulham's downfall — again

Because of the events of recent seasons — particularly their last Premier League stint in 2018/19 — it's become something of a cliché to establish Fulham's defence as their Achilles' heel, and that sometimes isn't fair. But while there had been improvements in this regard in the previous few matches, this felt like a step backwards, and the back line looks again set to be the subject of Parker's scrutiny.

Take nothing away from the ability of Everton's star-studded attack, but the Cottagers will certainly feel that the first and third goals they conceded were preventable. It serves little to wonder "what if" but, having scored twice in a home fixture, a tad more defensive resilience could have earned Fulham a point — or even three — from a game as open as this.

Ancelotti's Toffees let their quality shine through, but back line a worry for them, too

As a manager with pedigree and a host of honours to his name, it's not surprising that Ancelotti has assembled a squad of such ability at Everton, and that quality was well and truly on display today. Calvert-Lewin continued his fine start to the season with a brace, Digne and Iwobi shone at wing-back, while new signings Rodriguez, Doucoure, Allan and Godfrey were all impressive and contributed to a superb attacking display in the first half particularly.

But, like their hosts, defensive frailties made this far less routine than it could have been for the Toffees, and it's now six consecutive league matches in which they've conceded two or more goals. Ancelotti will want this recurring issue to be addressed for his side to kick on, and pronto.

Standout player

Lucas Digne (Everton)

In truth, it's hard to choose between Everton's wing-backs, who were the real difference-makers here. It's certainly tempting to give it to Iwobi for his efforts and performance in what is an unorthodox position for the Nigerian, but Digne edges it courtesy of his two assists.

The Frenchman's energy, dynamism and technical ability down the left flank was a constant threat to Fulham's defensive structure all game long, demonstrated perfectly by his two assists for Calvert-Lewin and Doucoure. When on-form he's a real asset to this Toffees team, and one of the reasons a three-at-the-back formation is an option for Ancelotti to consider going forward.

Teams

Fulham: Areola; Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo, Robinson; Lemina (Anguissa 67'), Reed; Cavaleiro, Cairney (Loftus-Cheek 58'), Lookman; Decordova-Reid (Mitrovic 58').

Subs not used: Rodak, Odoi, Ream, Bryan.

Everton: Pickford; Godfrey, Mina, Keane; Iwobi, Doucoure, Allan, Digne; Rodriguez (Davies 73'), Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison (Sigurdsson 76').

Subs not used: Olsen, Holgate, Gomes, Bernard, Tosun.

Up next

Following defeat here, Fulham travel to in-form Leicester City for the evening kick-off next Monday at the King Power Stadium.

Everton, meanwhile, will host newly promoted Leeds United at Goodison Park on the Saturday.

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