I’ve not written a rose-tinted article like this for a very, very long time. Saturday’s 2-0 triumph over Everton was undoubtedly Fulham’s greatest performance to date this season and for a few hours or so, or at least until I started to tap this paragraph into my keyboard, I’d forgotten that we’d been relegated in our previous meeting at Vicarage Road. It’s hilarious what one spirited outing – cradled in a web of disarray – on the banks of the Thames can do to your conscious perception of reality.
So, for this supplement, I’m going to stray away from hardships and negativity, because there wasn’t any adversities to flag up anyway. Craven Cottage was a cathedral of raw fanaticism, with every home attendee in fine voice, and it’s actually extremely liberating to bask in the glory of three points, three actual points, even if they mean absolutely bugger all. It was total football from Scott Parker’s camp, and a tangible feel good factor, albeit momentarily, has returned to SW6 after vacating in May.
Mirroring our collective jubilation, the Whites thoroughly enjoyed the victory at the Blues’ expense. Having fell so tamely against Watford, our lads exhibited a hardened resolve, and though we’re nothing more than lowly relegation stragglers in the cold light of day, we grafted as though it was a do-or-die FA Cup tie. In the remaining fixtures of this atrocious season in the superficial Premier League, we have to approach each meeting in a similar vein. It’s pre-pre-season, essentially, so let’s scalp the elite before we return to relative mediocrity. You’ll miss us when we’re gone, Richard Scudamore and associates, we can promise you that.
Clean Sheet Celebration
Fulham have finally registered another clean sheet in the Premier League, our last coming at home against Huddersfield Town in December, and that’s just, well, glorious. Everton’s offensive weapons in Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Bernard, and Richarlison simply couldn’t breach Fulham’s resolute defensive ranks down by the river, and it was particularly refreshing to witness a collective shape and solidity that defied the Toffees’ muted firepower throughout the encounter, without waning or self-imploding. Ultimately, our rigidity manufactured a launch pad for our attacking compliment to fire from.
Richarlison tampers with fullbacks and regularly dazzles those that dare to dispossess him into oblivion, but Joe Bryan refused to succumb to his mesmerising tendencies. Bryan shackled the Brazilian as he understood that his wily adversary would almost certainly punish the Whites if he stole a march. Tigerish work from the former Bristol City favourite. Maxime Le Marchand and Tim Ream buttressed in unison, a ruthless connection that overwhelmed Calvert-Lewin, who periodically sprawled on the turf under the duo’s dominance on the boundary of Sergio Rico’s 18-yard box.
A flat back four has not always been a benefit this season, although our deep-lying representatives, authoritative and dedicated, pressed and chastened persistently as one merciless unit. Though it was anticipated, an onslaught from the away side never materialised, purely because the Whites refused to ground their swords. Furthermore, to our disgruntlement, Rico entrusts his featherweight jab far too frequently, but the Spaniard did plunge to stampeding feet to stunt the Merseysiders’ threat, and a shut out against one of the top-flight’s in-form set-ups will do the 25-year-old no harm whatsoever.
Ryan Running Rampant
It’s undisputed, Ryan Babel has arguably been our player of the season and he’s only been on our books for half of the campaign. Faced with the burden of overpowering Seamus Coleman, it was critical that the 32-year-old delved deep into his experience and integrity, if he was going to disrupt in the final third. Being a former Liverpool flyer, there’s no love lost between Babel and Everton, and with the ball at his luminous boots, the journeyed winger ran riot, right up until he was replaced by Jean Micheal Seri in the 83rd minute.
Win or more customarily for the Whites, lose, Babel always shows flashes of his natural class and calibre, although the Dutch international was an unrelenting menace in virtually every minute he spent scanning his respective flank. Interlinking with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Tom Cairney, Babel safeguarded possession efficiently and asked substantial questions of Marco Silva’s rearguard’s fortitude and composure.
Influential on the break, Babel orchestrated Fulham’s opener, just after the interval. Combining with Mitro’, Babel pierced into the penalty area and pulled a sumptuous ball back into TC’s direction, providing the skipper with an opportunity that he simply couldn’t squander. Hounding and hustling both in and our of possession, the versed flanker was threaded through by his trusted counterpart, Mitro’, and a clear cut chance to double the hosts lead beckoned. Babel has snatched at previous one-on-one instances in previous encounters, but he kept his cool as he wedged over an onrushing Jordan Pickford. A finish of supreme quality and courage.
Cheering Cairney’s Command
Nine years after his last Premier League goal – a strike that incidentally came against Everton during his formative years at Hull City – Tom Cairney broke his top-flight duck for the 2018-19 campaign with an expertly crafted stroke just within the Toffees’ penalty area. Highlighted earlier an inspired moment of enterprise from Babel enabled Cairney to set himself before swiping the ball instantaneously. Analysing TC’s technique is second nature, because it oozed textbook mastery – that is how you detonate a moving ball with devastating consequences.
A goal was a glistening cherry, however, because our captain’s overall application was totally immense. TC was playing operating within his element, confidence and verve beamed from the 28-year-old and Everton, though they desperately struggled, couldn’t subdue his thirst for creation. Cairney’s confidence was evidently soaring, and when he’s chiming to his own infectious rhythm, the Whites are an insufferable conundrum for opponents to suppress. Cairney, behind our offensive trio, was an undoubted joy to gaze upon from a Fulham fan’s perspective, but a wince-inducing nightmare for the travelling hoards to behold.
Cairney administered and manipulated the ball in a typically clockwork manner. Pirouetting out of harm’s way, maintaining an astute awareness whilst being hassled, our chief playmaker exuded a superior edge and integrity in esteemed company. Even minor sentiments such as patting the badge in front of the Hammersmith End once proceedings had ceased endears himself even more to the club’s faithful. It hasn’t been a barnstorming season for TC, but he’s a figure that we have to cater for in the Championship next term. His eye-catching exploits against Everton underlines that fundamental importance as an imperative requirement.
Marvelling Mitro’s Majesty
Mitrovic didn’t bulge Pickford’s net, but he was a ruthless, unruly bully. As you were, I guess, but Kurt Zouma and Phil Jagielka literally had no answer to Mitro’s demonstrative power and majesty. Bustling into Everton’s penalty area, Jagielka scrambled in the 24-year-old’s shadow as our resident antagonist stung Pickford’s palms with a low drive in the 12th minute. Ten minutes later, connecting to Babel’s corner, the Serb butted towards the centre of the target although Pickford was equal to his ferocious effort once more. Mitro’, routinely, had his markers in his back pocket from the off.
Minutes before the interval, Mitro’ weaved into a central position from the left of the penalty area and set his sights. Opening his frame, Mitro’ adjusted his posture and rifled a venomous thunderbolt off the crossbar. Heads were in hands as the goal frame rattled, but Mitro’s afternoon down by the river was only just beginning. As the second-half commenced, Everton grappled frantically with the strapping Serb and they were gradually growing restless in their feeble deficiencies.
Holding the ball up in the centre circle, Mitro’ read Babel’s piercing run and prodded the ball into his teammate’s stride – what amounted from that sequence has already been relived, but the former Newcastle United attacker’s resourcefulness was, as always, a beneficial factor behind our second goal of the afternoon. Those who felt the sharp end of Mitro’s brawn collapsed to the deck, but once Mitro’ found himself uprooted by excessive manhandling, certain individuals cowardly overstepped the mark. I’m talking to you, Andre Gomes. If stamping on an opponent’s ankle is your way of initiating redemption, you should really consider retiring. Besides, you’re a btec Denis Suarez anyway, and he can’t even get a single minute at Arsenal. Retrospective red card incoming, you massive helmet.
Anguissa? Again? Absolutely
Praises have been sung by many an admirer in recent weeks, but Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa was utterly sublime at Craven Cottage alongside Calum Chambers. Barring a few erratic touches in the opening stages, the 23-year-old patrolled his department diligently, stifling Everton’s momentum and fluidity at pivotal instances of the game. Poised to cut out and intercept accordingly, Anguissa counteracted the visitors in front of our back four, numerously, and was a springboard in our offensive sequences.
One thing about Anguissa that truly baffles me is his uncanny ability to evade his markers like a prime Papa Bouba Diop. His stature is vastly imposing, but his footwork is deftly intricate, which is strange for a man that’s basically the human equivalent of an industrial fridge freezer. Galloping out of his domain, ball under his deceptive spell, the Cameroonian regista perilled the unfortunate souls, namely Idrissa Gueye and that scourge Gomes, that lay in his path.
Anguissa’s connection and understanding within the Cottagers’ engine room is flourishing under Parker’s command. Calum Chambers has transformed into an effective box-to-box midfielder this season, and Anguissa’s certainly stolen a page from the Arsenal loanee’s beginner’s manual. The Toffees couldn’t snare the marauding enforcer and if he continues to monopolise his territory, if he remains with us in the Championship, he’ll flourish into one of the most practical, compelling performers in the second-flight. He’ll be pulling off Scotty-styled Cruyffs before you know it, and what a spectacle that would be on a chilly Tuesday night in Sheffield.