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Craven Cottage | 13th September 2009 16:15

Fulham v Everton

Everton suffered a double blow at Craven Cottage as Fulham came from behind to win a game which also saw Blues captain Phil Neville taken off on a stretcher.

The 32-year-old midfielder made his exit midway through the second half after being left clutching his knee following a crunching challenge with Dickson Etuhu.

New signing John Heitinga made a debut in his place but it would end in disappointment as Damien Duff's stunning late effort consigned Everton to another week in the Premier League's bottom three.

David Moyes' men had earlier taken the lead when Tim Cahill headed his first goal of the campaign but the hosts hit back through Paul Konchesky's deflected pile driver.

The Everton manager was without Louis Saha, who was ruled out earlier in the day after complaining of tight hamstrings, and named transfer window acquisitions Heitinga and Diniyar Bilyaletdinov only on the bench.

There they were joined by Yakubu, who made his first appearance on a Premier League teamsheet since rupturing an Achilles in November last year.

Saha's absence meant just one change from the 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic a fortnight ago, Jo drafted in to replace the Frenchman.

Following a cautious start, the game was brought to life 11 minutes in, the tireless Osman doing brilliantly to cross but the ball narrowly eluding its lone target, Jo, at the back post. From then the first half became - almost - end-to-end.

Fulham's response was to spring to action themselves, Murphy finding Bobby Zamora six-yards out, only for Distin to react quickly to clear. Dempsey, a constant threat throughout, tried to beat international team-mate Tim Howard from 25-yards shortly after but his shot arrowed wide.

For Everton, a fine flowing move fashioned a chance for Rodwell. The teenager's deflected effort was parried, eventually falling to Cahill, and then Pienaar, but both saw shots blocked.

Distin, on only his second appearance, was having another impressive afternoon and, after the hosts had a penalty shout turned away, he denied Andrew Johnson a goal against his former employers.

A constant transgressor in the opening 45, a series of mistimed tackles eventually earned Fulham captain Danny Murphy a booking. One, a cut down on Jo, saw Leighton Baines bend a freekick into the wall. But his next transgression brought not only the yellow card but Cahill's opener. This time Baines found his target perfectly, allowing the Australian to hold off Etuhu to head beyond keeper David Stockdale.

Tim CahillTim Cahill's header puts the Blues ahead in the first half

Fulham unquestionably started the brighter after the restart but got a lucky break with their 57th-minute equaliser. Neville brought down John Pantsil on the edge of the box and though Murphy's freekick crashed into the wall, Konchesky's driven shot on the rebound cannoned off Distin and into the bottom corner.

Moyes lost his skipper soon after. It wouldn't have been the circumstance in which he would have wanted to hand Heitinga a debut but the versatile Dutchman was called for, slippiing straight into space vacated by his captain.

Phil NevilleCaptain Phil Neville leaves the field on a stretcher

Having done as much as anyone to change the last game against Wigan, Marouane Fellaini also emerged from the bench in place of Jo, prompting a switch into attack for Cahill.

The Belgian's first input was to slide a perfectly-weighted ball into the path of Pienaar but the South African stumbled as he shaped to shoot. His next, a shot from long range, hit the hand of Brede Hangeland in the box, though any reprimand would have been harsh in the extreme.

Then the sickening blow. Johnson fed Duff and the Irishman stepped inside Baines to fire his first from the edge of the box.

Within a minute a scramble at the opposite end saw Stockdale save a point-blank header from Fellaini and Yobo's follow up cleared off the line.  

Ten minutes remaining, it was time for Yakubu. And it was so nearly a return to remember. Having scored 31 seconds into his comeback for the reserve team last month, the Nigerian's first touch was a shot which Stockdale - again - did well to close down.

By Adam Clark

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