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v Chelsea

Saturday 30 August K.O. 17:30

1

3

Craven Cottage | 23rd October 2011 13:30 | Attendance - 25,646

Fulham 1 Everton 3

Prior to this contest the away side in this fixture had tasted victory just once in 20 meetings.

That win was secured by the Blues in 2009.

Two years on and a remarkable repeat was sealed here in the most dramatic fashion, courtesy of two very late goals from Louis Saha and Jack Rodwell.

Royston Drenthe had got the afternoon off to a dream start after two minutes with a screamer on his full Premier League debut.

But a second-half equaliser from substitute Bryan Ruiz looked to have salvaged a point for a Fulham side that rallied well after being caught cold by a bright opening from David Moyes' men.

And when Bobby Zamora rounded Tim Howard on 88 minutes every Evertonian in the ground began to resign themselves to a fourth consecutive league defeat. But the forward fired over inexplicably and the Blues punished their hosts in clinical fashion - with Saha and Rodwell firing cracking goals in the 90th and 92nd minutes.

David Moyes shuffled his pack a week after the reverse at Chelsea, handing Apostolos Vellios a first senior start alongside Drenthe and returning club skipper Phil Neville to the XI.

A formation which relied on Jack Rodwell and Neville providing the midfield muscle to support the more forward-thinking Drenthe, Leon Osman and Marouane Fellaini exposed the Cottagers - who appeared to be nursing a hangover from their Europa League exertions in the early stages.

Ultimately, though, a share of the spoils was a fair result from a contest that produced a host of chances for both sides.

It was a flying start from the Blues that set the tone for an afternoon of drama. Rodwell leapt onto a loose ball in midfield, provided a neat lay-off for Drenthe and the Dutch flyer produced an exquisite left-foot effort that flew into the bottom corner from 25 yards.

The electric opened was maintained and on six minutes a brave block denied Sylvain Distin following a set-piece.

But, as the home side began to wake up, the contest became more finely balanced. Fulham's first effort on goal materialised on 16 minutes when Steve Sidwell drifted a weak effort well wide.

Royston DrentheRoyston Drenthe celebrates his cracking opener

A more convincing volley from John Arne Riise minutes later underlined the shift in proceedings. And when Tim Howard produced a finger-tip save to push a Danny Murphy drive onto the post on 24 minutes the previously subdued home crowd came to life.

Everton had to be thankful to Howard again shortly after when an outstanding stop denied Clint Dempsey and then again on 29 minutes when he pushed a Brede Hangeland header over the bar.

Howard's international compatriot fired wide again on the stroke of half-time but Everton's lead remained intact at the break.

Indeed, whilst chances materialised for the Cottagers throughout the opening half, Moyes' men had continued to cause problems of their own, with Drenthe in particular unsettling Fulham with his darting runs down the flanks.

Rodwell could have had more fortune with a headed effort just wide of the upright, Drenthe tested Schwarzer with another well hit blast from distance and Vellios headed over from a Tony Hibbert cross.

The early stages of the second half lacked the attacking impetus of the first from either side. Rodwell sent an effort wide on the hour mark as Everton struggled to find the same rhythm going forward.

Vellios, who had worked tirelessly in his first Premier League start, was replaced by former Fulham favourite Saha early in the second period. He received a warm reception from the home faithful and showed some deft touches as the side's new attacking lynchpin.

It was a Fulham sub who tasted first blood in the second half though. Summer-signing Bryan Ruiz found space on the left edge of the box on 67 minutes and drifted an impressive chip over Howard and into the far corner of the net.

Jack Rodwell keeps an eye on Moussa Dembele.Jack Rodwell keeps an eye on Moussa Dembele

There is no doubt the home side had started the second half brighter than their guests. But having weathered the storm for 22 minutes, conceding a goal was a hammer blow to the Blues.

The manager's response was to introduce the mercurial Seamus Coleman and talismanic Tim Cahill to inject more urgency into the side's forays forward.

As the Blues chased a winner, Baines sent a free-kick over the bar, Saha poked an effort wide and Cahill had a shout for a penalty waved away by referee Probert.

But Fulham were also pushing - as a late Ruiz volley saved well by Howard illsutrated.

And when Zamora rounded Howard on 88 minutes and was faced with an open goal it seemed the Blues were destined to leave the capital pointless again. But, incredibly, the forward fired over the bar. A more glaring miss you will rarely see.

And they were brilliantly punished a minute later when Saha dashed through and slotted the ball beyond the advancing Schwarzer for his first goal of the season.

The Evertonians were still celebrating when Rodwell drilled a cracking shot into the bottom corner two minutes into injury-time.

What an incredible finish to an enthralling afternoon's football in sun-drenched west London.

A penny for Zamora's thoughts, though.

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