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Phil Jagielka did not look like a player whose team had just moved back into the top four.
Instead, the frustration written on the England star’s face after this hectic match told the story of an opportunity, and chances, missed.
The Everton defender knew teams who qualify for the Champions League have to win games like this.
David Moyes’ side battered Fulham for most of the afternoon and launched 27 shots, with nine on target.
But despite two fine goals from Marouane Fellaini, the visitors failed to kill off the contest and fell victims to Steve Sidwell’s 90th-minute equaliser – and the home side’s resilience.
While Everton escaped with a point in the Merseyside derby when Luis Suarez’s goal was wrongly disallowed, they gave two back at Craven Cottage in their fourth consecutive draw.
“There are not too many people smiling in the dressing room,” Jagielka admitted. “As a professional you feel as though you should be winning those games.
“It might be the difference between us finishing a place higher in the league. We created a lot of chances again, as we have all season.
“The last minute we must have switched off. I am very frustrated. it doesn’t feel like we have played well. “That’s four games without a win, which is not good enough.
“We need to be more professional in finishing games off.
“I don’t mean that in a bad way to any of our strikers or our creative midfielders. We all play a part in defending and in attacking, but we created over 20 chances and only scored twice.
“That is not the standard we have set ourselves.
“The Fulham fans will go home happy to have nicked a point, whereas obviously last week we were fortunate for an offside goal not to be given in the last minute for us to gain a point.”
The hosts held the half-time lead after Bryan Ruiz’s seventh-minute free kick was saved by Tim Howard – only for the ball to bounce in off the keeper from the post.
Fellaini equalised from a Kevin Miralles’ cutback and the big Belgian gave Everton the lead when he controlled a long ball from the back.
A week after Stevie Gerrard’s retracted comments about Everton’s Stoke-like style, Jagielka could at least see the funny side.
“I’m sure for Felli’s goal people will have a laugh, but we put a lot of passes together and had a lot of possession,” said the centre-back.
“In the second half Felli was near enough unplayable.”
Mark Schwarzer denied Fellaini a hat-trick with a great save, while Nikita Jelavic missed two clear chances.
But Moyes insisted he will stick by his misfiring forward. “You keep giving him the opportunity to score goals,” said the Scot. “He’ll come back because he’s a good goalscorer.”
Fulham have scored 21 goals this season – only the top two have netted more – but have dropped 12 points from winning positions this season after taking the lead in seven games and winning only four.
Mahamadou Diarra said: “We didn’t do anything good after Bryan scored. We didn’t keep the ball well. It was good to get a point in the end.”
At 6ft 4in in his bare feet, not counting the hair, it would be easy to describe Marouane Fellaini as a target man and stop there.
Simplistic enough for Steven Gerrard possibly — how the Liverpool captain must be rueing the moment he opened his mouth and likened the neighbours to Stoke.
Fellaini’s jaw-dropping performance in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Fulham reinforced the view that the Everton attacking midfielder is, indeed, pretty good in the air.
Add to that a dynamo constitution, an eye for a goal, an ability to link and a masterful delivery of crosses and it is hardly surprising that team-mate Phil Jagielka described the Belgian as ‘unplayable’.
As well as the seven miles which Fellaini covered at Craven Cottage, the player scored twice to spare the embarrassment of the sadly out-of-sorts Nikica Jelavic.
The first came from a passing move while the second was, admittedly, from a long diagonal ball punted forward but dispatched with quality.
‘It’s not just a case of chucking him up there to collect long balls, he’s a really good footballer,’ said Jagielka.
‘Felli had an OK first half but in the second half he was as good as he has been. He was near enough unplayable. I’m sure for Felli’s goal people will have a laugh and a joke, but we put a lot of passes together and had a lot of possession. We created a lot of chances through neat interchanges.
‘We’ve got footballers that can play and we’ve got people who can hold the football and be physical as well.’
Manager David Moyes has made a statement of intent this season in terms of challenging the top four and, to do that, he needs to keep Fellaini fit and firing.
Then there is Jelavic. Last year, every touch seemed to finish with a goal but the Croat is missing easy chances, which helps explain why Everton have drawn four successive matches.
Moyes insists he will stick with the striker and, thanks to Fellaini, he can afford the luxury of being patient.
David Moyes is not prone to wild claims. He has seen it all before in his 10 years in charge of Everton: the ups, the downs and especially the many false dawns. So when he dares to suggest that his present team may just be his best since he moved to Goodison Park from Preston North End in 2002, it is worth listening to.
Even better than the 2004-05 side, who finished fourth and reached Champions League qualifying? Certainly in style if not quite yet in substance, to judge by the battering they gave Fulham on Saturday only to be denied a deserved victory by a last-minute equaliser.
"I think so," Moyes said, in reply to the best-ever query. "I think it's the best we've played. We're playing really well and we've got a huge amount of confidence. But the team that finished fourth was so consistent. We ground out results, the 1-0s, and we were really good at that, very resilient.
"But this, well, what was it today? Twenty-seven shots on goal. We've been playing that way all season and we've got so many attacking options in the team. We've had a good start compared to our usual starts but top four at the end? I hope so but I just don't know if we will be because of the level you need to get there."
Everton's 2004-05 vintage went on to disappoint. They failed to make the Champions League group stages, losing to Villarreal in qualifying, and also made a swift exit from the consolation prize of competing in the Uefa Cup, going out to Dinamo Bucharest. Another false dawn, perhaps.
But the boys of 2012-13 look fully equipped to emulate, if not better, their predecessors. They lie fourth in the Premier League and, had they not endured a frustrating series of four successive draws, they would be challenging at the top. Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool captain, may have labelled them "long-ball" merchants but there is much more to them than that.
"We've got players who can play and we've got players who can hold the ball and be physical as well," Phil Jagielka, the Everton central defender, said. "We had a lot of possession, we put a lot of passes together and created a lot of chances through neat interchanges. We all play a part in attacking and all play a part in defending. We're fourth, we're still up there, we just need to be more professional in finishing games off."
Fulham went ahead when Tim Howard half-saved Bryan Ruiz's free-kick only for the ball to strike a post and the goalkeeper's shoulder before landing in the net. Overcoming a freak own-goal took time but Everton poured forward relentlessly with the bullish Marouane Fellaini leading the charge. "He was near enough unplayable," Jagielka said.
Fellaini struck twice with fierce shots, also hit an upright and was thwarted by a fine save from Mark Schwarzer. Had his other efforts gone in – and those from several team-mates also – Everton would have secured the win long before Steve Sidwell, a substitute, popped up at the far post to stab in the late equaliser.
Even Martin Jol, the Fulham manager, was impressed. "Everton are very difficult to play against," he said. "They play possession, they overlap, they play one-twos, they play with real purpose. That's a style and that's what I like."
DAVID MOYES is backing Nikica Jelavic to rediscover his killer instinct and help stop Everton shooting themselves in the foot.
The Merseysiders wasted a host of chances in a second-half barrage which should have been enough to beat Fulham, with Jelavic particularly off target.
The Croatian is now goalless in his past three games, all of which Everton have come from behind to draw, and his side are clinging on to fourth spot by the skin of their teeth.
They roared back in this one, after Tim Howard’s own-goal gave Fulham the lead, with stunning strikes from Marouane Fellaini, before coughing up a last-minute equaliser from substitute Steve Sidwell.
But if Jelavic and his team-mates had taken their chances when they were swarming all over the home side in a totally dominant 30-minute spell, it would have been a very different story. After all, it is not every day you have 26 shots away from home, with 15 of them on target.
But Moyes insists it is only a matter of time before the striker, who scored 11 goals in 16 matches last season after his £5 million move from Rangers, is back in business.
The Everton boss said: “Jelavic had chances, but he’ll come back because he’s a really good goalscorer. At the moment we are missing his real fire.
“But I’ve said to him that his goals will come. He’s a really important player to us.
“We saw the difference he made for us last year and the team has improved now and is giving him the opportunity to score.
“He’ll score his goals, there’s no doubt about that.
“We have played as well as this in one or two other games this season and Jelavic was the one getting us the goals that put those games out of sight a little bit. We had plenty of chances against Fulham – I was wondering how many more we were going to miss really.
“We have been hard-done-by in some games. This time we did it to ourselves because we didn’t finish as well as we can do.”
Fellaini scored two brilliant goals to give Everton the lead after Howard’s clanger from a Bryan Ruiz free-kick, but they went to sleep when Sidwell turned in a late Sascha Riether cross.
England defender Phil Jagielka later admitted the killer instinct Everton currently lack is what separates the great from the good at the top of the table.
Jagielka said: “We had enough chances to score another one and to kill the game off. But unfortunately again we’ve dropped two points in the dying minutes.
“We want to be pushing up the league. That’s four games without a win, which is not good enough for us.
“It might be the difference between us finishing a place higher in the league.”
Fulham boss Martin Jol admitted Sidwell is now pushing for a return to the starting line-up after being overlooked for Mahamadou Diarra in recent weeks.
Jol said: “Diarra came back from injury and I had to make a decision. But he is a confident player and is always capable of doing something.”
LEIGHTON BAINES rued Everton FC’s lack of a clinical edge in front of goal as they missed a string of chances to put Fulham to the sword – and paid with a heart-breaking late equaliser at Craven Cottage.
The Blues dominated Martin Jol’s men in a one-sided second-half when Marouane Fellaini scored a brace, but ultimately had to be content with a draw which felt like a defeat, according to the England defender.
Everton moved back into fourth place in the Premier League on goal difference after Tottenham lost, but Baines said the Blues must improve if they are to realise their potential and cement themselves in the European places for the long run.
He said: “We were gutted. We probably started slowly but really grew into it and then totally dominated the second-half. We should have scored more goals and it shouldn’t have been an option for them to get a late equaliser. We didn’t take our chances and got punished for it. When we’re at our best we mix it up; we go long and we play football as well and that’s when teams don’t know what to do with us.
“They’re not sure whether to come in and get tight or stand off. We’re not over-reliant on creative players or passing that can sometimes be a bit one-dimensional; we’ve got a bit of everything. We can beat teams up and play around them.
“There were so many chances. Even if we’d taken one at 3-1 it would have been game over, but we just weren’t clinical enough. So we’re really disappointed because to come away with a draw felt like a loss.”
Baines said the disappointment among Everton FC’s players proves how much they believe in their ability, but insisted they must quickly go up another gear.
“It’s maybe an indication of how well we played that we’re gutted, but overall an indication of how far we’ve come would’ve been that we won the game,” he said. “So if we want to get to the level we want to be at we need to win games against Wigan and Fulham when we create chances. If we want to get where we want to be, that’s what we must do. We feel we’re on the cusp of it because of the good stuff we’re playing but we need to be less naive defensively at times and use our wits to see games out, and be more clinical.”
Fellaini was the game’s outstanding player, and gave the Cottagers a torrid time, but Baines believes the Belgian is one of several game-changers the Blues have in their ranks.
He said: “We’ve got good attacking players like Steven Pienaar, Kevin Mirallas and we’ve got Seamus Coleman bombing down. Then we’ve got the option to play it up to Felli. We want to win every game and there hasn’t been one when we haven’t set out to win it, or looked like we could win it.
“Felli was awesome. When he plays like that, and he’s been like that a few times this season, you just can’t defend him. He’s such a handful and hopefully we can get him playing like that every week.
“You’ve got to take the positive that we’re back in fourth but we’ll dust ourselves down and after a couple of days see it in the positive light we should.”
FULHAM boss Martin Jol paid tribute to David Moyes’ Everton FC ‘Barcelona Blues’ on Saturday.
The Fulham manager admitted his side had got lucky to escape with a draw from a one-sided contest at Craven Cottage.
When asked whether his side’s good home form played a part in their dramatic comeback, Jol praised the spirit of his players, and also the style of the opposition, comparing the Toffees to Barcelona.
“The only thing that I can say that’s positive is that we never gave up. Everton were stronger than us, they are a very good team and they pressed us and their full-backs were almost playing like Barcelona’s do,” he said.
“We were playing a very good team who had a lot of possession but the game changed over 90 minutes.
“They dominated us and Alexander Kacaniklic was nearly playing at left-back, while Damien Duff over the other side was the same.
"We had a spare man in midfield, but they were almost playing a 4-2-4 and Fellaini was more of a striker than a midfield player today and it’s a very good and brave style
“I feel that when you play against the better teams, whether it’s 4-3-3 or 4-5-1, you could play around them, and we did that two or three times, but that’s not enough. The first ball was always to Fellaini and the second ball was for them and then they started playing as well.
“We are a good team and you could see that in the first-half where we took the lead through a great free-kick from Bryan Ruiz, but you could see that they were probably still physically stronger and that helps.
“We had problems closing them down at the back and in making lots of interceptions in midfield, so they had a lot of chances in on goal.”
But while Jol admitted Fulham had been taught a lesson, he offered only limited sympathy for Everton failing to claim the reward they deserved.
“It doesn’t mean anything in football if you don’t score the goals,” Jol said. “They dominated us, all we could do was try to be positive. They are a very good footballing team. They are a settled team and know exactly what to do.
“Normally we are a good team, but I couldn’t see that today. Although we took the lead I still felt they were stronger.”
DAVID MOYES admits Nikica Jelavic is currently ‘off-colour’ but has backed the Croatian striker to rediscover his goalscoring touch.
Marouane Fellaini struck twice to put Everton into the lead at Fulham on Saturday before Steve Sidwell grabbed a last minute equaliser for the home side.
The giant Belgium international is now the Blues’ top scorer with five league goals, having overtaken Jelavic, but Moyes believes the former Rangers man will soon get back amongst the goals.
Jelavic’s last goal came against Wigan at the beginning of last month and he missed a couple of decent chances at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
“We have just to keep giving him the opportunity to score the goals because he is a really good goalscorer,” said Moyes.
“We were playing as well as this towards the back end of last season and Jelavic was the one who was giving us the one or two goals and getting the games out of sight a little bit.
“Just at the moment we are missing his real fire. But players will do that and go through periods of different form during the season.
“I’ve just said to him that he needs to keep going and the goals will come.
“He is a really important player for us and you can see what he did for us last year.
“The team have now improved and we are giving him opportunities to score.
“He’ll get his goals and contribute between now and the end of the season I have no doubt.”
Despite the disappointment of being pegged back by a last minute equaliser at Fulham, Everton still moved back into the top four of the Premier League on goal difference.
Moyes admits it was scant consolation given he felt the Blues missed a glorious opportunity to claim all three points.
The Blues’ boss believes his side has a genuine chance of finishing in the Champions League places but knows they cannot afford many more afternoons like they had in west London.
“Yes, but you need to get the points on board right now,” said Moyes when asked if being fourth gave him any satisfaction.
“I felt we missed an opportunity. Ten games is a relative time to ask ‘how’s your start been?’ and I think we’ve had a good start, compared to Everton’s usual starts.
“But we feel we have had a couple of games where we were hard done by but today we were not hard done by. We’ve done it to ourselves because we didn’t finish well enough and gave away a stupid second goal which had never really looked like it was coming.
“I think this is the best we have been playing since I’ve been here but I couldn’t yet say if it is the best team because the team that finished fourth were a really consistent team. We were resilient and winning 1-0.
“But this team have an awful lot of attacking options.
“I hope we are pushing for the top four at the end of the season but I don’t know because of the level you need to be at.
“But I do know that when you get the opportunities to win games you need to take them. We had an opportunity today which we didn’t take.
“We will take a lot of confidence because of the way we played, but it was quiet in the dressing room because it feels like a defeat.”
Meanwhile, when asked why he changed his mind about selecting Victor Anichebe as one of his seven substitutes, despite the striker being named on the official team-sheet for the game with Fulham, Moyes said: “I just decided not to use him at the last minute.
“I won’t elaborate on it anymore.”
MATTY KENNEDY and Hallam Hope fired Everton U-21s to victory over West Brom yesterday.
Victor Anichebe was named in an experienced Blues line-up which also featured Thomas Hitzlsperger, Magaye Gueye and Jan Mucha.
But Anichebe’s afternoon lasted just 21 minutes as he went down under a heavy challenge and was withdrawn.
By then the impressive Kennedy had already put Everton in front, cutting in from the left, bamboozling his marker and firing an exquisite shot into the top corner.
Yassine El Ghanassy levelled after 56 minutes before Hope, on for Anichebe, side- footed home six minutes from time after more excellent work from Kennedy.
PHIL JAGIELKA paid tribute to the ‘special’ performance of Marouane Fellaini at Craven Cottage.
The big Belgian scored twice, hit the post and was denied a hat-trick by an outstanding save.
Jagielka said:“Felli scored with two fantastic finishes.
“First half I thought he was good but second half he was special.
“Right from the first minute, he brought it down on his chest and you know that he is going to be a handful.
“He proved that because his first goal was good but his second was even better.
“He manages to kill a ball quite well. If you have ever tried to control a 40-yard pass from me on your chest it’s not the easiest thing in the world!
“But he manages to pick up the flight really well and cushion it down.
“I think he stands out, along with Peter Crouch, as a player who can use his chest to his advantage.”
Jags added: “When Felli is in that sort of form it not only excites the fans but also the players around him know that if it’s played up there it will stick and we can play off him.”
But Fellaini’s display was the only bright spot for the Blues defender after a last gasp equaliser denied Everton victory.
“I thought we played okay first half, but in the second we played very well,” he added. “We showed signs of how well we have been playing for most of the season.
“We took control of the game and got the two goals. We could have got a third goal which would have killed the game off.
“There were not too many people smiling after the game.
“It feels like two points lost.”