Perhaps nobody displayed worse form than Pavel Pogrebnyak. His positioning was adequate, but his layoffs were scatter-shots, and his ability to maintain possession was mostly theoretical. He compounded his ineffective attacking by his incredible brain fart that lead to Everton’s first. For reasons best known only to The Russian, he chose to deflect a free kick with his elbow instead of his forehead. It was an easy penalty for Phil Dowd to call. Jelavić shot just to Schwarzer’s right, but it didn’t matter as Tha Big Aussie guessed to his left.
Everton’s second goal involved absolutely no defensive marking in the Fulham penalty area. The seriously on-form Marouane Fellaini found himself wide open and left Schwarzer with no chance to save. I'm not sure who was supposed to have marked the Belgian, but nobody did. Damian Duff had an opportunity to clear the ball, but completely whiffed with his usually reliable left foot.
So, we’re 2-0 down and we still hadn’t shown up. Hangeland was having possibly his worse match ever [he improved significantly after this], Riise was the least adventurous I’ve seen him this season, and Fulham’s midfield and defense found them inundated by attacking football from Fellaini, Osman, Hibbert, and Pineaar. The only Fulham players who constituted a threat to Everton were Clint Dempsey and Kerim Frei. The American nearly pulled back a goal with a shot that was heading over his countryman Tim Howard’s head, but the New Yorker was the better of the Texan and responded with a brilliant save. Earlier, Howard was quick to react to a left-foot [YES LEFT-FOOT] shot from Frei. But truth to be told, he had little to do on the day.
The offensive efforts of Dempsey and Frei weren’t effective enough and didn’t occur often enough to keep the Everton midfield, and the all-out attacking Tony Hibbert [yes, that phrase is hard to digest] honest. Even Dempsey’s engrossing 90 minute matchup with Phil Jagielka couldn’t disguise the truth. We were there to be taken, and taken we were.
Everton’s third and Jelavić’s second came after a brilliant piece of work by the Croatian at the edge of the penalty area. Schwarzer was quick to “make himself bigger” but Jelavić still was able to beat him much too easily at his near post. I don’t think I'm piling on Mark. I don’t think it would be possible for anyone to criticize him for that goal more than he’ll be criticizing himself.
Everton’s fourth came with some vintage combination play that resulted in Pineaar’s flick to substitute Tim Cahill. Schwarzer was on the move to block, but his countryman toe poked it just past him. By this time, Fulham was looking at Dowd for a TKO decision.
This was a significant beatdown. Unlike United at the Cottage and City at Eastlands, Fulham didn’t surrender meekly and take their beating quietly. Fulham were undressed and spanked by a truly superior team on the day. The midfield was especially outplayed in all aspects. I thought the introduction of Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu might give us a bit more control, but that was not the case. This was our biggest whuppin’ since our home match to Liverpool at the end of last season. The good thing is that we’re still in with a chance to finish mid-table – and nobody got hurt.
When we were 2-0 down, the Tannoy announced the beginning of “Operation Goodison Exercise.” On Fulham radio, Gentleman Jim said that he didn’t know what the announcement was all about, but perhaps it might lead to the match being abandoned, and that perhaps Fulham could then start over. Sigh. It was not to be.
There is no possibility of a HatterDon Man of the Match award when we lose 4-0, but in addition to Dempsey and Frei, I have a good words for Aaron Hughes – easily our most effective defender. He alone looked calm and resolute.
Finally, a good word for Phil Dowd. I thought he was brilliant today. Every card was merited. Every foul was unarguable, and he let play go on where it was merited. A fine job for the entire 90 minutes. He’s earned his FA Cup Final.
Now let’s do a bit better on the other side of Stanley Park on Tuesday, shall we?