Fulham 2 Everton 1

Last updated : 10 January 2004 By Footymad Previewer

Louis Saha answered his critics with a dynamic performance and a penalty to help Fulham beat Everton 2-1 at Loftus Road.

Saha is said to be furious after being denied the chance of an £8million move to Manchester United by his current employers, but there was no sign of him sulking as he powered Fulham to an impressive victory over their Merseyside opponents.

He thumped home a penalty after 44 minutes, when Steed Malbranque was brought down by Gary Naysmith and Malbranque sealed a fine win with a well-struck goal in the first minute of the second half.

Kevin Kilbane replied with a spectacular effort from 30 yards late on for Everton, but there was no denying this was Saha's day.

Both managers had big decisions to make in their team selection for this game, and both came up with surprising results.

Fulham boss Chris Coleman chose to hand Saha a starting place, despite the growing controversy over the French striker's possible move to United.

Saha had barely spent a day out of the papers in the build-up to the match, with reports that he was no longer talking to Coleman after being told he would not be sold to Old Trafford.

As for Everton, David Moyes had a more pleasant conundrum with five fit strikers to choose from and the only surprise was that he left Wayne Rooney and Duncan Ferguson on the bench to make way for Francis Jeffers instead.

He joined Kevin Campbell and Tomasz Radzinski in an attacking line-up that almost reaped dividends in the sixth minute when the Canadian headed a glorious chance straight at the keeper from a Jeffers cross.

Jeffers missed two more chances in the first half, but Kilbane outdid him in the contest for miss of the match.

He was completely unmarked and alone in the area when a Radzinski cross arrived at his feet 12 yards out after 11 minutes, but he ballooned his shot embarrassingly into the stand.

In an open game Fulham also had chances, with Malbranque and Saha going close.

But Everton keeper Nigel Martyn did superbly to keep out their best effort, a powerful, angled drive from Sean Davis that he just managed to tip around the post after 36 minutes.

All that was undone, however, in the 44th minute when Saha was given a chance to make it a fairytale ending to a miserable week.

Malbranque was blatantly brought down by Gary Naysmith in the area, and Saha thumped home the penalty for 1-0.

If Everton had hopes of making a quick comeback, they were soon ended within a minute of the second half when Malbranque teased the visiting defence before unleashing a low, angled drive from the edge of the box to make it 2-0.

Moyes responded by bringing on Rooney, James McFadden and Ferguson in a triple substitution, and Rooney soon had an effort cleared by Martin Djetou with keeper Edwin Van der Sar beaten.

By this stage it was end to end stuff, but Everton were denied again when Ferguson's towering header was somehow stopped on the line by Van der Sar's foot after 72 minutes.

At the other end, Luis Boa Morte went close in an exciting finale and then Kilbane thumped home a stunning, rising left-foot piledriver that made it 2-1 and really had Fulham sweating.

But the home side held on for a deserved victory, with Everton's pressure coming too late.