Everton lost ground in the race for a UEFA Champions League place as Brian McBride's header gave struggling Fulham a crucial 1-0 win at Craven Cottage on Sunday. McBride's first goal since August had a significant impact at both ends of the Premier League table. It secured only a second win in 18 league matches for Roy Hodgson's side and moved them to within three points of safety.
Everton left bemoaning a lacklustre display that could cost them a top-four finish. After Liverpool's win over Reading on Saturday, David Moyes's team are now three points behind their fourth-placed Merseyside rivals following their first league defeat of 2008.
It was the hosts who made the brighter start as Jimmy Bullard
set the tempo with a long-range shot. Fulham threatened again when
Simon Davies' chipped pass allowed McBride to try his luck with
a left-foot volley that flashed past the far post.
Everton were finally beginning to find their feet when Andrew Johnson was forced off. The England striker was replaced by Tony Hibbert after suffering a groin injury.
Moyes's men still had Ayegbeni Yakubu to lead their attack.
The Nigerian had scored a hat-trick against Fulham in December, and
he went close to breaking the deadlock just before half-time.
Steven Pienaar and Phil Neville combined well down the right wing to give Yakubu a sight of goal inside the penalty area. His powerful shot was on target but Kasey Keller parried the ball to safety.
Neither side could sustain any momentum though as the game got increasingly scrappy. It took an hour for the first corner and Fulham wasted the opportunity.
But out of nothing a goal finally arrived in the 67th minute. Davies whipped in a cross that Joseph Yobo could only flick towards McBride. The American made him pay as he stooped to head past Tim Howard.
Yobo had a chance to redeem himself moments later, but the Nigerian defender headed wide from close range. Davies should have put the result beyond doubt with eight minutes to go, but he lost his composure with only Howard to beat and chipped wide.