Naismith

Fulham 1-3 Everton: Subs the story as Everton outclasses spirited Fulham (video)

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Despite a spirited battle by relegation-threatened Fulham, a pair of Roberto Martinez substitutes bagged goals as the Toffees showed too much quality for the Whites who despite their strong effort were less than solid in front of goal.

Steven Naismith, on for an injured Ross Barkley, put the shot on net that resulted in Everton’s first, and Kevin Mirallas hit the winner with under 15 minutes to go on a feed from Aidan McGeady – both substitutes.

Naismith then sealed the winner to ensure his name would appear on the scoresheet.

Ashkan Dejagah, also a replacement for the Whites, hit Fulham’s equalizer that gave them hope but ultimately it wasn’t enough.

The goalkeepers both starred as well, with Tim Howard putting on a highlight-reel performance, and Stockdale’s own goal the only blight on his otherwise stellar tally for the day.

Fulham were by far the brighter side in the first half, but could not muster a goal.  Young Moussa Dembele, just 17 years old, was a breath of fresh air at the front of the hosts’s attack, finding teammates with ease in the final third.

The best pass from Dembele came in the 23rd minute, when the Frenchman laid off to a streaking Kieran Richardson, but his low, powerful shot was stopped expertly by a foot save from Howard.

However, the youngster also bungled a few chances of his own, firing well over with space at the top of the box, and also finding himself a free header at the end of a long ball from Lewis Holtby but he put the ball directly at Howard.

Dembele wasn’t alone in his shooting misfortunes, and despite the home side clearly the more incisive in the first half, they were dismal in front of net. Holtby came closest, with a header of his own also producing a wonderful save from Howard to palm over on 27 minutes.

Pacey winger Pajtim Kasami found himself in a great position to find a waiting Dembele but instead tried to take it himself and was dispossessed.  The first half also saw John Arne Riise launch one over, as did

Despite their failure to put the ball in the back of the net, Fulham dominated Everton on the ball in the first half with pinpoint tackling and good runs. The home side completed 17 of 23 tackles in the first 45 minutes, and completed 4 of 11 crosses.

However, with the Whites failing to score in the first half despite their positivity, the writing may have been on the wall.  Everton made them pay for their wastefulness just six minutes after the break, when a corner fell to the feet of Steven Naismith.  His shot wasn’t convincing, but with goalkeeper David Stockdale on the ground the ball took a deflection off William Kvist and then clamored off Stockdale’s foot into the back of the net.

But Fulham were not deterred. The game maintained a back-and-forth nature with both managers making quality changes. Naismith came on for an injured Ross Barkley at halftime and had his obvious immediate impact, and Felix Magath after the goal made a double attacking change akin to their dire table situation.

Magath’s substitutions paid off almost immediately, as Dejagah cut back inside from the left flank, leaving poor Sylvain Distin in pieces on the pitch before striking a worldly into the top corner just seven minutes after coming on.

But the hope instilled from Dejagah’s goal wouldn’t last long.  Everton pushed hard to restore their lead, and with a new organization about the side and their quality restored, it was too much for Fulham to hold out.

A break from substitute Aidan McGeady slotted through fellow sub Kevin Mirallas who put the ball into the back of the net 13 minutes from full time, and a controversial third from Naismith in the final minutes left Everton well ahead.

The win for the Toffees moves them within four of Arsenal in the final Champions League position, and the two clubs will meet in a massive showdown next weekend.  Meanwhile, Fulham again are left with nothing, and with Crystal Palace beating Chelsea earlier in the week, things look exceptionally bleak at the bottom.

LINEUPS:

Fulham – Stockdale; Riether, Heitinga, Hangeland, Riise; Holtby, Kvist (Woodrow 64′), Sidwell, Richardson (Dejagah 64′); Kasami, Dembèlè (Roberts 81′).

Goals – Dejagah 71′

Everton – Howard; Coleman, Stones, Distin, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Deulofeu (Mirallas 68′), Barkley (Naismith 45′), Osman (McGeady 77′); Lukaku.

Goals – Stockdale (og) 51′, Mirallas 79′, Naismith 87′

Premier League AT HALF: Arsenal fights back, Hull City on top

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (L) and Francis Coquelin of Arsenal (R) celebrate after Theo Walcott of Arsenal (not pictured) scored Arsenals first goal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at the Emirates Stadium on December 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City

Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.

Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth

The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.

But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.

Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace

Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a

Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland

Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.

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Koeman: “Nervous” Everton has a problem after another loss

WATFORD, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:  Ronald Koeman manager of Everton arrives prior to the Premier League match between Watford and Everton at Vicarage Road on December 10, 2016 in Watford, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
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One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.

Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.

The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game on NBC Sports ]

That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.

Here’s Koeman:

“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”

A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?

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VIDEO: Hendrick scores incredible volley from distance

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Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.

Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game online ] 

A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.

Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.

Click play on the video above to watch it.

Messi’s latest goal dares you to count the touches (video)

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the La Liga match between CA Osasuna and FC Barcelona at Sadar stadium on December 10, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.

So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.

[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]

On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.

That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.

Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.

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