The goal just never came. Fulham were full of speed and invention but lacked the finishing touch to get past a busy but commanding Jordan Pickford. Everton, with Conor Coady organising, often handing out NFL-style congratulations to colleagues after clearances and blocks, doggedly held their line. They are such sterner opposition under Frank Lampard, their goals against record belonging in the top echelon. Scoring is more problematic; Dominic Calvert-Lewin was ever more in isolation as his 90 minutes dragged on.
Marco Silva spent 18 forgettable months at Everton, and despite reasonable grounds to consider himself a victim of a club in permanent flux, was forced to rebuild his reputation at Fulham. His Everton were rarely so enterprising. A similar reinvention process goes for Lampard at Everton. He has bought into being an Evertonian in a manner his Portuguese predecessor never managed. At full time the away contingent appeared happy enough with the latest demonstration of “dogs of war” values as Lampard hailed a “work, resilience and mindset we really didn’t have last year”.
“It’s difficult to believe,” said Silva, after his first game against his former employers. “We did almost everything well. Everton played a direct game, we knew that, and they created some moments but we are always on the front foot. Jordan Pickford and their defenders deserve credit, they block everything but we did everything to win.”
The England goalkeeper, who was man of the match, was far happier. “I graft really hard and I like putting on performances,” said Pickford. “The World Cup is around the corner so I’ll keep my head focused.”
Lampard said: “Keepers can make or break you. When he plays like that he wins you points.” Pickford had lifted Everton to mid-table respectability, though they are still just four points above the bottom three. Fulham’s unlikely push for European football next season had meanwhile stalled.
Calvert-Lewin probably needed a goal to boost an outside chance of joining Pickford in Qatar, particularly with Gareth Southgate watching Callum Wilson scoring twice for Newcastle. Everton’s No 9, starting two games in a row for the first time since May, probably relies on others to fall by the wayside. After a bright start, he betrayed some rustiness, caught offside in a rare second-half Everton attack. At least his injury curse did not return. Chasing down Demarai Gray’s low cross, he smashed his shoulder into the post but pronounced himself fine to continue.
In the first half, Everton played their full part in some end-to-end thrills amid unseasonably warm autumnal temperatures. Things occasionally got heated. The opposing No 9, Aleksandar Mitrovic, was lucky to escape with no more than a booking for a stamp on Idrissa Gueye, a decision that had Lampard baying for a video review. “I think he knew,” said Everton’s manager. “I was really surprised we didn’t get given it.”
The Serb had earlier vaulted Coady and crumpled heavily. Here was some form of retribution, and a yellow did not stop Mitrovic continuing his running battle with the ever game Coady. Tim Ream heading wide before James Tarkowski headed straight at Bernd Leno from a corner was the last flicker of a fine first 45. The second began with a penalty claim, waved away by John Brooks, the referee. Willian was falling to the floor before Gueye rapped his ankle.
As Fulham hunted a winner, Mitrovic had multiple chances, none of them quite falling right. A blazing over of Andreas Pereira’s cross caused an anguished howl towards the football gods, as did a final-seconds chance, blasted over on the turn.
“Mitro will score next time,” reassured his manager but two points had been surrendered to Pickford, Coady et al.