LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27: Denis Stracqualursi of Everton rises with Aaron Hughes of Fulham to score his team's first goal during the FA Cup Fourth Round match between Everton and Fulham at Goodison Park on January 27, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
It's sad that this result was somewhat predictable. Just as we seem to turn a metaphorical corner under Martin Jol, we take a look over our shoulder and, for some unbeknownst reason, think the grass is greener on the other, less aspiring side.
The Newcastle result was emphatic, but this was anything but. Only the Premier League remains now, and the inaugural season of our Dutch manager, a year which promised so much, is looking to be as bland as any other.
Landon Donovan proved to be the winner of this entirely American affair. As much as it may hurt Clint Dempsey, someone who considers himself to live in the shadow of his fellow countryman, Donovan was the man of the evening and he set up both of Everton's goals while the home side were worthy winners in the grand scheme of things. They will progress into the fifth round and, for a short while at least, have something resembling a journey that meanders from the norm of Premier League football. It may have been a game in which we were not considered likely winners, but it hurts nonetheless.
Everton set the pace early on but it was the assured Danny Murphy that achived the game's first goal. The former Liverpool man combined well with another ex-Red, John Arne Riise, who was exploiting space admirably on the left hand side. He drilled a cross to an awaiting Damien Duff whose subsequent shot was blocked by the arm of John Heitinga. It was not intentional, but the Irishman's shot was arguably goal bound and while the rules are somewhat hazy right now - thanks in no small part to Micah Richards and Phil Dowd - the penalty seemed justified. Murphy, as always, fired the penalty calmly and Tim Howard saw the ball roll past his left hand side.
The Blues then rallied and pressed for a response. Six corners followed in quick succession and Fulham were clearly playing with their backs against the wall. Shane Duffy headed wide from one of them and could have done better. Stephen Kelly, remarkably, proved one of our more resilient assets during the onslaught as Magaye Gueye, Tim Cahill and Duffy again had chances.
Then the resistance broke, on-loan striker Denis Stracqualursi making the impact. Everton, in all honesty, have looked to have a lackluster front line so far this term and the Argentinian striker hasn't gone far to remedy that, though he took this headed chance with aplomb. Donovan crossed from the right wing and Stracqualursi jumped highest. David Stockdale couldn't reach it and Fulham were pegged back.
The Whites continued to be dominated, as Donovan called Stockdale into action from 25 yards and the Australian Cahill came close later on. As they had done earlier in the game, however, Fulham almost silenced the Goodison Park crowd against the run of play, but Bryan Ruiz was tame with his effort on goal and Howard saved with ease. This wasn't Ruiz's only lazy moment, unfortunately, as the Costa Rican looked unenthusiastic throughout the tie. There was little, if any, movement off of the ball, and the former Twente player looked notably lost on occasion. Maybe Merseyside just isn't his scene.
Jol seemingly set us out to counter attack, although long balls through to Andy Johnson were having no effect whatsoever. Everton continued to press, however, and suitably got their reward - Donovan again the provider. Marouane Fellaini took the plaudits this time, and rightfully so, as the Belgian's header nestled wonderfully in the top corner.
No response was forthcoming from Jol, until Bobby Zamora and Marcello Trotta eventually entered the fray. Both the strikers had too little time to make any noticeable impact, though, as Cahill was the only man to produce any genuine shots on goal in the last few minutes. Stockdale saved well from the midfielder, but he hadn't saved the day. That had already passed.
This may have been a match to highlight the Premier League's best American talent, but in doing so, it highlighted, yet further, our significant away day flaws.