Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored after just 42 seconds as Everton ended their losing run with a 3-2 win at Fulham, while injury-ravaged Liverpool prepared for their crucial clash with Leicester on Sunday.
Calvert-Lewin maintained his fine form to put Carlo Ancelotti’s side ahead inside a minute at Craven Cottage.
Bobby Decordova-Reid equalised for Fulham, but England striker Calvert-Lewin netted again and Abdoulaye Doucoure got Everton’s third before half-time.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek reduced the deficit in the second half, but Everton held on to win for the first time in five league games.
After a three-game losing streak dented their bid to finish in the top four, Everton are up to sixth place.
“The most important part of the game was to be back to winning,” Ancelotti said.
“We lost energy in the second half, the players were tired. I changed to put more fresh legs on the pitch but we had to defend. In the end it went well.”
Everton made the perfect start when Richarlison advanced into the Fulham area before whipping over a low cross that Calvert-Lewin bundled in for 12th goal of the season.
Fulham equalised in the 15th minute when Tom Cairney’s pass picked out Decordova-Reid and he eased clear of Yerry Mina to fire in.
Everton hit back as Calvert-Lewin netted again in the 29th minute from Lucas Digne’ cross.
Digne was the provider once more in the 35th minute when his cross was headed home by Doucoure.
Ben Godfrey gave away a 68th minute penalty with a trip on Loftus-Cheek.
Ademola Lookman had missed embarrassingly from the spot against West Ham in Fulham’s previous game, so Ivan Cavaleiro stepped up, but the winger slipped as he took his kick and the ball flew high over the bar.
Loftus-Cheek got one back in the 70th minute when he met Lookman’s pass with a shot that deflected in off Mina.
Fulham remain one place above the relegation zone after their third defeat in four games.
– Haller ends drought –
Bottom of the table Sheffield United’s wait for their first win this season goes on after they were beaten 1-0 by West Ham at Bramall Lane.
Chris Wilder’s side have lost eight of their nine league games, shattering the feelgood factor after last season’s impressive first campaign back in the top-flight.
Sebastien Haller broke the deadlock in the 56th minute with his first goal since September.
When Pablo Fornals’ blocked effort ricocheted to Haller just outside the area, the Ivory Coast striker unleashed a fierce shot that flashed into the roof of the net.
It was Haller’s first goal from outside the area in 190 games across the Eredivisie, Bundesliga and Premier League combined.
Declan Rice headed against the bar as West Ham looked for a second, but Oli McBurnie was inches away from equalising when he crashed a left-footed strike off the woodwork.
The game of the day is at Anfield, where Leicester would replace Tottenham on top of the table if they can beat champions Liverpool, who will climb to second with a victory.
Already rocked by the long-term injury to Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool’s defensive resources were further depleted during the international break with Joe Gomez ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is out for a further two weeks, while Jordan Henderson is an injury doubt after picking up a muscle strain on international duty.
Top scorer Mohamed Salah will also be missing after testing positive for coronavirus while in Egypt.
There is a huge opportunity for former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers to become the first man to lead a visiting side to a league win at Anfield since April 2017 with no such injury concerns for the third placed Foxes.
Jamie Vardy’s retirement from England duty means Leicester’s top scorer has had two weeks off, while Rodgers could have full-backs Ricardo Pereira and Timothy Castagne back from injury.
In Sunday’s other game, Leeds host Arsenal.