If Spurs are being hailed as the 'Entertainers' of the Premier League,
then Fulham must surely be the 'Cure for 'Insomnia' of the Premier
League, as their arrival at the lane appeared to come with no more
intention of going home with a point and although they came close to
achieving their aim, their performance was neat without being exciting
and functional without being too threatening, so a 0-1 defeat was about
all they deserved.
movements Fulham put together might have been pleasing to the eye, but
the lack of a finishing end product was perhaps reflective of their poor
league position. While they were making neat triangles, they were
not putting any realistic threat on Heurelho Gomes' goal for the
majority of the match. While Tottenham also failed to make
Schwarzer work too hard in the first period, they did manage to grab a
goal and should have added more in the second period, when they were
attacking their favoured Paxton Road end.
Neither side made much of the possession
they had in the early stages, with Fulham over-hitting balls and Spurs
being a bit careless in their passing in the Fulham half. When
there was a half-chance, it was almost created by Fulham in the 11th
minute, when Dickson Etuhu was put through into the box, but a
combination of Dawson and Assou-Ekotto did enough to hamper him from
having a shot and then dispossessing him. Murphy hit a shot a few
yards wide from distance, but without really troubling Gomes and then,
as Alan Hutton cleared a ball away, Andy Johnson left his studs showing
and the Scot kicked them, thus causing him to limp out of the game in
the 27th minute, with Vedran Corluka replacing him at right back.
With half an hour gone, Spurs made a good
break and had Modric running through the midfield to release Lennon on
the right, but the little winger came inside where it was a bit more
congested and his shot was half hit with his left foot, leaving
Schwarzer an easy pick up. Corluka was looking to link up with
Lennon at every opportunity and put him into the box a few minutes
later, but the winger's pull back was behind van der Vaart and picked
off before it got to Modric. The first proper save of the match
came in the 32nd minute, when the ball ran to Benoit Assou-Ekotto and he
struck a shot from 30 yards that Schwarzer dived to his left to save,
but had to grab it at the second attempt and the Aussie keeper had to
adjust his dive to stop a bouncing Pavlyuchenko 20 yard shot a couple of
Then three minutes before the break,
Spurs took the lead with an unusual goal. Rafael van der Vaart had
already hit the wall with one free-kick and when Spurs were awarded
another in a central position for a foul. VDV's shot appeared to
be going well wide, but as it reached the penalty spot, Gareth Bale met
it with a glancing header that left the Fulham goalie standing and the
ball hit the net to his right hand side. It was either a quick
piece of thinking by Bale or a perfectly well-worked training ground
routine, but whichever it was, it gave Spurs a 1-0 lead just before the
Tottenham almost added a second within a
couple of minutes, as van der Vaart drifted away from a Fulham player
and set Gareth Bale free in the left hand channel. As he got
inside the area, he unleashed a left foot shot that had Schwarzer going
the wrong way, but the keeper managed to keep the ball out with his
legs. Then, for the first time in the half, the Spurs goal came
under any sort of real threat and Damien Duff got some space on the
right to cross into the near post area, but the ball was intercepted
before Andy Johnson could get there by William Gallas' extended leg.
The half-time break saw the appearance of
Spurs favourite David Ginola, who always says the right things when he
comes back to White Hart Lane and got a warm round of applause from the
The temperature seemed to dip in the
second half, with the drizzly rain stopping as play got underway.
It was to be a half when Spurs were pushed back by a more aggressive
Fulham side, but some of which looked like it was due to Spurs tiring
after finishing two successive games with ten men.
Gomes produced an acrobatic flying catch
to cut out a dangerous Duff cross and then the Irish winger got on the
end of Simon Davies' deep left wing cross to take a touch to bring the
ball down and then fire with venom at goal. Although tight to the
line and beyond the far post, his shot was full of power, but luckily
for Tottenham, it lacked accuracy and flew too high. In between,
Spurs fashioned a move that saw Rafa go tight to the dead ball line on
the left wing and somehow nudge the ball around to get past two players,
who were close to him, then prod it across goal, but unfortunately,
Aaron Lennon's run had taken him in front of the ball and it was cleared
Danny Murphy was at the heart of much of
Fulham's passing, but it lacked any real penetration and the lack of
goals means it is not hard to see why Fulham currently dwell in
relegation zone. And the former Spurs midfielder does not have the
legs to carry him about the field as quickly as he once did.
Conversely, Simon Davies replicates some of the effort he put in as a
Tottenham player, but he is not brought into play as much as he should
and his use of the ball today fell below the standards he normally
The game fell into a lull after about 50
minutes and it was ten minutes before there was a shot at goal and even
that was well off target as Dempsey tried his luck from 30 yards and hit
the back of the lower tier of the Park Lane. Spurs had a chance
when Pav was set free by Luka Modric, following van der Vaart's sliding
challenge on Hangeland as the lumbering centre half tried to bring the
ball out of defence. unfortunately, it was not one of Pav's best
days and his heavy touch saw Schwarzer come off his line to claim the
In the 63rd minute, Spurs were grateful
to Heurelho Gomes and Michael Dawson for protecting the lead.
Davies' reverse pass to Andy Johnson who was running to his left, saw
the striker produce a left footed shot back across the keeper.
Gomes did well to react, but could only palm the ball down and it was
right in front of goal, where Dempsey was bearing down to touch home the
loose ball. However, Michael Dawson got there first and the ball
hit him, taking it towards his own line. The Spurs skipper was
quick enough to react and clear the ball to safety before Dempsey could
take him and the ball into the net.
It was a worry when Gallas went down and
needed treatment on his hamstring injury, being strapped up to carry on,
but he played a full par tin the performance at the back that showed
astute management by Harry in bringing him in, while Arsenal had to
spend big money on lesser quality replacements. Gallas'
determination to get in first and to win showed through and his Arsenal
past might now be put behind him by some Spurs fans, as they see the
benefits he brings to the Spurs team.
Bale showed he still has some practising
to do with his right foot, as his shot over the bar from ten yards out
ended a fine move on the right wing, with Palacios freeing Corluka into
the box and he pulled a low ball back for the Welshman to shoot too high
in the 74th minute. There was a similar finish four minutes later,
when Crouch, on for Pavlyuchenko, nodded down a corner and Michael
Dawson lashed a volley over the crossbar.
Fulham made a like for like substitution
with Gera coming on for Duff and Spurs replaced the tiring VDV with
Jermaine Jenas. JJ was soon in the action as he blocked a shot
that came in from the edge of the box by Davies, with this following
equally good blocks by Palacios and Dawson, as the Tottenham defenders
threw themselves in to maintain the lead.
The chance to wrap the game up came five
minutes from time and when Gomes' throw-out put Lennon away down the
right, his pace took him away form the Fulham defenders. However,
as he cut into the box, he choose to shoot, Jenas much better placed to
his left in lots of space. To add insult to injury, neither the
referee nor linesman saw that the ball had taken a BIG deflection over
the goal for a corner and awarded a goal-kick !
Assou-Ekotto got caught in possession on
the halfway-line and had to haul back Dempsey to stop him getting away,
earning a yellow card and Crouch's height came in useful from the
resulting free-kick, as he headed away with Hangeland threatening.
But it was then Tottenham's turn to attack, with Jenas putting Modric in
for a little run and ending with a shot that went off target from 20
Aaron went on another run with plenty of
space on the right, but this time he did pass it, to Crouchy on the edge
of the box and the forward got too close to the bal and didn't get
enough power in his shot leaving it straight at the goalie and a
straightforward task for him to stop it. A goal in the last minute
of the game would have made added time a little more comfortable, but
Spurs continued to go forward, as they have been doing for months now.
Bale used his massive lungs to reach a long pass from Benny and played
it off Pantsil for a corner, which was worked short by Modric to Jenas,
who cut into the box to curl a shot just beyond Schwarzer and the far
post. Only a last minute (that turned into a last two minutes, as
referee Jones played on and on until Fulham didn't score) scare, when
the ball pinged about the Tottenham box, but the massed ranks of white
shirts got it away and the final whistle finally sounded to bring the
curtain down on a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Three winnable games had been won.
Not all as easily as we would have liked, but what had come out of the
festive games was a determination and grit that has not been seen in the
Tottenham side for some considerable time.
So, some sort of relief to be back to
some resembling normality as Spurs ended the game with their full
complement and won with a clean sheet. Not that keeping clean
sheets has been the norm this season, but hopefully, it will become so.
With the news that Harry Redknapp has been told the club are in
discussions to bring David Beckham to Tottenham, it seems like 2011 is
beginning like some sort of fantasy ... and it could be one that sees
the former England captain having to settle for a place on the bench at
Who would ever have thunk it ??