|DATE||Sunday 6th November 2011|
With both teams in Europa League action three days before this match, you might expect a tired encounter, played out in a less than torrid atmosphere. But with Spurs having the long journey on Thursday to Russia and now the short trip across London, Fulham had home advantage on both occasions and should be the fresher. However, Tottenham's first team were not the ones who travelled, as only Defoe, Pavlyuchenko and Gallas are possible participants, leaving the majority of the eleven who take to the pitch a match free week.
Fulham, in contrast, fielded almost a full strength XI and beat Wisla Krakow 4-1 at the Cottage, continuing their good scoring form in the Europa League, although in the Premier League they are not so goal-happy. Thirteen in ten matches shows that their position close to the relegation zone is partly due to their lack of hitting the net. Defensively, they have only conceded fourteen and it looks as though Martin Jol might have learned his lesson from the free-scoring days as Spurs manager, when goals flew in at both ends.
It might have been that cavalier attitude that made him popular with the fans, but not with the board and thus he was ousted just about four years ago. Spells at Hamburg and Ajax restored his reputation and he took the Fulham job to return to the Premier League and the house he still has in Chigwell.
His resources are a bit more limited at Fulham and he has to make do with what he ahs got, although he did splash Al Fayed's cash on Bryan Ruiz, a winger from Costa Rica via Twente Enschede. He has done well and seems to have that little extra that Fulham might need to transform them into a mid-table side to one higher up the league. Alongside the invigorated Andy Johnson, who always seems to score against us and with Clint Dempsey playing a slightly withdrawn role, they have the players who can score, but have not hit the net regularly enough so far this season. Moussa Dembele has been effective this season, but he sometimes is edged into areas he doesn't want to be and his goal threat is lost.
Midfield has been a problem area, with injuries hitting, but the presence of former Spur Danny Murphy keeps things ticking over with his astute passing and with Dickson Etuhu there to add some muscle alongside him, the absence of Simon Davies' wide play and the fading impact of Damien Duff has opened the way for Ruiz. The industry of the fit again Steve Sidwell is a welcome addition to the midfield area for Fulham.
Defensively, Mark Schwarzer has been a good Premiership keeper for a number of years and although he can make the odd fluff, he manages to get some part of himself in the way of the ball. In front of him, Brede Hangeland might not be having the best of times, but is still a formidable obstacle to get around. Chris Baird is a functional defender, whether at full back or in the middle of defence, with Stephen Kelly getting a look in again now Jol is in the manager's office. The return of John Arne Riise to the English Premier League added some experience to the Fulham team, but his legs are not as quick as they used to be and he might suffer up against the Spurs wide men.
And Tottenham have to get Bale and Lennon into the action quickly, to stretch the Fulham defence and create space in the hole for van der Vaart to continue his good form. I am sure he will be tightly marked, as will Bale, but this should leave gaps for others to move into and the likes of Adebayor and Modric will need to be prepared to take pot shots at goal to put doubt into the home defence's mind.
Spurs should be in reasonably good shape, but they cannot afford to be lax on the ball or to try and play too fancy a game until they have a suitable lead. I think that there is now enough mental strength in the team to make sure that Fulham do not cause them unnecessary grief.
|PREDICTION||Fulham 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , history, etc.|
FULHAM TEAM NEWS :
Former Spurs midfielder Danny Murphy is doubtful with a knee knock, but I expect his desire to play against his old team will mean he turns out for the Cottagers, while definitely out are Aaron Hughes (thigh), Simon Davies (knee), Orlando Sa (hamstring) and Phillipe Senderos (thigh).
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Spurs have a number of players coming back from injury who might be up for consideration. Luka Modric is the most worrying possible omission with a groin pull, but others returning could be Vedran Corluka (foot), Giovani dos Santos (calf), William Galls (calf), Roman Pavlyuchenko (back) and Danny Rose (ankle). Still out with long term injuries are Michael Dawson (Achilles), Niko Kranjcar (thigh) and Tom Huddlestone (ankle).
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Fulham 1 (0)
Sunday 06th November 2011
Venue : Craven Cottage
Tottenham Hotspur 3 (2)
Kick off 16:00
|Kaboul (o.g.) 57||
Baird (o.g.) 10
Kaboul (dissent) 69
|Crowd : 25,698||Weather : Mild|
|Referee : Peter Walton (Northamptonshire)||Assistant Referees : D. Bryan, S. Long|
|Fourth Official : Michael Oliver||-|
|Spurs kicked off and played towards the Hammersmith end in the first half.|
|Fulham :||kit||Tottenham Hotspur :||kit|
3 J. Riise
11 van der Vaart (18 Defoe 66)
|Manager : Matin Jol||Manager : Harry Redknapp|
|Sponsor : FXPro||Shirt sponsor : Aurasma|
|Kit Supplier : Kappa||Kit Supplier : Puma|
This could easily have been an action replay of last week's home win over Queens Park Rangers, with a first half lead almost disappearing under pressure from a spirited second half Fulham comeback, but one which was ultimately quashed with a late, late Jermain Defoe goal sealing a 3-1 victory.
Spurs capitalised on Fulham's weak link - Chris Baird - in this capital encounter, with a 2-0 half-time lead proving just enough to keep the Cottagers second half resurgence at bay until the last kick of the match. And it was a gritty, throw yourself in the way and all hands to the pump performance that earned the win. Even Emmanuel Adebayor, not one who is noted for his penchant for being back in his own box was back there putting his body in the way.
But things could have been oh so different ... in many ways. The immaculately observed minute's silence for Remembrance Day was the prelude to 90 minutes of a thunderingly good London derby. And Fulham nearly opened the scoring in the second minute, as a blocked shot by Parker from Riise produced a corner that Danny Murphy whipped in to the near post and for once Parker was not where he should have been and Steve Sidwell crept in to head at goal. Luckily for Spurs, Brad Friedel was ready to make the first of eleven saves through the game that definitely helped Spurs on their win to the win. His reactions saw him plunge to his right to beat the header away as the ball was perilously close to the line.
Tottenham's first real attack earned them a goal, with a devastating show of pace opening Fulham up on their left side. John Arne Riise tired to dive in to tackle Kyle Walker, after Adebayor's ball out to the right wing saw the Spurs man get a ball he had no right to. His pace was taking him towards the dead ball line, but he had the presence of mind to pull the ball back to Lennon near the corner of the box on his side. Aaron put in a first time cross, low across the six yard box and Schwarzer got a touch to the skidding ball, taking it just behind Adebayor, who had made his way to the far post. The striker was alert enough to realise he should get out of the way, as Gareth Bale was beyond him and rifled the ball left footed, back across goal. Whether the ball would have crept in at the far post or not is a tough one to call, but it was not necessary to pre-judge that, as Fulham defender Chris Baird got a knee to the ball and rocketed it into the back of the net [Ed. Note. - the goal was later credited to Baird as an own goal by the Dubious Goals Panel].
The tenth minute goal put Tottenham in a good position, with their passing game not entirely as smooth as they might have liked and with Harry Redknapp watching a TV somewhere as he recovered from his heart operation, it was left to Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan to take the team through the remaining eighty minutes without too much stress. But it didn't happen like that.
Friedel had to tip over a Riise cross that might have ended up as a shot and then Dempsey was through on goal, but could not find a decent finish, allowing the Tottenham keeper to push the ball wide. In between one of a few flying arm incidents laid out Scott Parker with a cut on the bridge of his nose. it was something of a shock when Walton failed to stop the game for a head injury, although he was quick enough to bring play to a halt when Parker had blood on his face and right on half time when Grygera went on for a tackle with Bale, missed, but got his studs caught in the turf, letting out a howl of pain as he over-pronated his knee. The latter was a bad injury and should have had play stopped, but the inconsistency proved just one example of the referee's poor display.
Both sides traded equally poor free-kicks, before Spurs broke away to seal a 2-0 half time lead. With the ball picked off by Assou-Ekotto on the left wing, he played two balls into Lennon before hitting Bale with a pass. The Welsh wizard flicked the ball through his legs to Lennon on the left and set him on a run at the box. He entered the area, faced by Baird, shaped to go inside, leaving the defender on his backside as he fell for the dummy and then, as Grygera and Murphy closed in, Aaron let fly with his left foot across Schwarzer and into the opposite corner. It was the kind of run we all want to see from the little winger and a finish like those we know he can produce. Despite being not quite at the races, Spurs suddenly found themselves ahead of the field.
The half-time break obviously came at the wrong time for Spurs, who came out unchanged in personnel, but there was a very different attitude from both sides. Fulham went for it, as they needed a goal to get back in the game quickly, and despite the first two shots of the half falling Tottenham's way, they almost broke through in the 51st minute. A corner saw Brede Hangeland rise unchallenged to head powerfully at goal, but luckily, he headed it straight at Friedel and the American goalie tipped the ball over the bar. As the Cottagers played faster and more physically, the lead was eaten into with twelve minutes of the half gone. .Younes Kaboul had a bit of a rush of blood and brought the ball out of defence and tried to play a clever pass that got picked off and Fulham got a corner as Parker blocked a shot. From it and with Hangeland threatening again, Ledley King rose to get his head to the ball in the centre of the goal, but his header his the back of Kaboul and went past Friedel on the line to make it 2-1. It was unlucky, but perhaps had been coming.
Fulham were on the charge now and Zamora was coming into the game more, but not with his own efforts, but setting up others, with Demeble hitting an effort straight at Friedel, who beat it out and then later, he wasted two good openings with wild shots. Kaboul completed his disappointing afternoon with a booking for throwing the ball down when he conceded a handball. Again, it was unfortunate, as he was very close to the Fulham player who kicked it at him, but his response showed the strain the defence were coming under. From the free-kick, the ball was knocked to the right and Baird hit a pile-driver, but Friedel saw it all the way and got both hands behind it to beat it out.
Spurs had brought on Defoe for van der Vaart and Fulham replaced Duff with Ruiz and the Costa Rican made a difference, with a beautifully played pass through the Spurs defence to Dempsey, who took the ball around the Spurs keeper as he came out and when he shot from a narrow angle on the right, Ledley got a block on it to take the ball out for a corner, with Walker back on the line just in case. Murphy's tiring legs were replaced by the more muscular Etuhu and Spurs matched that by taking Lennon off and bringing on Sandro.
With ten minutes left, Zamora tried to beat Friedel at his near post and saw the drive saved, then with some set-pieces being wasted by the home team, entering added time, the game produced a grandstand finish.
A minute into added time, Etuhu, Dempsey and Kelly were at the far post when a scramble occurred. Shots were blocked, saved and Walker was knocked over in the rush to grab an equaliser, falling on the ball as it ran free and wrapping both arms around the ball. He was lucky to not have a penalty given against him, but then so was whoever pushed him at the back post. The ball squirted out for a corner, when Parker once more blocked a shot over the bar. When the corner came in, it was Hangeland who had a half-hit shot that Friedel saved, but the ball popped out of his grasp, leaving him to push the ball up and as it was headed at the far post by Dempsey, Luka Modric got a foot to the ball on the line to keep it out.
Spurs survived the following corner and when Scott Parker broke forward, he was unlucky not to get at least a free-kick right on the edge of the box, as Sidwell barged him over form behind with a shove in the back.
Gareth Bale took the ball forward to waste time in the corner. but Hangeland pout the ball out for a throw as he tackled near the corner flag. Thinking quickly, Bale took the throw to Adebayor, tight to the dead ball line in the box, but he tricked his way past Baird and put the ball into the heart of the penalty area and Jermain Defoe, standing near the penalty area hit a volley that took a flick off Kelly, but took it closer to, but still past Schwarzer to make it 3-1 with only seconds left.
It was a sucker punch, but one that left Spurs going from a short head winner to taking the game by a length, but not comfortably. All the old clichés came out about winning when you are not playing well, but it was the finishing ... something that has been our Achilles heel in the past ... that won this game for Tottenham today.
Not the stroll that Harry might have needed to keep his ticker in time, but the heart-stopping nature of our defending was, in a way, as heart-warming as the finishing. It is not something that you traditionally associate with Spurs, but it is becoming one of the tings we are getting better at.
Still fifth and on a good run, it is a shame that the international break has come at this time, with the players looking happy as a group and playing for each other. They will need to pick up that style again when they come together again to meet Aston Villa at the Lane on a Monday night late in November.
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|What you thought|
|Other scores during this week :|
|Arsenal||3||West Bromwich Albion||0||Saturday|
|Aston Villa||3||Norwich City||1||Saturday|
|Queens Park Rangers||2||Manchester City||3||Saturday|
|Bolton Wanderers||5||Stoke City||0||Sunday|
|Wolverhampton Wanderers||3||Wigan Athletic||1||Sunday|
|11||Queens Park Rangers||11||3||3||5||10||20||12||-10|
|14||West Bromwich Albion||11||3||2||6||9||16||11||-7|
Position before match :
Position after match : 5th
Position after the weekend : 5th
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