|DATE||Sunday 13th May 2012|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
With the previous 37 games behind us, the season now more or less
comes down to one match. Fulham at home, with Martin Jol
returning as manager of the opposition and Spurs needing to win to
finish fourth and dependant on results elsewhere, they could go
Things couldn't be set up much worse and we can all go through the season and pick out our one match that has left us in this position. And a London derby to boot, with only the home advantage in our favour. So, will Spurs get what they deserve from this season ... which could be a fifth place finish, for not having the killer touch in matches we should have won easily ?
Or will the team who played teams off the park in the run into third place be the one who gets it's just rewards ?
Whatever the outcome, Fulham come into the game second in the current form table and they have found an attacking style that echoes Jol's Spurs team, but this Cottagers side had a potent strike force, although it might be hit by injury for this match. Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey have hit it off in the latter stages of the season and both have attracted interest from other Premier League clubs as their stock rises. Dembele has never impressed me (nor Shania Twain) much, but his link-up play has seen him rated by many and Spurs have been lined with a move for him since January, when they tried to get him in the transfer window. Dempsey has proved one of the American hits in the top flight, with his displays now producing a glut of goals (17 in all). Good on the floor and in the air, if he cannot make it, it will be a relief to the Spurs defence, as with Andy Johnson injured too, it leaves only Pavel Pogrebnyak, who has been a revelation since signing in January on loan. The big Russian is strong and can finish in all sorts of situations, leaving defenders behind him and grabbing six goals so far. He will prove a challenge for the Spurs central two and might trouble them in the air.
Behind him, Fulham have injury problems in midfield too, with Steve Sidwell out and Simon Davies expected to miss the game as well. With Dickson Etuhu also out for the game, Fulham will rely on three of the tried and tested four of recent weeks, consisting of Danny Murphy, Damien Duff, Mahamadou Diarra and possibly Alexander Kacaniklic if he recovers from a knock or Kerim Frei, who looks a lively customer. Former Spurs man Murphy is still an effective string puller in midfield, even though he lacks the pace of younger days. His passing is accurate and while he can't get around the pitch as he used to, his contribution is as good as you would expect. Good with dead ball situations and from the penalty spot, Danny will be looking for another year in the Premier before calling it a day.
Diarra is a big, strong presence and he has good experience having played at Real Madrid and AS Monaco, so will provide a ball-winner there for the visitors, while Damien Duff has kept his career going at Fulham after spells at Chelsea, Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers. A tricky winger in his day, he cans till put a good ball into the box and has had a knack throughout his career of popping up in scoring positions, so needs to be watched, but hopefully, he will spend the majority of the match running in the opposite direction after our winger. I don't now much about Kacaniklic or Frei other than they are youngsters signed for the future by Fulham and Frei has had good reviews when he has played, while Kacaniklic had a good spell on loan at Watford.
The defence also features some familiar faces, with Stephen Kelly having found favour under Jol in contrast to his time at Tottenham. The Irish right back was unlucky not to get more time in the Tottenham first team, but moved on to Birmingham City, Stoke City on loan and then to Fulham. A full back with an attacking sensibility, Steo can cause problems in providing the front two and is quick enough to get back to defend, which he will need to do with Bale up against him. The central defenders are likely to be Brede Hangeland, who has not been playing to his usual high standards this season, while his partner Aaron Hughes is a steady defender, but can be prone to being pulled out of position and thus allowing forwards to capitalise on the space afforded them. John Arne Riise is at left back and his pace in attack as well as getting back might be crucial to Fulham in his opposition to Aaron Lennon on that flank. If Spurs can use their passing to pull the Fulham players around, there may be opportunities to get Lennon and Bale in behind the full backs and then we have to make the most of the chances that come along.
In goal, Mark Schwarzer is still keeping his place between the sticks and young England hopeful David Stockdale is being kept on the bench. Schwarzer has seemingly gone on forever since first coming to note after arriving from Australia to play at Middlesbrough via Bradford City. A solid keeper, but one who has weaknesses in holding onto shots and sometimes, his positioning leaves him struggling on high balls, but there is not much chance of Tottenham making the most of those chances, with a lack of headed goals one of the problems that blight us from set-pieces.
Tottenham are left with no option than to go for the win, which might have helped our final position in the table we had gone into a few games earlier in the season with the same philosophy.
With the players available, they could easily pull off the result they need, putting the pressure on other clubs, but that could be said so often this season.
Spurs to win, but Fulham to show what they are capable of in a narrow defeat.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 2 Fulham 1|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Spurs have problems at left back with Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee/shoulder) out for the season and Danny Rose suspended after last Sunday's dismissal at Aston Villa. Options include playing William Gallas at left back, with Ryan Nelsen in the middle with Younes Kaboul or bringing in Adam Smith to play on the left. With Michael Dawson (ankle), Tom Huddlestone (ankle) and Niko Kranjcar (knee) all out for the game, Tottenham may also have to do without Scott Parker, who is fighting to play but might be losing his battle against a calf injury to feature in the match.
FULHAM TEAM NEWS :
Clint Dempsey might miss the game at Spurs with a groin injury, with long term absentees Bryan Ruiz (foot), Dickson Etuhu (knee), Steve Sidwell (hernia), Andy Johnson (thigh), Zdenek Grygera (knee), and Simon Davies all unavailable.
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
in these countries on these stations ...
Fulham 0 (0)
Sunday 13th May 2012 Kick off 15:00
White Hart Lane
Murphy (persistent fouling)
|Crowd : 36,256||Weather : Warm, sunny|
|Referee : Phil Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent)||Assistant Referees : D. Bond; A. Halliday|
|Fourth Official : Stuart Attwell||
Match Delegate : Nick
Professional Game Match Observer : B. Curson
|Fulham kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Fulham :||kit|
11 van der Vaart (18 Defoe 60 )
|Manager : Harry Redknapp||Manager : Martin Jol|
|Sponsor : Aurasma||Shirt sponsor : Kappa|
|Kit Supplier : Puma||Kit Supplier : FxPro|
A 2-0 victory over Fulham was not quite enough to push Spurs into third place and they now have to nervously await the outcome of the Champions League final to see if they will be playing in that competition next season.
Looking back, the match was a near perfect end to what had been a very good season, but one which ultimately ended in slightly disappointing fashion.
The last day of the season is rapidly becoming the worst episode of Sky Sports' "Gillette Soccer Saturday". The reluctance of the Premier League to allow updated scores to be shown during the game was frankly a nonsense in this day and age. With mobile phones and smart phones, those inside the ground were perfectly able to find out the scores elsewhere and while it is not quite the transistor radio pressed to the ear, we were updated by those near us or the cheers of those around the ground. But the support for the team suffered in the middle part of the game because of this and the false hope given by one loud cheer in the Paxton Upper lead to disappointment.
And in the game we were meant to be watching, there was a less than easy feeling as Fulham pressed forward in the second half and had some presentable chances.
Fulham got the game underway in bright sunshine and with the pitch having been watered before the start. Spurs lined up with Jake Livermore coming in for the suspended Danny Rose and his positioning in midfield was accommodated by Gareth Bale moving back to left back. It was a move that produced an immediate effect. An early ball was played up to Emmanuel Adebayor on the left and he played the ball to Rafael van der Vaart, just in field of the corner of the box and he slipped a pass past a couple of Fulham defenders for Ade to run on, open up his body and shape a low shot past Schwarzer's left hand to give Spurs the lead after just 180 seconds of play. It was a well taken goal and one that we had hoped for to give us something to build on.
Tottenham's electric start had pushed Fulham back and their usually assured passing was now being turned into possession conceding football. Walker had a good chance to pick out a Tottenham head with a cross, but it was over everyone, then Luka Modric tried a shot that hit a defender and went left into the path of Bale, who was foiled by Schwarzer at the expense of a corner. Keeping hold of the bal and making the visitors run around after our players in the hot conditions was a good move by Tottenham. There was little attacking intent in the middle of the half, when most cheers were for goals elsewhere, but one free-kick summed Spurs up too well. With three men over the ball, Rafa tried to curl a shot, but it went straight into the wall. One slightly more inventive free kick on the left outside the box saw Kyle Walker try to confound the wall by hitting a low shot underneath them as they jumped to block his expected shot's trajectory.
A good run by Lennon on the right just after the half hour saw the ball played into Adebayor, but with players around him, he unselfishly laid the ball off to van der Vaart, who curled a shot, but not quite enough and it went a foot or so outside the goal, as he had done the previous week at Aston Villa. But in the 28th minute, Fulham had their first shot on target and it was one that Friedel had to be alert to. Breaking forward from half-way, John Arne Riise got to the edge of the box in a central position and unleashed a powerful drive, which he is capable of doing, forcing Friedel to stand up to his shot and beat it away. There was another example of Spurs nervousness in the patched up defence when Dembele let fly with a low drive from 20 yards out and Brad flopped to his right to push the ball to the side, where William Gallas stopped a Fulham man from getting onto the loose ball.
As Fulham got back into the game, so Spurs upped their work rate to close down their players on the ball. It resulted in possession being turned over on a number of occasions and kept Tottenham moving towards the Fulham goal. BUt just before half time, Dembele clashed with Walker off the ball and the ENgland man was hopping mad and hopping madly about the pitch as he felt he could carry on. Fulham may have tried to exploit the weakness with Walker still in trouble, but there was no move to get the ball out to their left that often. Frei looked a good character, but with the side struggling as a whole, it is perhaps unsurprising much came of his wide play.
In added time at the end of the first half, Bale broke infield from the left and hit a shot as Fulham were slow to close him down, but it was straight at Schwarzer, who still had trouble beating it away from goal.
At half-time the results were announced to us, but we hoped that the presence of some of the UEFA Cup 1972 winning side was not a precursor to us being in the Europa League next season ... or conversely, it could be a good omen that we might go on to win it. Peters, Chivers, Pratt, Beal and Jennings were among a fine team in their day, but the team of today could make a name for themselves in the remaining 45 minutes.
Former Spur Danny Murphy had got away with a few late challenges in the first half, but within a few minutes of the restart, he had cynically tripped Lennon as he looked to go through on goal. At the other end, Walker could not live up to his name and unhappily limped off with his ankle looking the worse for wear. With two left backs missing, our first choice right back was now off and with Ryan Nelsen coming on, it was Gallas who stepped out of the middle to take over at right back. He did well there, even managing to get up the wing to cross a couple of decent balls in.
Ten minutes after the break, Aaron Lennon got a yard of space and lifted up a hanging cross for Adebayor, but the Mail striker could not get enough power from his neck into the header and it was easily caught by Schwarzer. Just before the hour a goalkeeper was beaten and it was our goalie, who dived but did not get to the ball as it skidded past his left hand on away off the goalpost. This prompted harry to take off van der Vaart and bring on some fresh legs in the shape of Jermain Defoe. It was a move that worked for the Spurs boss, with a move up the right seeing Lennon cut inside to shoot, but the ball bounced off Hangeland's back-side straight into the heart of the penalty area. Almost before it had hit the floor, Defoe reacted by stretching out his left foot to strike a shot that went beyond Schwarzer's right hand this time. 63 minutes on the clock and 2-0 up ... but news that Arsenal had taken the lead was coming in and that would leave us fourth.
With fifteen minutes left, Kaboul went down and looked like he might have to be carried off, but he got up to limp off (with some help) and Adam Smith (a right back) came on to fill in that position and Gallas moved back inside to centre half. This lead to a little lack of understanding between the midfield and newly acquainted back four and Fulham had their best spell of the game.
Spurs had some defending to do, as they hoped for a late West Brom equaliser, while Newcastle were losing to Everton ... so at least fourth looked secure. Ryan Nelsen blocked a powerful drive from Pajtim Kasami (There's only one Pajtim Kasami), then with Damien Duff coming in off the right wing, he got narrow and hit a shot that Brad had to beat away at his near post, as the ball threatened to try and creep in past him.
Then, with just two minutes of normal time left and when a goal against could have meant a more nervy ending than we were in for, Friedel produced a fine tip onto the bar and over from a fiercely hit Demebele drive from outside the area. With a late Bale cross going untouched as it flew across goal and a Modric shot that was blocked by the Fulham defence, the game came to an end.
Not as an exciting finish as elsewhere in the PL on the day, but a job done and now there is that six days period of awaiting our fate. Will there be a Champions League place for us at the end of it ?
Well, if not, I am sure each Spurs fan has their own individual memory of where we could have got the point that would have seen us automatically through in third place. Fourth might be enough, but for us the season goes into an extreme amount of added time !!
|Match ball sponsors||-|
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|What you thought|
|Other scores during this week :|
|Manchester City||3||Queens Park Rangers||2||Sunday|
|Norwich City||2||Aston Villa||0||Sunday|
|Stoke City||2||Bolton Wanderers||2||Sunday|
|West Bromwich Albion||2||Arsenal||3||Sunday|
|Wigan Athletic||3||Wolverhampton Wanderers||2||Sunday|
|10||West Bromwich Albion||38||13||8||17||45||52||47||-7|
|17||Queens Park Rangers||38||10||7||21||43||66||37||-23|
Position before match :
Position after match :
Position after the weekend :
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