What more could you ask for at Christmas ? A home win, with five
goals; the return of captain Ledley King and some tricks from substitute
Adel Taarabt to round things off !! The only thing missing was a
clean sheet, but this is Tottenham we are talking about !!
In truth, this is what should have happened
in the meeting between the two sides earlier in the season. 3-1 up
at Craven Cottage with just half an hour to go, we let the home side
back in and a last minute equaliser signalled a trait that was to follow
in the coming weeks. But having been pegged back at 2-1, Spurs
went straight down the other end to make it 3-1 and didn't look back,
ramming home the advantage to finish 5-1 winners.
Perhaps this is the difference Ramos has
brought to the club. Not being content to try and sit on leads,
but to continue to play in the same vein that has given the opposition
so many problems already. If that is the plan and this is the
result, then it should be an interesting ride !!
The first Christmas gift came before the
kick-off, seeing Ledley King in the warm-up. Having suffered a
set-back in his recovery from his surgery, albeit a different injury, it
looked like he would not be back for some time. So, the
announcement that he would be in the squad seemed surprising, but also
indicated that he would be playing. And that was the case and it
was the last of the gifts handed out to the Spurs fans.
Fulham played like a team set free.
Released from the long-ball tactics of Lawrie Sanchez, they looked at
ease as they passed the ball around accurately on the floor during the
first half. But for all their passing, they lacked a cutting edge
and Robinson hardly had a save to make in the first period. And
when they finally let a goal in, they crumbled ... a sure sign of a side
lacking confidence and one heading in the wrong direction.
Tottenham had not been particularly
impressive, as they rushed their passes and tried to be
over-adventurous, allowing the Cottagers to pick off the ball and keep
the ball better themselves. The Spurs defence dealt with most of
the balls forward that Fulham played and only a header over the bar from
Baird from the second of a succession of corners caused any concern.
other than that, the visitors' efforts were restricted to desperate
shots from long range that flew well over.
Steed Malbranque, who had an outstanding
match, caused lots of problems on the left wing and Baird was booked for
the second crude challenge on him in the 20th minute. Just before
that, it looked like Tottenham might have been in with a chance of
scoring, as Berba and Keano opened up space in the penalty area, but
nobody looked as if they wanted to shoot, so it went to Steed wide in
the left side of the box and his cross was blocked.
It was 23 minutes before the first effort
from either team made the keeper make a save. Malbranque's left
wing cross was met well by Berbatov's head, but, even though he headed
it down in textbook style, the ball was held well by Niemi as he dived
to his right. Tottenham were starting to open Fulham up a bit more
and Lee got into a couple of good positions on the left, but his
crossing with his weaker left foot lets him down and one ended up in the
crowd. The other chance, he took with his right foot, cutting
inside, but it missed the target by some considerable distance.
Not as far wide as a later Simon Davies' shot that skewed off his foot
and just about made it off for a goal-kick though !!
The first Spurs goal came out of nothing
really. Dempsey made a rash challenge and gave a way a free-kick
tight to the side-line near the halfway line. Huddlestone floated
the ball in and Chimbonda rose in the middle of the box to head it down
for Steed to crash a first time shot against the right-hand upright.
it looked like the luck was going to desert us again, but in an almost
action replay of Berbatov's goal in the FA Cup at Fulham last season,
the ball bounced out across goal to Robbie Keane, who calmly side-footed
it back into the goal to give Spurs the lead, which might have been a
bit harsh on the opponents at that time.
O'Hara tried his luck from way out and
hit the Paxton Upper, while Malbranque kept his shot low, but the Fulham
goalie was alert to the shot that tried to take him unawares at his near
post. There was a short period of pressure by Fulham, but it saw
Paul Robinson displaying his newly recovered confidence as he came for
crosses and looked the dominating presence we have known in the past.
When Spurs did get away, Dimitar robbed Murphy down the left wing and he
set up Keane to cross for Malbranque to head at goal, but straight at
As the half drifted to an end, Steed made
another willing run down the left wing. He slipped the ball
square, inside the area, for Berba, who took a touch and paid the ball
back to a point just outside the middle of the penalty box. Racing
in, Tom Huddlestone struck the ball first time with his left foot and
with a man in front of the keeper, he could not move as the ball ruffled
the net behind him to give Spurs a 2-0 lead in injury time.
It was more comfortable to have a
two-goal cushion at the break and stand-in Fulham boss decided to make
changes to try and get something from the game. He replaced the
anonymous Ki-Hyoen Seol with Hameur Bouazza, a more physical runner with
the ball and took off the hapless Chris Baird, who looked out of his
depth and put on former Gooner Moritz Volz in his place. These
proved to be two changes which shaped the game. Knowing that they
needed to gain points, the Cottagers also soon went two up front, with
Dempsey joining Kamara in attack. In my view, neither of these
strikers are of sufficient quality to make an impact on the Premier
League. Dempsey works hard and will score the odd goal, but he is
not a constant threat, while Kamara is perhaps the opposite. He
will score the odd spectacular goal (like he did against us in the final
minute of the game at the Cottage), but he looks disinterested and out
of the action most of the time.
There was nearly an action replay of
another of the goals from last season's FA Cup tie, as Berbatov nodded
on a long clearance from Robinson and Keane latched onto it and smacked
the ball first time at goal. Unfortunately, he didn't get the
elevation on it and the ball was gathered just above the ground by Niemi.
From that attack, the ball went forward and when Chimbonda got pulled
out of position to go for a header, there were two players behind him on
their left wing as the ball was flicked on. Bouazza, looking
off-side, took it on to the by-line and drilled in a low cross, which
Dempsey got on the end of and although Robbo blocked the first effort,
the second seemed to rebound past him into the net off the Yank's hand.
With an hour on the clock and back to
2-1, when we had been comfortable, meant the jitters might have set in.
But perhaps this is a different Tottenham side we see now. Keeping
clam and keeping on playing the way they had been doing, they got the
ball down, attacked and won a corner, which O'Hara took and landed on
Berba's head in the middle of the six yard box. His flick took the
ball to the far post, where there was a man on the post, but he just
stood there as Keano reacted quickest and nudged the ball over the line
with his knee to score his 100th Premier League goal. The two goal
gap restored, we were now in the same position as at the Cottage earlier
in the season and we all know how that finished.
A strange substitution by Ramos saw
Boateng come on for Berbatov and was a little reminiscent of Jol's
"preserving what we have" changes. Perhaps it was to save the
Bulgarian for the games we have coming up, but it left Keane up front
with Lennon playing just behind him. Fulham also made a brave
change with Healy coming on for Hughes. The little Irishman tried
hard, but was not in with a chance of scoring and his struggle to get
used to the Premier League in a side near the bottom must make him
hanker for his time with Leeds United, who he might be playing against
next season and who he might have wished he had stayed with, even
despite their 15 point penalty.
Fulham were starting to get frustrated
and Volz lunged in to bring down Lennon as he sped past him. Spurs
were pushing forward and when Tommy Hud spread the play right to Lennon,
he took the ball back from Aaron just outside the area. With one
touch, he went around the man in front of him and even though the ball
was not sitting kindly for him, he struck it early with his right foot
and Niemi could not get across to it as it went past his outstretched
hand to make it 4-1. It was a well controlled shot that brought a
wide smile to the young man's face and it was well-deserved, coming as
part of a complete performance from the midfielder. He looks much
fitter now and the stories about the whole team needing to improve their
stamina seems to be working.
There were 18 minutes left when Ramos
inflicted Adel Taarabt on the Fulham defence. Having been run
ragged, they were about to face the man who would run them even raggeder.
It also gave Spurs a chance to rest Ledley King, who had shown his
timing of tackles and his confident aura have not left him
With Taarabt and Lennon on the pitch,
Tottenham had the ability to switch play and run at the full-backs.
The Fulham midfield tried to protect them, but just ended up picking up
yellow cards. Smertin got one for a calculated foul on Lennon and
then dived high before Huddlestone had even got near him to buy a
caution for the Spurs man. When Taarabt raced infield from the
left, he got as far as the centre circle before Simon Davies bundled him
over and got a yellow card for his challenge, but Spurs had lost the
advantage with Lennon in possession and only one man between him and
Niemi. It was a seriously poor piece of judgment from the referee
Marriner, who, at times, looked all at sea and might need to sink down
to the Championship before he can resurface in the Premiership.
One final yellow came three minutes from
the end, as Steed ran from the left across the face of the penalty box
and was once more shoved to the ground, this time by Volz and he had to
go, leaving his side to face eleven men for the final minutes.
Except, in his fall, Malbranque had lost a contact lens and was off the
field for the majority of the remaining three minutes plus three minutes
added time. not that it mattered to Spurs, who had been more of a
match for Fulham when it was 11 v 11.
From the free-kick for Volz's foul, Hud
lined the ball up and wanted his hat-trick. He drilled the shot
low, through the wall, but was about two yards away from the target.
With Jermain Defoe replacing Robbie Keane to rest him for the upcoming
fixtures, he looked to impress and was lively up front.
It looked as though Tom might get his
treble, when a quick throw-in by Lennon released Jermain and he slipped
the ball through to Huddlestone inside the penalty area. As he
took the ball past one man, he looked to get his shot in, but as he was
falling, he had the presence to realise that it wasn't on and nudged the
ball sideways to Defoe, who had continued his run. Giving the ball
to JD in front of goal a couple of yards out means only one thing and he
took the shot with the outside of his foot, hitting it over Niemi to
round off a 5-1 win which was perhaps even easier than the score-line
Fulham have the look of a side who seemed
condemned to their fate. Without a manager, they look in need of
someone to come in and shake them up and perhaps it is no wonder that
Martin Jol has turned down the opportunity to take on this challenge.
Their players, many of which Sanchez brought in during the summer, are
either journeymen or not up to the level required by the top flight.
With a run of fifteen months without an away win, it is even worse than
our performances away from the Lane.
But those are their troubles. For
Tottenham, it looks as though they are adapting well to Ramos' teachings
and the team played well despite a slow start. The theory of
keeping on the attack in one which might pay off in certain games, but
we must remember this was only Fulham and other sides might take
advantage of our defensive frailties better than the West London team.
But for the time being, Christmas has
suddenly got better and the final whistle brought another gift of a
first London derby win of the season.
You just feel with Ramos in control, it
might not be the last.