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Premier League

Wednesday 26th December 2007

One of the laws of football is that when a club loses it's manager, the results suddenly pick up.  So facing Fulham when they have just sacked Lawrie Sanchez is not the best time to be playing them.  But having said that, their players did not seem to like playing the long ball game he instituted; the sort of game which would give Spurs problems.  With industrious midfielder Jimmy Bullard out long term and without the battering ram of Brian McBride up front, things might suit Tottenham a bit better.

With Diomansy Kamara scoring the last minute overhead kick in this season's first meeting of the two sides, Spurs threw away a 3-1 lead and had to settle for a draw.  Now, with a new manager and a new confidence, they might hopefully play a better game all round against the Cottagers.

Antii Niemi has had a tough time behind a leaky defence, but his reflexes are still as sharp as ever, with the need for the four men in front of him to be equally as nimble on their toes necessary to give him more protection.  A draw against Wigan would have seen acting manager Ray Lewington probably disappointed they didn't get more, but as Omozusi might be missing, the Irish international Chris Baird might be back to add a little strength in the middle of the defence.  Paul Konchesky is the tough tackler in their back line, with Carlos Bocanegra adding height and Aaron Hughes an attacking option on the overlap.  With Aaron Lennon starting to show the form of his first season at the Lane, if he can be brought into the game often enough, he should be able to pin Hughes back into defensive duties.  Moritz Volz is a steady, if unspectacular defender, who can be hard to get past, but is prone to giving away penalties.

With Robbie Keane fit once more, he will be picked up front with Berbatov, but an attacking substitution around the 70th minute might see us go three up top if the game is going in our favour.  This will mean a midfield effort will be required to match the hard-working, albeit aging Fulham engine room.  Danny Murphy is well known to us, but he relies on his passing to do the damage rather than covering every blade of grass any more, while Simon Davies is having a good season and he will put in the yardage, making good runs on and off the ball.  Steven Davis is a tigerish player, but has dropped down from Aston Villa to Fulham and he has not made the impact Sanchez had hoped.  Wide-men Hamar Bouazza and Seol Hi-Kyeon can provide some crossing ability and good skill running at players, while the slow, but accurate with his passing Alexei Smertin might be a substitute. 

With limited options up front, sometimes ex-Hornet Bouazza makes his way as a make-shift striker and his size and skill makes him a good target to hold up the ball.  However, a more likely starter in the forward line is American Clint Dempsey, who appears to be getting to grips with what is needed in the Premier League, while his partner may well be David Healy, who is nippy and was signed on the reputation of scoring a lot of goals for Northern Ireland and Leeds United.  The little striker has found it a bit harder this season, but he has the happy knack of hitting the target when near the goal.  A further option is the Finn Shefki Kuqi, who is a big man who uses his height and weight to be a thorough nuisance to opposition defences.

While Spurs still carry a hefty injury list, new recruits are on the way and the team are adapting to Ramos' pattern of play, so, if they can keep it going, they should be good enough to see off the West Londoners for their first derby win of the season ...

PREDICTION : -  Tottenham Hotspur  3    Fulham  1

For more information on the opponents and their history, including full result history of matches between the two teams, click here.


TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR : -  Ledley King (thigh); Ricardo Rocha (knee); Anthony Gardner (ankle); Gareth Bale (foot); Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee); Didier Zokora (suspended 2 of 3); Michael Dawson (migraines);  - (-); 

FULHAM :  - Brian McBride (knee); Jimmy Bullard (knee); Elliot Omazusi (calf); Kasey Keller (arm); Lee Cook (knee); Philip Cristanval (knee); Ian Pearce (shin); Shaun Elliot (Achilles); - (-); 


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Tottenham Hotspur   5    Fulham   1      (Half-time score : 2-0)

Premier League
Venue : White Hart Lane  
Wednesday 26th December 2007
Kick Off :  1.00 p.m.
Crowd :   36,077
Referee :  Andre Marriner (West Midlands)
Tottenham kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Weather :  -  Bright, mild, but chilly breeze
Teams : - 
Tottenham Hotspur :

  1 Robinson

  2 Chimbonda
  5 Kaboul
26 King (c) (19 Taarabt 73)
  3 YP Lee

24 O'Hara
15 Malbranque
22 Huddlestone     
25 Lennon

  9 Berbatov (17 Boateng 63)
10 Keane (18 Defoe 68)

Unused subs:
12 Cerny
23 Bent

Fulham :

29  Niemi

15  Baird      (  2 Volz         46)
  3  Bocanegra
18  Hughes(  9   Healy )
  4  Konchesky

  6  Smertin    
25  Davies    
27 Murphy
  7 Ki-Hyeon (24  Bouazza 46)

23  Dempsey

11  Kamara

Unused subs: 
12  Warner
14  Kuqi

Colours : -  (kits courtesy of http://www.colours-of-football.com)
Tottenham Hotspur

Scorers : -  
Tottenham Hotspur

Keane 27
Huddlestone 45
Keane 62
Huddlestone 71
Defoe 90


Dempsey 60

Cards : -  
Tottenham Hotspur  

Huddlestone (persistent fouling)   




Baird (foul)
Volz (foul)   
Smertin (foul)
Davies (foul)

Volz (foul - second yellow) 87

Match Report : -  
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 Niemi.

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 suggests.

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.



Reaction : -



The game was a slow burner, with nothing in the first 25 minutes to show what might be to come.

The play was scrappy from Spurs and although Fulham looked a different side to the one who played under Sanchez, holding the ball well and moving off the ball intelligently.  but the one thing that differentiated the two sides in the end was the finishing.

Although Fulham didn't have many clear cut chances, even their half chances rarely brought Robbo into action.  In stark contrast, Spurs finished clinically and had a bit more luck than the visitors, although their goal looked to be both offside and a handball.

Tom Huddlestone strolled through the game, spraying passes around and scoring two goals.  He also played a part in two of the others, including a great awareness of when he could and couldn't score, allowing Jermain Defoe to get his regulatory goal after coming off the bench.

An less than average side such as Fulham have provided us with difficulty in taking all three points in the past, but this is how we should, be dealing with them.  A good performance and one which will need to be a consistent feature of our play until the end of the season.











Other scores this weekend :
Birmingham City 3 Middlesbrough 0 Wednesday
Chelsea 4 Aston Villa 4 Wednesday
Derby County 1 Liverpool 2 Wednesday
Everton 2 Bolton Wanderers 0 Wednesday
Portsmouth 0 Arsenal 0 Wednesday
Sunderland 0 Manchester United 4 Wednesday
Wigan Athletic 1 Newcastle United 0 Wednesday
West Ham United 1 Reading 1 Wednesday
Manchester City 2 Blackburn Rovers 2 Thursday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 19 14 3 2 36 9 45 +28
2 Arsenal 19 13 5 1 36 15 44 +21
3 Chelsea 19 11 5 3 29 14 38 +15
4 Liverpool 18 10 6 2 33 12 36 +21
5 Manchester City 19 10 5 4 27 22 35 +5
6 Everton 19 10 3 6 34 18 33 +16
7 Portsmouth 19 8 7 4 29 19 31 +10
8 Aston Villa 19 8 6 5 33 25 30 +8
9 Blackburn Rovers 19 7 6 6 25 27 27 -2
10 West Ham United 18 7 5 6 23 16 26 +7
11 Newcastle United 19 7 5 7 26 29 26 -3
12 Reading 19 6 4 9 25 36 22 -11
13 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 19 5 6 8 35 32 21 +3
14 Birmingham City 19 5 3 11 21 30 18 -9
15 Bolton Wanderers 19 4 5 10 21 29 17 -8
16 Middlesbrough 19 4 5 10 17 33 17 -16
17 Wigan Athletic 19 4 4 12 19 34 16 -15
18 Fulham 19 2 8 9 20 33 14 -13
19 Sunderland 19 3 5 11 17 38 14 -21
20 Derby County 19 1 4 14 9 43 7 -34



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