COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Wednesday 4th December 2013
VENUE Craven Cottage






What initially looked a straightforward fixture on paper has suddenly become complicated.  Our 0-6 defeat at Manchester City and the sacking of Martin Jol, meaning this is new manager Rene Meulensteen's first match in charge changes the dynamic of the situation.  Robin van Persie reckons the new boss id the best in the world, so it could be tough task for Tottenham, as he seeks to stabilise Fulham's season.

There is still a smattering of ex-Spurs players at the Cottage, with Darren Bent and Dimitar Berbatov leading the line, Adel Tarrabt on loan form QPR and Scott Parker driving the midfield.  This gives them an extra incentive to try and prove that Spurs should not have let them go.  However, Spurs have changed a lot since they left, even Parker, who only went in the summer.  While things ate not quite as AVB might want them, the team possess a variety of players and styles which might make things difficult for the Cottagers. 

The problem for Fulham has been creating opportunities, something Spurs have not had a problem with, but converting them has been, as it has for the West London club.  With a cracking goal by Pajtim Kasami against Crystal Palace, it was one of the rare moments of attacking joy they have had this season.  The winger has not been able to replicate that effort again and I hope that continues against us, while Dimitar Berbatov looks like he might be at his sulky best ... but whether he will now translate that into on-field action with Jol gone, we might have to find out ... the hard way.  Not a worker for the team, but a player who can change the match with a flick or a well-placed shot, he is still a danger man.  Bent will also be keen to show that he can still score goals and as Soldado is finding, big money forwards don't always have it easy at Tottenham.  Good at running onto a ball over the top, he might fancy it against our high line, but his pace is not what it was and he is more adept at finding a yard in the box to convert passes into him now. Whether Meulensteen will have to bottle to throw the other Moussa Dembele into the mix when points are desperately needed we will see, as the young striker is already attracting a lot of attention form other Premier League teams.

In goal, Fulham have the Dutch number one - Marten Stekelenberg, who keeps out Tim Krul, so must have something about him.  Returned from early season injury, we will have to hope he doesn't repeat the antics of his countrymen when we get shot on goal !!  The defence has been missing Brede Hengleland and his physical presence is one they hope will be back in the side to face Tottenham.  Phillipe Senderos could be playing in the middle and could be viewed as a weak link, but he will step up his game against Spurs, being a former Gooner.  Fernando Amoerbieta and Kieran Richardson have been the full backs, neither of whom would give much confidence, but with Matthew Briggs out injured, the options are John Arne Riise or Chris Baird.  Aaron Hughes is still in the Fulham back four, but he is another older head and this is an area that Meulensteen will have to address if he is to help keep them up.

With Parker the worker in midfield, alongside Steve Sidwell, there is perhaps a little too much reliance on effort, although brining in Taarabt was an attempt to add flair to the engine room.  Adel showed at QPR that he can influence games, but whether he is the man for a relegation battle (again) remains to be seen.  Damien Duff is till there working the line, but our wide men must work hard to make sure he is spending most of his time heading for his own goal and they should have the pace to do so.  Karagounis and Boateng are both hard workers too, with Kacaniklic is a talented player, but one who is still finding his feet in the Premier League.

Spurs need to work the ball through midfield, which might be packed, but use the widthto get the ball into the Fulham box as often as possible. 

So, with Fulham in the basement three, on paper it looks a straightforward affair for Spurs, but it depends how we set about the game.  We need to play at the tempo we saw against United, which is how we can give teams a bit of a chasing.  The tenacity to win the ball back when it was lost will be necessary on what will be a cold night on the banks of the Thames, but I think that the team might now have got the message and hopefully can translate that into consistently good performances on the pitch.

I think Spurs will take the points as Fulham battle away to show the new manager they can do a job for him.

PREDICTION Fulham    1         Tottenham Hotspur    2
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.
Christian Eriksen (ankle), Emmanuel Adebayor (hamstring), Harry Kane (back) and Danny Rose (foot) are all unavailable. 
Fulham start life under new manager Rene Meulensteen without Hugo Rodellega (groin) and Matthew Briggs (groin), with Dimitar Berbatov expected to have shaken off his illness to play, but Brede Hangeland (back) remains a late doubt.

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Fulham  1 (0)                                                                                     Tottenham Hotspur  2 (0)
Premier League
Wednesday 4th December 2013                                                                                                  Kick off 20:00
Craven Cottage
Dejagah 56
Chiriches 73
Holtby 82
Kasami (foul on Dawson) 32
Senderos (foul on Townsend) 90+1


Capoue (foul on Kacaniklic) 13


Crowd :   24,128 Weather :  Cold
Referee :  Mark Clattenburg (Tyne and Wear) Assistant Referees :  Mr. S. Beck; Mr. S. Child
Fourth Official :  Neil Swarbrick -
Tottenham kicked off and played towards the Hammersmith end in the first half.
Playing time : -  90 + 4
Fulham : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit

27  Sacha RIETHER
  4  Phillipe SENDEROS     
18  Aaron HUGHES
  3  John Arne RIISE

28  Scott PARKER (c)  (10  Bryan RUIZ 87)

  Giorgos KARAGOUNIS  (  7  Steve SIDWELL 62)
  8  Pajtim KASAMI     
  KACANIKLIC  (16  Damien DUFF 85)

24  Ashkan DEJEGAH 

  9  Dimitar BERBATOV

Unused subs:

22  Elsad ZVEROTOC
19  Adel TAARABT
23  Derek BOATENG

  25  Hugo LLORIS

  2  Kyle WALKER
  6  Vlad CHIRICHES 
20  Michael DAWSON (c)

30  SANDRO (21  Nacer CHADLI 69)
15  Etienne CAPOUE       (14  Lewis HOLTBY 46  )

  7  Aaron LENNON
11  Erik LAMELA (17  Andros TOWNSEND 78)

18  Jermain DEFOE

Unused subs: 
24  Brad FRIEDEL

  9  Roberto SOLDADO

Manager :  Rene Meulensteen Manager :  Andre Villas-Boas
Sponsor :   Marathon Bet Shirt sponsor :  Hewlett Packard
Kit Supplier :  adidas Kit Supplier :   Under Armour
Match report

A spirited display by Fulham in their first game under the control of new manager Rene Meulensteen caused Spurs quite a few problems, but an equally good twenty minutes was enough for Tottenham to take the three points with a 2-1 win at Craven Cottage, which is rapidly becoming their favourite away day venue.

While Tottenham will be indebted to Hugo Lloris, who made three top drawer saves to keep the team in the game, equally, they will look at the chances that got away to put this game beyond Fulham's reach and make their late charge less important than it turned out.  The players will need to address their carelessness with the ball that they demonstrated in the first half, which made them look poor against a home team keen to impress the new man in charge.

An up-tempo start by Fulham brought a free-kick in the first couple of minutes, which Lennon cleared as it came in low to the near post.  A through ball from Sandro from the right saw Spurs carve out their first opportunity, with Jermain Defoe, installed at the expense of Roberto Soldado, firing low to Stekelenburg's left and the Dutch keeper made a good stop.  As expected Dimitar Berbatov was included after a short illness and he was looking dangerous, firstly getting on the end of a cross from Karagounis' free-kick to head straight at Hugo, then just failing to seize on Kacaniklic's pass as his touch unusually let him down.  With 13 minutes gone, Lloris had to be alert to push away Karagounis' long range effort and ten minutes later, the French captain did even better, with a low stop to shovel Berbatov's delicate flick on to Kazami's ball in, which was heading for the bottom corner until Hugo pushed it wide.

A minute later, a loose ball in the centre circle was picked off by Lennon and he sent Defoe away.  Unselfishly, he squared form the left into Paulinho, who dropped a shoulder to go round two men in the box, leaving him with only Stekelenburg to beat.   However, his previously good finishing deserted him, as he lashed the ball over from 12 yards, with the top corners asking for a shot to be placed into them.  The game was end to end, as Spurs failed to hold onto possession and after another minute, Kasami met a corner to flash the ball over the bar at the near post.  On the half hour, Defoe was provider again, as he laid the ball into the path of Erik Lamela, just inside the penalty area, who took aim and curled a shot a foot wide of the far post.  A couple of minutes on and Lamela moved forward with the ball and struck a shot with more intent, which had Stekelenburg diving to push the ball wide of goal.

Spurs were having a good spell with both Lennon and Capoue coming inside with differing results.  Aaron's effort touched a Fulham leg on the way through and went a yard wide, while Etienne's shot did not need any assistance in missing the target from 22 yards out.  A couple of balls flashed across the box, before the play moved to the Spurs end and Kasami had a shot deflected wide.  In injury time it was back to the other end and Paulinho mis-hit a good ball in from Walker to end the half.

There was a chill in the Craven Cottage air and at 0-0, you wondered how the media would greet such a score if the match ended like that.  But AVB brought on Lewis Holtby for Capoue after the break and his industry showed early on as he bustled to get a shot in, only for the sting to be taken out of it by a Fulham deflection.  Spurs were getting in behind their full backs, but the low crosses into the box were not quite finding their man, but then five minutes in, Sandro fired a blocked shot at goal, only for Kasami to do the same to his effort.

Tottenham had to be wary of their old striker and Berbatov took the ball down in the box, turned tightly and hit a shot into the side-netting.  This was just a pre-cursor to him setting up the opening goal of the game for Ashkan Degejah.  Taking the ball under control 25 yards out, the Bulgarian turned to his right and played the pass straight into the run of the Iranian international so that he could hit it first time, going all the way along the floor, past Lloris and into the stanchion in the far side of the goal.  It was one of those moments when your stomach sinks.  Just when we were starting to put some moves together and we get hit by a sucker punch.  Degejah had acres of space out there and with our current difficulty in scoring, I wondered if we would be able to get back into it, let alone win it.

Fulham had a little spell where they were pushing on the Spurs goal, but without any solid goal threat, bringing on Sidwell to replace the tiring older legs of Karagounis, while Spurs introduced Chadli for Sandro.  With 72 minutes gone,  Kyle Walker made another run up the right and his cross was punched out for a corner by the Fulham keeper.  Under pressure when Walker's corner came in, the keeper half punched it and it was helped out of the box, but running straight onto it, just left of centre, was Vlad Chiriches.  Without breaking stride, he struck it first time and the ball went low, not looking particularly powerful, but it went in off Stekelenburg's right hand post, missing all the legs on the way and finding the back of the net.  An unusual source of an equaliser, but Vlad has this in his locker, as You Tube videos of his Champions League exploits at Steaua Bucharest show.

It was a sense of relief as much a anything that came over me.  The embarrassment of losing to Fulham would have been bad.  A point was better than nothing. 

Then Defoe got onto Chadli's pass through the defence and an early shot flew over.  But Fulham weren't finished and Berbatov was still pegging away and his flick from Kacaniklic's cross brought another good save from Lloris.  but with eight minutes gone,  Lewis Holtby scored a screamer to give Tottenham the lead.  Kyle Walker played the ball into him from the right, taking the ball on the right hand corner of the penalty area.  He moved infield, drifting past a couple of players and struck a fierce left foot dive from outside the box, which left Stekelenburg diving to his left, but he could not get the lift to reach the shot that rasped past him.  It was a fine shot that deserved goal.

As did the next move which saw Paulinho head Holtby's cross at goal and the Fulham keeper did well to arch his back and reach the ball behind him as it was going into the top corner.  He flicked it over to prevent what would have been a killer goal.  another save, this time at the other end, kept the score=line the same, with Lloris scooping the ball away as substitute Ruiz scuffed a shot at goal after the ball had bobbled around the Spurs box.

With Damien Duff on and Ruiz pushed forward, Fulham were going for an equaliser in added time, with Kasami firing in a shot from their right wing that hit the outside of the post, but Lloris had it covered, hanging on to the woodwork to make sure it didn't find a way past him.  The remainder of the time was played out, with the major worry being the injury that Jan Vertonghen suffered near the end, which left him hobbling through the final minute or so.

An uncomfortable evening, both football and weather wise, but the right outcome on the pitch helped lift us to sixth, with other results going our way and leaving us three points off Liverpool in fourth.   Admittedly, we would need a swing of 15 goals to overtake them should we win and they lose at the weekend, but perhaps things aren't so bad.  Man United lost at home to Everton, so they have become this week's crisis club.  After an 11 game unbeaten run !!

Let's just see who things pan out over the new few months and worry about things then.   A comeback win and another one away from home is good news surely.

Well, for a few days at least ;o)

Jeff Blakeley


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What you thought
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Other scores during this week :
Crystal Palace 1 West Ham United 0 Tuesday
Arsenal 2 Hull City 0 Wednesday
Liverpool 5 Norwich City 1 Wednesday
Manchester United 0 Everton 1 Wednesday
Southampton 2 Aston Villa 3 Wednesday
Stoke City 0 Cardiff City 0 Wednesday
Sunderland 3 Chelsea 4 Wednesday
Swansea City 3 Newcastle United 0 Wednesday
West Bromwich Albion 2 Manchester City 3 Wednesday




League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Arsenal 14 11 1 2 29 10 34 +19
2 Chelsea 14 10 3 2 28 14 30 +14
3 Manchester City 14 9 1 4 40 14 28 +26
4 Liverpool 14 8 3 3 30 17 27 +13
5 Everton 14 7 6 1 22 13 27 +9
6 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 14 7 3 4 13 15 24 -2
7 Newcastle United 14 7 2 5 19 21 23 -2
8 Southampton 14 6 4 4 18 12 22 +6
9 Manchester United 14 6 4 4 22 18 22 +4
10 Aston Villa 14 5 4 5 16 16 19 0
11 Swansea City 14 5 3 6 20 19 18 +1
12 Hull City 14 5 2 7 12 18 17 -6
13 West Bromwich Albion 14 3 6 5 17 19 15 -2
14 Stoke City 14 3 4 7 11 16 14 -5
15 Cardiff City 14 3 5 6 11 20 14 -9
16 Norwich City 14 4 2 8 12 28 14 -16
17 West Ham United 14 3 4 7 12 15 13 -3
18 Fulham 14 3 1 10 12 26 10 -14
19 Crystal Palace 14 3 1 10 8 22 10 -14
20 Sunderland 14 2 2 10 11 28 8 -17

Position before match :  9th
Position after match :  6th

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