OPPONENTS Fulham at Craven Cottage
COMPETITION Premier League 
DATE Sunday 20th January 2019
PREVIEW Fulham have found the top flight a real challenge since returning through the Play-offs last season.  Having shed manager Slavisa Jokanovic and appointed Claudio Ranieri, the club's fortunes haven't changed to drastically for the good. 

The reason for their lowly position is their lack of goals at one end the profligacy in conceding them at the other.  Scoring is such a problem that Kamara will be missing as he grabbed the ball off Mitrovic when Fulham got a penalty and promptly missed, then followed it up by having a "conversation" on-field at the training ground, so Rainieri has left him out.  In addition, they will be without defenders Alfie Mawson and Andre-Franck Zambo Aguissa, who are both injured.  The Cottagers have added Dutch international winger - Ryan Babel - who might be involved at some stage.

They have the players who can score, with Mitrovic doing well there on loan last season and the loan signing of Schurrle has shown that he still has the quality he was noted for at Chelsea.  Ryan Sessignon has found that his marauding runs up the left wing ending in goals are not so easy to make in the Premier League and other forwards - Floyd Ayite and another loanee Luciano Vietto - haven't been able to adjust to the requirements after the step up from the Championship and La Liga respectively.

Chances should be forthcoming with the passing of Jean Michael Seri, Tom Cairney and Sessignon providing the ammunition for the front men, but the main issue has been the regularity the ball has kept heading back towards their own goal.  Even when they have been ahead, they manage to lose out, as they did at Cardiff a few weeks back and then did the same at Burnley last week, with a couple of helping assists from their defenders.  With Alfie Mawson out injured for much of the time since he signed from Swansea City (we dodged a bullet there) and finding ever more elaborate ways of missing matches - the latest being a knee injury victim from putting his own boots on - there has been a reliance on last season's crop of defenders and brining Calum Chambers in on loan from Arsenal, where he has barely played, so often has he been farmed out. 

Tim Ream and Denis Odoi have struggled to deal with opposition forwards, full backs Le Marchand, Fosu-Mensah (on loan from Man U), Christie and Bryan (bought from Bristol City) have yet to gel and this has produced too much space being afforded to the other team to work the ball around the final third.  Goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli was getting rave reviews and earned a call up to the England squad before falling out of favour and that gave chances to summer signings Fabri ad Sergio Rico, with the latter currently being in possession of the gloves.  The new boys have shown varying degrees of discomfort with the English game, but have had plenty to deal with as the defence and midfield in front of them are not proving as solid as they were in the Championship last season.

Tottenham will have a late look at Moussa Sissoko to see if he has recovered from his groin injury picked up against Manchester United, but may save him for the League Cup semi-final on Thursday.  Lucas Mora may be back and there could be a return for Eric Dier, whereas Spurs could start Fernando Llorente, in the absence of Kane and Son.

We have goals from midfield, but that has been with Kane leading the line and taking one or two men out of the equation.  Llorente has shown that he can be effective in having a partner playing off him, but will that be a pacy player such as Moura or a player with guile, like Dele, to take advantage of his knock-downs ?

It's an opportunity to try and work out how the side will play ahead of the Chelsea League Cup semi second leg, but the defeat last week means we have to win to keep in touch with the top two and keep a gap between us and Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.

A tricky fixture, which may have looked more straightforward a couple of weeks ago, but, bearing in mind Fulham's recent form, we should be able to edge.

PREDICTION Fulham    1        Tottenham Hotspur    2
Moussa Sissoko's groin injury may have recovered sufficiently for him to take part, but he will be assessed as late as possible to ensure he is up to playing in the game.  Harry Kane (ankle), Eric Dier (appendicitis), Heung-Min Son (international duty) and
Zambo Aguissa will have a late fitness test, while Alfie Mawson's knee injury won't allow him to be available for selection.  Aboukabar Kamara has been left out for disciplinary reasons.  Ryan Babel, signed  from Besiktas, may not be fully fit to play, but could feature on the bench.

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Premier League Kick off 16:00
Fulham  1 (1)  
Tottenham Hotspur  2 (0)

Llorente (o.g.)  16m 45s


Dele  50m 58s
Winks  90+2m 47s

Crowd :   , Weather :  Cold, dry
Referee :  Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire) Assistant Referees :  Mr. Ian Hussin ; Mr. Eddie Smart
Fourth Official :  Lee Probert  
Fulham kicked off and played towards the - end in the first half.
Game time : -  90 + ? minutes.
Mitrovic (wrestling throw on Sanchez) 74
Seri (foul on Vertonghen) 75


Sanchez (being thrown to the ground by Mitrovic) 74
Rose (simulation) 79
Alderweireld (kicking ball out of ground) 90+4


Fulham : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
25  Sergio RICO

  4  Denis ODOI
  Tim REAM
  5  Calum CHAMBERS

20  Maxime Le MARCHAND
24  Jean-Michael SERI       (44  Ibrahima CISSE  81)
22  Cyrus CHRISTIE

12  Ryan BABEL  (  3  Ryan SESSIGNON  55)
9  Alexandre MITROVIC (c)     
14  Andre SCHURRLE  (
  7  Neeskens KABANO  72)

Unused subs: 
  Floyd AYITE
19  Luciano VIETTO

    1  Hugo LLORIS  (c)

  6  Davinson SANCHEZ     

  2  Kieran TRIPPIER
  8  Harry WINKS  
Christian ERIKSEN
  3  Danny ROSE     

11  Erik LAMELA  (15  Eric DIER  79)
Fernando LLORENTE 
20  DELE Alli    (14  Georges-Kevin NKOUDOU 86)

Unused subs: 
33  Ben DAVIES
1  Juan FOYTH
52  Oliver SKIPP
  Kazaiah STERLING

Manager :  Claudio Ranieri Manager :  Mauricio Pochettino
Sponsor :   dafabet Shirt sponsor :  AIA
Kit Supplier :  adidas Kit Supplier :   Nike
Match report

Scoring three goals away form home should guarantee a relatively comfortable afternoon out, but not the Tottenham way, having to come back for an own goal and leaving it until the last ten seconds of time to score a winner against a stubborn, but ultimately prone to failure Fulham team.

Injuries and absences left Spurs without their two top scorers and much of the talk was about who would fill their shooting boots.  Fernando Llorente was given the job, with Dele Alli up alongside him and Erik Lamela in a wide position, but he had to track back a fair but, leaving the front two isolated at times.  Pochettino started out with a 3-4-3 formation and the home side matched that.

Vertonghen slung a couple of crosses in from the left and Trippier from the right in the first few minutes but couldn’t find a Spurs head as the side started at a good tempo and as usual, Danny Rose was the first victim of a foul, this time by Christie out on our left. Eriksen struck it into the wall and then, when the ball had been  worked forward from the back, he smacked a drive wide of Rico’s goal.  His next effort in the sixth minute took a deflection from the edge of the box and it went over for a corner. That was booted clear, but there was nobody there for the home side, as everybody had been dragged back to defend the set piece.

A straight ball down the Fulham left saw Babel, making his debut, out-muscle Sanchez, then forcing Lloris to a save on his right-hand post from ten yards. It was a good chance and the Dutch winger should have done better, getting past Davinson and into the area. From a corner just after all sorts of grabbing was going on and the ball pinged about, but Spurs cleared. Rose got clattered again, this time with Le Marchand going through the back of his head with his forearm. Trippier’s free-kick forced the keeper to take it under the bar and then play switched to the other end and Fulham won a corner. From it, the ball missed everyone at the near post and Llorente flinched as the ball came in low to him and it went past Lloris off the striker’s knee to give Fulham and unexpected lead.

Eriksen played a pass through the middle for Dele with 20 minutes gone and his ball outside him to the right found Lamela, who couldn’t do the same with his early cross across the face of goal, where Llorente was too far behind the ball. He did better with the next cross that came in, with Jan hitting the Spaniard’s head, but it flew straight at Sergio Rico, who had to parry it up before it was cleared out of the goalmouth. Spurs worked some space out on the right on the half hour, but Winks’ touch to Alderweireld’s return pass was heavy and the move broke down as he looked to shoot. Tottenham were finding space in wide positions but were not getting dangerous balls into the box.

Spurs were leaving Christian Eriksen as the out ball from Fulham corners, but the passing to him to look to start a break was poor and handed the possession back to the home side. Five minutes before the break, Babel rose to meet Christie’s cross that he guided over the bar and it should have been a warning to Spurs as to the threat that Fulham were able to pose. Babel’s cross from the left was met with a meaty volley by Schurrle and Lloris did well to beat it out, but Mitrovic was there to head the ball in off Hugo’s despairing reach for the ball. The home fans celebrated, but that was cut short by the linesman’s flag, with the Serb striker straying beyond the last man.

A corner for Fulham just before half time was cleared, but when it came back in Babel was free in front of goal and only a great tackle by Vertonghen blocked his shot for another corner. That ended with a weak effort on goal from Chambers being gathered cleanly by Hugo. Rose won a corner at the other end and it was wasted by Eriksen, who played it straight into the side-netting. 

Kicking off the second half, Spurs needed to find a way to make the best use of Llorente. His early flick on brought some chasing by Lamela, who won the ball off Odoi until he fell over in the corner of the pitch. Too often, the build up was too slow and players who were in space had it closed off and there were a lot of Fulham players between the ball and the goal.

Spurs eventually carved out a decent chance when Le Marchand’s header out was swung at by Ream and Eriksen’s cross picked out Dele making a blind side run behind Odoi and in front of Christie to head past the keeper from close-range with 50 minutes gone.  It was a stood up cross by Eriksen, who picked out Dele in space at the far post to beat Rico with a fine header.  1-1 and all to play for.

Mitrovic flung himself to the ground when he went for the ball in the box, as Hugo came out, but the ref wasn’t interested, with our keeper getting the ball. Spurs were building more pressure and Winks curled a shot at Rico and then Llorente forced the keeper to palm Rose’s cross out and Eriksen followed in, but his effort was  blocked. When Rose broke forward on the left, he burst into the box and his right footed shot flicked off Odoi’s boot and rattled the bar before going over for a corner.

A long straight ball challenged for by Lamela forced Le Marchand to head off for another corner, which brought a throw in down in the right wing. It went across to Llorente on the other side of the box, but came to nothing and when it was cleared, Rose knocked the ball into the box and Christie bumped into him off the ball, but referee Pawson saw nothing to blow his whistle about.  While Spurs were enjoying lots of the ball, Fulham had brought on Sessignon and his pace was always likely to be a threat down the left. Luckily, he drifted past the back line and was offside a few times to ease the pressure on our goal. Tottenham were moving the ball across the 30-yard line, waiting for the right time to cross it in, but quite often, passes were short to the best placed man and there was time for him to be closed down.

We had a corner that Lamela took on the right, but when it came back out to him, he cut inside and curled a shot a long way wide. Sanchez got a booking for being thrown to the floor by Mitrovic, who rightly got a yellow card, as did Seri for a lunge on Jan Vertonghen.  Apart from a few hopeful balls forward for Ryan Sessignon, who invariably was flagged for offside, Fulham were happy just to get the ball away from their penalty area. With Spurs putting in crosses looking for Llorente’s head to the end. They found it once but right in front of goal, rather than powering his head at the ball, Fernando tried to guide it in, but only achieved a miss with the ball going wide.  He also was played in with the ball on the floor, but his touch was not good and he went down looking for a penalty ... unsuccessfully.

It seemed as though the chance to grab the three points had gone.  None more so than when Dele challenged Sessignon for a ball going off near the sideline, but he went down grabbing the back of his left thigh and so another player was added to the injury list.  Surprisingly, Mauricio brought on  GK Nkoudou in his place and he set out wide on the left.  Time was running down when Danny Rose over-hit a cross, then when Trippier did pick out Llorente's head, his header had no power in it.

When Fulham moved the ball towards the Spurs goal and won a free-kick 40 yards out.  It was played into the box and Lloris moved out to the left to reach it, half thinking about punching it and half catching it.  He fumbled the ball, but there were no Fulham players nearby, so he dived on it and looked for a quick kick out, which only went to Christie.  He looked for runners in the box, but the ball went to nobody and Spurs cleared it, with it coming back to Harry Winks in the right back position, covering for Trippier.  He played the ball inside and it was passed down the line with Vertonghen and Rose involved, feeding Nkoudou on the side-line.  He shaped to go down the line, but cut back to swing a right foot cross into the centre of the goal and Winksy had continued his run from deep, beating Bryan to the ball and planting a header home as he dived in a couple of yards out. 

The goal sparked pandemonium in the Tottenham end and also among the players, who all bundled on the midfielder and Toby launched the ball into orbit, picking up a yellow card for it.  There were 13 seconds left of added time and it showed Winks' growing maturity that he had put a lot of effort into the game, being the hub that Tottenham's play revolved around and also he was instrumental in winning the ball back.   To be the unlikely winning goal-scorer perhaps typified his devotion to the cause.

Pochettino will have some headaches before Thursday's League Cup semi with Chelsea, as he tries to shape a side out of the players available to maintain our advantage over the Blues and qualify to meet Manchester City in the final.  More worrying is the injury Dele suffered, at a time we are already missing Kane and Son, although Dier came on as a sub and hopefully Moura might be ready to play soon.

A worryingly late winner wrapped up a satisfactory win over a relegation struggler and another away win to add to the many already recorded so far this season.  Maintaining third is all we are able to do at the moment, until there are slip-ups above us.  When that happens, we have to be ready to capitalise.

Stan Chun

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What you thought
Benny The Ball I don't know who is running the Fulham FC official website, but they might need to proof read as well as spell check their match reports !

"After failing to clear our lines Christian Ericksen swung in an excellent cross onto the head of Alli who had the simple task of diverting it home from point black range."

I'm not sure they are allowed to say that !

- -.



Other scores during this week :
Arsenal 2 Chelsea 0 Saturday
Bournemouth 2 West Ham United London 0 Saturday
Liverpool 4 Crystal Palace 3 Saturday
Manchester United 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Saturday
Newcastle United 3 Cardiff City 0 Saturday
Southampton 2 Everton 1 Saturday
Watford 0 Burnley 0 Saturday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 4 Leicester City 3 Saturday
Huddersfield Town 0 Manchester City 3 Sunday




League Table  2018-19
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Liverpool 23 19 3 1 54 13 60 +41
2 Manchester City 23 18 2 3 62 17 56 +45
3 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 23 17 0 6 48 23 51 +25
4 Chelsea 23 14 5 4 40 19 47 +21
5 Arsenal 23 13 5 5 48 32 44 +16
6 Manchester United 23 13 5 5 46 33 44 +13
7 Watford 23 9 6 8 32 32 33 0
8 Wolverhampton Wanderers 23 9 5 9 27 31 32 -4
9 Leicester City 23 9 4 10 29 29 31 0
10 West Ham United London 23 9 4 10 30 34 31 -4
11 Everton 23 8 6 9 34 33 30 +1
12 Bournemouth 23 9 3 11 33 42 30 -9
13 Brighton & Hove Albion 23 7 5 11 25 32 26 -7
14 Crystal Palace 23 6 4 13 23 32 22 -9
15 Southampton 23 5 7 11 25 40 22 -15
16 Burnley 23 6 4 13 23 43 22 -20
17 Newcastle United 23 5 6 12 19 31 21 -12
18 Cardiff City 23 5 4 14 19 44 19 -25
19 Fulham 23 3 5 15 21 51 14 -30
20 Huddersfield Town 23 2 5 16 13 40 11 -27


Position before match :  3rd
Position after match :  3rd
Position after the weekend :  3rd


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