FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
SATURDAY 31ST JANUARY, 2004
FULHAM 2 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1)
Malbranque (pen), 45
Keane (pen), 18
Referee:- Mr. M. Messias
Fulham (42-3-1):- Van Der Sar; Volz, Knight, Pearce, Bocanegra; Davis; Djetou; Malbranque, Clark(Capt.), Boa Morte (sub Petta, 88); Hayles (sub McBride, 58)
Subs not used:- Crossley; Inamoto; Sava
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Carr (Capt.), Doherty, Gardner, Ziege; Dalmat, King, Brown, Davies; Keane, Postiga (sub Zamora, 78)
Subs not used:- Burch; Bunjevcevic, Jackson, Kelly
On a wet and very windy afternoon at Loftus Road, Spurs lost their unbeaten record of 2004, and lost for the second time this season to Fulham, who have won 3 out of the last 4 games between these two sides. Fulham have of course lost their top goalscorer, Louis Saha (who scored on his debut at Old Trafford today), but they fielded each of their three recent recruits, one of whom made it a heroic debut (as substitute), with the winning goal.
Spurs welcomed back Christian Ziege to the fold, making his first Premiership start of the season, able to do so, due to the absence of Taricco with war wounds suffered at Manchester last week. Ultimately, perhaps Spurs missed a bit more strength at the back on the left side, as Fulham seemed to exploit the area, particularly in the second half.
Fulham played their now familiar 5 man midfield, with Malbranque, Clark and Boa Morte behind Hayles, and Davis and Djetou shoring up the defence, which included Ian Pearce, signed from West Ham, and Carlos Bocanegra, one of Kasey Keller's countrymen, at left back. Another fellow American, Brian McBride, was kept in reserve on the bench.
Spurs were on top in the early stages, without much to show for their endeavours. Some of the away fans are starting to lose patience with Postiga, who was often found out on the left, and struggled to win aerial balls, and to control passes made in his direction. Keane was in good heart though. and gave Van Der Sar a scare after a quarter of an hour. Postiga had attacked down the left, but lost the ball, which was gifted to Simon Davies. Davies found Keane whose shot was just tipped onto the post by the keeper, then cleared for a corner. A minute later, a Ziege ball was headed on towards the area, where Robbie turned and Pearce handled just inside the box. Mr. Messias pointed to the spot without hesitation, and Robbie fired home to the keeper's right. So, penalties awarded to Spurs are like London buses. You don't see one for ages, then they arrive in consecutive league games! Pity Mr. Messias did not consider two more justifiable appeals against Pearce for man-handling Keane in the second half!.
Fulham's approach play was good, with so many in the middle, but Spurs were defending well. When Boa Morte gave Hayles a chance as he rounded Doherty, Kasey Keller was on hand to make a great diving save to his left. Michael Brown shone at times in the middle, but Ledley seems to want too much time on the ball in that area, and does not appear to be the long-term answer to Spurs' needs in the workroom. On the half hour, Stephen Carr did well to reach a ball down the line from Dalmat. Carr's cross was cleared out as far as Ziege, who aimed a ball into the box, where Robbie got his head to it, but hit wide.
Ex-gooner Boa Morte won the hatred of the visiting support with his exaggerated fall under Ziege's second strong challenge of the day, earning the left back a yellow card after little more than half an hour. Hayles tried a left footed shot on the turn from just outside the box, going just wide of the left hand post. Then with little left of injury time before the break, Boa Morte went down just inside the box under Brown's challenge from the rear, and the ref evened things up with another pen, scored by Malbranque.
Spurs started the second half well enough. Robbie beat the offside flag wide on the right, passed to Carr who crossed, but Postiga fell over at the back post. Then Keane was onto a Brown lofted ball, and seemed to be well and truly clattered by Pearce, but the appeals were to no avail. On 54 minutes, Robbie fed Postiga in front of the away fans, but Helder could only half-hit his shot to the keeper. With Zamora's height needed to win some of Keller's errant kicks, the Spurs crowd started to get needled. Hayles was replaced by McBride with more than half an hour to go.
McBride might have scored earlier than he did when he was alone heading for the Spurs area after a quick counter from a Spurs corner. Keller came to the edge of his area and made a good save, allowing his defence to catch up and clear for a corner. Fulham had a bit of pressure with two or three corners, and scored when Pearce headed one goalward, which was saved by Keller, but finished off from close range by the debut boy - Mc Bride.
There were chances for both sides in the run-in, with Brown hitting a shot that was tipped over, and then Keller saving a Molz shot teed up by McBride. Zamora did eventually replace Postiga, and after that Keane was down to no avail again in the box. Spurs best chance to equalise came when Robbie had Stephen Carr on his right, delayed the pass till the death, and when Carr did shoot, it was an embarrassing effort way over the target. Fulham had the upper hand on the approach to the final whistle. The win leaves the Cottagers challenging for that fourth Champions' League place, whilst defeat leaves Spurs firmly in the lower half of the table.
Here's a thought for you. Spurs have lost each of their matches against London rivals in the league this season, which makes it no surprise that they are all above us in the league!
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