FA BARCLAYS PREMIERSHIP
SUNDAY 17TH SEPTEMBER, 2006
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0) FULHAM 0 (0)
Referee: - Mark Clattenburg
Attendance: - 36,131
Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson; Chimbonda, Dawson, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Jenas, Murphy (sub Davids, 79), Zokora, Tainio (sub Defoe, 69); Keane, Mido
Subs not used: - Cerny; Lee, Huddlestone
Booked: - Chimbonda, Mido, Murphy
Fulham (4-4-2):- Niemi; Rosenior, Knight, Pearce, Quedrue; Volz, Brown, Bocanegra, Boa Morte (Capt.) (sub Radzinski, 76); McBride (sub Helguson, 65), John (sub Runstrom, 81)
Subs not used: - Lastuvka; Jensen
Booked: - Boa Morte, Bocanegra
An unimaginative Spurs side was frozen out by a determined Fulham outfit that clearly set their stall out for a draw, playing 7 defensive outfield players, and who got what they came for. Indeed, near the end it began to look like sodís law would come into play and that perhaps Fulham would actually steal all three points, especially when Volz had a decent shot well saved by Paul Robinson.
With Aaron Lennon watching the game on crutches, and Fulham unable to field their Spurs loan player, it could be argued that both sides missed Wayne Routledge. Martin Jolís way is not to use width to a great degree, although in his post match comments he decried the lack of width used by his team, and more often than not it was left to the full backs to try and work the ball around the Fulham defensive pack, which consisted of the back four, plus two other full backs (Volz and Bocanegra) in midfield, and ex-Spur Michael Brown, who is a defensive type of player. Incidentally, Brown received a great reception from the home crowd, not least when taking a corner in the North-East corner in the first half.
Danny Murphy was given his first start of the season, playing beside Didier Zokora. Murphy started quite well, and was involved in many of Spurs first half moves. Murphyís fellow midfielders, Jenas and Zokora were probably contenders for Spursí man of the match. Jenas had another solid game, and did play down the right side in the first half, but came off the wing after the break. Zokora made a few good runs, and had a couple of chances to score. Sadly, I felt that Mido was mostly ineffective, and what was missing was that creative spark and understanding between midfield and attack, with good movement from the front men. It was only when Jermain Defoe replaced Tainio after 69 minutes, that Spurs started to put the visitors under real pressure. Spursí back four was rarely disturbed as Fulham did not seek to get out of their own half until they smelt the chance of a steal in the latter stages.
Having said that, Spurs were thankful to an early defensive saving tackle by Zokora, tracking the ball across his area, but then when Zokora got no change from referee Mark Clattenburg, after being felled outside the Fulham area, the visitors broke and Collins John hit a low drive which Robinson held safely. Zokora seemed to struggle to get decisions off the referee for a lot of the game. After 13 minutes, a Murphy corner was headed back across the area from beyond the far post, and Robbie Keaneís effort was blocked. Spurs were putting a little pressure on at this stage, and Murphy was delivering corners to the right areas, but they bore no fruit. Jenas won the ball well in the middle after 20 minutes, but then had to pass to Keane under pressure. Keane was again well blocked by the Fulham defence. A good move down the right from Jenas and Chimbonda led to a good ball into Mido, who just wanted too much time on the ball, which did run to Keane. The best Robbie could do was win another corner.
Around the half-hour mark there were two good chances for Spurs, as Tainio received the ball from the right and hit a left footed shot wide, before Ledley King met a Jenas corner at the near post, but also prodded wide. Five minutes before the break, Jenasís deep cross was collected by Ekotto, who shimmied to the right and saw a decent shot also turned round for a corner. One felt that the goal was going to come. Soon after the interval, Ledley King led the Spurs charge and carried the ball almost to the bye-line on the left. His cross was missed by Mido, who saw yellow for apparently trying to punch the ball past Niemi.
Chimbonda hit a ball over the defence, collected by Keane, whose chip back into the area was missed by both Jenas and Mido, who just could not get high enough to head home. After 57 minutes, Keane put Mido away, and Midoís cross/shot from near the bye-line hit the post and rebounded into play. Brown fouled the advancing Zokora, and Jenas touched the kick to Ekotto whose left foot shot was fired over the bar. Zokora was on the end of another good move, when Keane threaded the ball to him down the right channel, but the Ivory Coast ace hit his shot over the target.
Almost as soon as Defoe replaced Tainio, he was brought down by Volz. The kick was touched to him by Murphy, but Jermain hit his shot woefully wide, nearly hitting the corner flag! Keane won and took a 76th minute corner and Chimbondaís header was cleared off the line by Helguson, with Boa Morte in close attendance. Boa Morte then decided he was injured and took an age to get off the pitch. By this time, Fulham sensed they were good for a point and started to fill the time as best they could. Boa Morteís replacement Radzinski actually showed more adventure than his skipper and was instrumental in Fulham having two or three half chances towards the end, including Volzís late shot. Despite four minutes of added time, Spurs could not get the winner they so needed, and Zokoraís floated free kick was just too high for Ledley.
A review of this report will clearly indicate that, in fact, Spurs did forge sufficient chances to have won this game. With a trip to Anfield next Saturday, followed by the game against current table-leaders Portsmouth, Spursí league season begins to take on a worrying shape. It will be a long time (if at all) before they match the levels attained last season, and in the short term, they need to drag themselves clear of the bottom zone of the table.
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