BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 15TH NOVEMBER 2008
FULHAM 2 (1) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1
Referee: - Alan Wiley
Attendance: - 25, 139
Fulham (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Dempsey (sub Gera, 87), Murphy (Capt.), Bullard (sub Andreasen, 90), Davies; Johnson, Zamora
Subs not used: - Zuberbuhler; Baird; Nevland, Gray, Kallio,
Booked: - Zamora (deliberate handball)
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Corluka, Woodgate, King (Capt.), Bale; Bentley, Jenas, Huddlestone (sub Pavlyuchenko, 46), Zokora; Modric (sub Lennon, 46); Bent (sub Campbell, 70)
Subs not used: - Cesar; Hutton, Dawson, Ekotto
Official scapegoat number One!
Down the years, Spurs fans have labelled various players as scapegoats. The name of John Pratt comes to mind, who was hated by many, respected by some, but most importantly by Bill Nicholson, who picked him so often. Recently, the post has been held principally by Jermaine Jenas, but he gave a stirring performance yesterday, unlike so many of his colleagues. Goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes has always been the butt of media pressure and fan pressure, but yesterday at Craven Cottage, he cemented his position by spooning into his own net Simon Davies’ innocuous cross/shot from the left side of midfield. Never mind the fact that Jonathan Woodgate got a glancing header to take Gomes by surprise. Many fans chose not to see that, and those who did state (fairly) that Gomes should still have prevented the goal that ultimately lost Harry Redknapp his first game as Spurs manager.
Never mind the fact also that Gomes went on to make a number of excellent saves that kept an under par Spurs side in the game. Gomes’ problem is that a lot of his good work and sometimes spectacular saves have come in games that Spurs lost, and just kept the margin respectable. Harry Redknapp knows a lot of course about a goal keeper susceptible to gaffes, but in David James, Redknapp managed to inspire the veteran to the point that he justifiably won his England place back – from former Spurs’ keeper Paul Robinson. Redknapp had every opportunity this week, after Gomes had been stretchered off on Wednesday night, to leave Gomes out in favour of Cesar Sanchez, who after all once played for Real Madrid.
However, Harry kept faith in Gomes, but his remaining team selection was also suspicious and brings into question the manager’s faith in certain players. Perhaps Harry’s midweek League Cup side would have made a better fist of things than the 4-4-1-1 formation that brought back Luka Modric behind Darren Bent. The primary problem area though was the un-balanced midfield, where from right to left Bentley, Jenas, Huddlestone and Zokora were the choice of the day. Jenas tended to go forward making it a 4-3-2-1 at times, but this midfield failed to stem the tide from striker Clint Dempsey on the right wing, against whom Gareth Bale had a poor game, and former Spurs Danny Murphy and Simon Davies. The star of the show though was Jimmy Bullard, who tested Gomes to the hilt with a number of free kicks after his error.
Maybe the “too many ex-Spurs players in the opposition team” factor had a lot of effect, as Murphy and Zamora in particular played to a standard we rarely saw when they wore the Lilywhite and Blue. Murphy’s passing was decisive and sharp, and the pace of Zamora and Andy Johnson often tested Ledley King and Jonathan Woodgate. Spurs had better get used to this factor, as there some 26 former Spurs around the Premier League at present! One is in goal for Blackburn, who we face next week!
There was a trend in the early stages for Fulham to attack down the right flank, and their right back Pantsil seemed to make about three foul throws in five – none of which were spotted. Nothing came of this spell though, and Spurs only break was through a Jenas run down the left flank. Johnson got round Woodgate on the left side of the Spurs box after 11 minutes, cutting the ball back for Murphy, whose shot was well blocked by Ledley. Then Gomes made a good diving save from Dempsey’s 25 yarder, leading to a corner. Zamora got a card for a deliberate handball in the Spurs box, but that was the only booking of the afternoon. After a Fulham throw-in on 18 minutes, Zamora headed down for Johnson, who made a poor attempt on goal.
Spurs at last had a shot on goal mid-way through the half, after a good spell of possession. The shot came from Modric, but did not test Schwarzer in the Fulham goal. Indeed, Spurs failed to test him sufficiently. Jenas made that extra bit of effort to win a great tackle in the middle and the ball ran for Modric who teed up Bentley for what should have at least been an on target shot. Bentley’s effort went wide.
Then came the howler. I have to say I am surprised the goal was credited to Simon Davies, who hit a cross cum shot from distance on the left. Before the ball hit the net it hit two Spurs players. Maybe Gomes had the original shot covered, but Woodgate hit a glancing header that clearly surprised his keeper who could only spoon the ball into the net. Had it been a Fulham striker who had the header, the goal would have been credited to him, but Woodgate has escaped the attention of the media and of course those who now hold Gomes as scapegoat number one. I’ll be labelled an apologist, I know, but down the years, the greatest of goal-keepers have made silly mistakes. Gomes is just the latest in that line.
Harry made two changes at half-time and reverted to Wednesday’s 4-4-2, with Pavlyuchenko replacing the ineffective Huddlestone and partnering Bent, whilst Lennon replaced Luka Modric. Lennon excited with his pace down the left, and Pavlyuchenko had a number of good touches and half-chance or two, attracting chants of “Super, super Pav, super Pavlyuchenko” His first chance was a header which was well blocked by a defender, after Zokora had fed Lennon for the cross.
Bullard had the first of a series of free kicks on 53 minutes, which Gomes could only parry, but which was cleared. Zamora got away from the Spurs defence and hit a good shot which Gomes held. There were times when Bale was either left behind by Zamora’s pace, or that of Dempsey, and I recall one occasion when Gareth simply gave up the chase and left it to Ledley to take responsibility. Simon Davies was given too much room by the Spurs defence and picked his spot with a shot from 25 yards, which Gomes held to his right. Fulham fans claimed a handball in the area by Ledley, to no avail, and there was also a claim against Fulham outside the box when Lennon was on the rampage.
Ledley was inspirational in the second half as he got forward more, and he demonstrated good skill in bringing down a Bale cross before hitting a shot 4 feet over the bar. Gomes had to make another good save from a Bullard free kick on 67, tipping the ball over for a corner. The trouble is that three minutes later after another corner, there was some ping pong in the Spurs box, with one shot getting blocked before Jonhson finished off from close range. Gomes could not be held responsible for that one.
Harry had a substitution ready, but there seemed to be a change of plan, when Fraizer Campbell replaced Darren Bent and not Bentley. Gomes made yet another save from Bullard’s free kick – having to dive to his left to retrieve the shot. Campbell worried Schwarzer in front of his goal from a Bentley free kick, but was adjudged offside. The goalkeeper saved anyway. Campbell did get on the mark though, with ten minutes remaining. Spurs broke through Jenas, who passed to Bentley to his left, before the final ball outside the defence to Campbell. Campbell fired across Schwarzer, who did get a touch, but could not stop the goal.
Spurs were given hope, but failed to level the scores, with Gomes having to make save number four from Bullard’s kick. Fulham successfully played out time to secure a top half position, whilst Spurs dropped back into the bottom three, with two important home games against Blackburn and Everton to follow.
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