BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 1ST JANUARY, 2011
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 1 (1) FULHAM 0 (0)
Referee:- Mr. M. Jones
Assistants:- Mr. W. Smallwood & Mr. G. Turner
Fourth Official:- Mr. M. Russell
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Gomes; Hutton (sub Corluka, 27), Gallas, Dawson (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon, Palacios, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Jenas, 83); Pavlyuchenko (sub Crouch, 66)
Subs not used:- Pletikosa; Bassong; Kranjcar, Sandro
Booked:- Dawson, Ekotto
Fulham (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Baird; Duff (sub Gera, 82), Murphy (Capt.), Etuhu, Davies; Johnson, Dempsey
Subs not used:- Stockdale; Salcido, Halliche; Dikgacoi, Greening; Kamara
The year ending in “One” begins with “Won”
Spurs started the new year as they finished the old, with a win, and with a goal by Gareth Bale. They continued their unbeaten run, which now includes three consecutive wins and six league wins in 9 games. They have also achieved two league “Doubles” at the first opportunity with this win and the Boxing Day win at Aston Villa. What they did differently was finish with 11 men on the pitch, and they played less convincingly than in the previous two wins. However, they are one of the top form sides over the last 9 games, and once again have slipped above Chelsea overnight, hoping for Villa to take something from their game at Stamford Bridge today. We couldn’t ask for a lot more, could we?
Harry Redknapp made one team change, with William Gallas returning in place of the suspended Kaboul. Michael Dawson gave up his usual right side of centre berth for Gallas but retained the captaincy. Perhaps one of Spurs problems was the lack of change in the team over these three games in quick succession, as they looked a bit tired as the game wore on in certain departments. Van der Vaart for example was not quite up to the level we usually witness, although Luka Modric again excelled in his midfield role.
To their credit, Fulham came and played 4-4-2, without over-committing themselves, but doing a good disciplined job on Spurs, defending well and closing us down everywhere. They hoped for some return after their good away performance at Stoke, and if it had not been for Dawson’s goal-line clearance in the second half, they might well have shared the spoils here.
The game rarely excited though, and notable actions came in spasms. Modric was fouled just outside the area after three minutes, and Van der Vaart’s free kick was blocked. At the other end, Ekotto saved the bacon of the Spurs central defenders, as Etuhu got onto a long ball that beat all but Ekotto who made ground towards the middle to clear. Fulham’s Pantsil got the first yellow card of the game for stopping Bale in his tracks on a typical burst.
Dempsey made a bit of space for himself and got in a right footed shot that had Gomes diving to his left. The ball passed outside the post. Hutton took an early knock and had to be replaced by Corluka, making a rare appearance these days, and seeking to take full advantage of the opportunity. After Wilson Palacios broke up Duff’s forward run, he led a Spurs attack with Modric feeding Lennon, whose shot was blocked in the middle of the area. Then, after a Spurs throw, Ekotto had a go from a central position, hitting a low shot which Schwarzer was happy to parry and to see cleared. Spurs failed to make the best use of Dawson’s great ball to Bale who had Pantsil beaten on this occasion. Pavlyuchenko had a decent left footed shot soon after though, which Schwarzer saved.
Spurs took the lead in the 42nd minute after Gallas made a determined run forward which was brought to an abrupt and unfair end. Van der Vaart lofted in the free kick, and it was Bale who rose to get a headed touch that beat the Fulham keeper. How deliberate the kick and the header were, I do not know, but it was a goal, and it counted, right! Bale had a shot on target a minute later, but Schwarzer was the winner this time. Spurs had a half-time lead that was deserved.
Fulham put Spurs under a little pressure at times in the second half in front of their own fans, who had failed to take their full allocation, despite the short trip across the capital. After Gomes held a Fulham cross from the left, he sent Spurs away on the attack, but Van der Vaart’s attacking ball was cleared. Duff and Dempsey had shots on the Spurs goal from distance, but neither bothered Gomes. Andy Johnson had been lively all day for Fulham, and he came closest to scoring after 62 minutes , when Gomes could only parry his shot, and Dawson was on hand to make the goal-line clearance. Dempsey was lurking closely. More Fulham pressure followed, but Spurs cleared their lines with confidence.
Pavlyuchenko was replaced by Crouch who must have conveyed a gee-up message from the manager, as Spurs got stronger in the final stages. After 75 minutes, to paraphrase a famous Barry Davies commentary, Spurs used Lennon by not using him with Corluka and Palacios inter-changing before Corluka crossed and Bale hit a right footed shot wide. Two minutes later, Crouch bundled down Van der Vaart’s corner and Dawson hit a right foot shot over the bar from 10 yards out.
Spurs broke out after more Fulham pressure and Lennon raced towards the goal, with options either side of him for a pass. He chose to shoot and the ball went wide, whilst Spurs claimed a corner without success on this occasion. Crouch and Jenas had late efforts on goal in the late stages of the game, but Spurs were not sorry to hear the final whistle which heralded great celebratory cheers for a great start to 2011.
Spurs have a few days to recover now before a tough challenge at Goodison Park on Wednesday night, but they can be buoyed by the knowledge that Tim Cahill will be absent at the Asia Cup, playing for Australia.
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