BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SUNDAY 17TH MARCH, 2013
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0(0) FULHAM 1(0)
Referee:- Mr. M. Jones
Assistants:- Mr. M. Mullarkey & Mr. S. Ledger
Fourth official:- Mr. P. Dowd
Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Lloris; Naughton, Dawson (Capt.) (sub Dempsey, 46), Caulker, Vertonghen; Sigurdsson (sub Defoe, 61), Dembele (sub Carroll, 65), Parker, Assou-Ekotto; Bale; Adebayor
(Armband to Parker)
Subs not used:- Friedel; Walker; Holtby, Livermore
Booked:- Dempsey (foot high)
Fulham (4-1-3-1-1):- Schwarzer; Riether, Senderos, Hangeland (Capt.), Riise; Karagounis(sub Enoh, 77); Dejagah, Sidwell, Duff; Ruiz (sub Emanuleson, 90); Berbatov
Subs not used:- Etheridge; Richardson, Hughes; Petric, Rodallega
Booked:- Dejagah (foul on Dembele)
Keep calm, we are still in fourth place
Those Spurs fans who convinced themselves a couple of weeks ago that the season would implode might be feeling smug tonight, at the end of a week which has seen three consecutive defeats; 8 goals conceded; 3 scored, and only one goal by a striker.
There was a lot of angst around The Lane today, and some of this came even before the game had started as confusion reigned about Andre Villas-Boas's team selection and formation.
I had expected plenty of change at the back, and that included Assou-Ekotto to return to the team, but never did I expect to see him take up the position on the left of midfield, with Vertonghen at left back.
I can understand why AVB wanted extra height at the back, with Fulham having height at set pieces, to be supplemented by the imposing presence of Hangeland, who stands taller than most.
Not to excuse what was a dismal team performance, there are a number of issues and reasons I would highlight that might assist you to figure out just how we lost to Fulham for the first time in over four years (in the league), and for the first time at home in almost ten years.
1. We sorely missed a fit Lennon, who presumably came back too soon on Thursday in the San Siro, when he looked below par anyway.
2. As mentioned in my match preview, Fulham have had a full two weeks without a game, while we have played two Europa League games, and an away game at Liverpool.
3. Despite some re-arranging of the team following Thursday night, Spurs are clearly knackered.
4. In particular, our core midfield (our only midfield?) of Parker and Dembele both played the full 120 minutes on Thursday night. Parker could be seen struggling for breath quite early in the second half.
5. I still maintain that Gareth Bale's best position is on the left of midfield, not beside, or just behind our striker. Even after Spurs' second substitution (Defoe) came on, Bale played on the right wing and not the left.
6. Skipper Michael Dawson's half-time substitution was a bit of a mystery. Perhaps he has been carrying an injury, bearing in mind he was not even on the bench in the San Siro.
7. Playing Assou-Ekotto on the left meant that Sigurdsson moved to the right side, despite the fact that in his recent good games, he has been on the left.
8. Did I mention we were knackered?
In short, the balance of the team did not look right, and there had been too much change, some of it radical, from our last game.
Martin Jol's Fulham, who came to this game with an eye over their shoulder at those involved in the relegation battle, had a good game plan. Berbatov was the lone striker, supported by Ruiz when the opportunity arose. However, for the most part Ruiz was just in front of a three man midfield, with Karagounis protecting the defence.
The bottom line was that the fit looking Fulham team was able to effectively close down Spurs when they went on the attack, but ultimately on the one occasion that arose in the second half, they could counter-attack to our cost.
The first half was a dismal affair, with little action of note. Fulham did not exercise Hugo Lloris, and Spurs hardly managed a shot on goal.
Sigurdsson did feed the ball to Bale, who was right of centre after just one minute, but the returning Spurs talisman fired well over. I'm afraid to say his rest this week has not done him much good, and that on the form he displayed today, Spurs need not worry about the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona pursuing Gareth.
Bale did have our best chance of the half after five minutes from a Sigurdsson corner, when he headed towards the far corner, only to see the ball cleared off the line. Mid-way through the half, Dembele fed Bale, who, in turn gave the ball to Sigurdsson, who tried a shot, but it spun away from goal
An Assou-Ekotto cross was handled, and Sigurdsson's free kick was cleared as far as Parker, who tried a shot, which was also off target.
Bale actually collapsed just before the break, after stepping and slipping on the ball . He carried on,but looked as if he was carrying a knock at times. Sigurdsson had one last chance before the break, but that too passed wide.
Dempsey replaced Dawson, starting on the left initially with Sigurdsson still on the right, and Bale in the middle. Spurs now had less height at the back.
Sidwell had a snap shot go just wide, before Spurs raised the tempo and offered more threat in attack. Sigurdsson fed the ball to Bale, whose shot was held by Schwarzer, before Fulham scored on the break.
Dejagah fed the ball to the advancing right back Riether, who cut the ball back to Berbatov, who scored from close range in front of the Fulham fans. In fairness, Berbatov's celebration was subdued, but that doesn't take the pain away.
Sidwell had another shot which took a wicked deflection and nearly caught Lloris by surprise, but the keeper did well and made the save. Fulham had a corner after 57 minutes, met by Hangeland, hanging in the air at the back post, but thankfully put wide.
Soon after Defoe's insertion, the tiring Dembele was replaced by Tom Carroll, whose accurate passing skill was to the fore. Caulker made a run into the opposition half, and after an exchange with Carroll, passed to Defoe, who shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Bale was now playing on the right, and fed Naughton, who crossed, but Adebayor headed wide.
Time was running out for Spurs, and they suffered some disarray at the back, after a poor header by Caulker, but Spurs did manage to clear their lines after a cross and a headed towards goal.
Naughton displayed skill at the back, then found Bale, who passed inside low for Defoe, whose shot was again well saved by Schwarzer.
Four minutes added time did Spurs no good, and Defoe's shot had been the last chance to salvage something from the game.
Fulham are closer to formal safety from a relegation, which, in truth, has never been a real threat to them this season, whilst Spurs dropped to fourth place, after Chelsea beat West Ham.
If I say "Keep calm, we are still in fourth place, four points above Arsenal", does that help? I thought not.
Spurs need this two weeks to re-group (if that is possible during the International break), get Aaron Lennon fit and start winning football matches again!
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