FA BARCLAYCARD PREMIERSHIP
WEDNESDAY 11TH SEPTEMBER, 2002
(at Loftus Road)
FULHAM 3 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 (2)
Malbranque (pen), 84
Referee:- Mark Halsey
Fulham (4-4-2):- Van der Sar (Capt); Finnan, Goma, Knight, Wome (sub Collins, 80); Legwinski, Davies, Inamoto, Boa Morte (sub Malbranque, 46); Sava, Saha (sub Hayles, 20)
Subs not used:- Taylor; Melville
Spurs (4-4-2):- Keller; Perry (sub Doherty, 79), Richards, Gardner, Thatcher; Davies, Bunjevcevic, Acimovic (sub Ziege, 72), Etherington (sub Iversen, 84); Sheringham (Capt), Ferdinand
Subs not used:- Hirschfield; Keane
Booked:- Thatcher (for alleged time wasting over taking a throw-in)
There I was at half time. Not gloating. Not counting my chickens, but quietly thinking that the dream start was continuing for Spurs, that they would return to the top of the table, and also thinking that surely they could not let a two goal lead slip. Sure, Fulham had enjoyed plenty of first half possession, but they had hardly threatened Kasey Keller, and once Spurs had taken a 36th minute lead through Dean Richards header from an Acimovic corner, the visitors had dominated the rest of the half, camping in the away end, rewarded by a Sheringham cracker just before the break.
Ah, I hear you say, but this is Spurs, and anything can happen. Sadly, it did, and Hoddle's side lost all their composure, panicking in the face of the Fulham onslaught led by second half substitute Steed Malbranque, ably assisted by the advancing Finnan, Arsenal reject Inamoto (who scored his first league goal tonight), and Sean Davis, to name but three. The home fans were delighted by a mighty come back started just midway through the second half, and finished in the dying seconds when Legwinski broke through Spurs frail left side to beat goalkeeping hero, Kasey Keller. Keller had made three or four terrific saves to keep Spurs on level terms, with two one on one stops, and one flying save from Malbranque.
Glenn Hoddle's tactics mystified the Spurs fans, many of whom left the ground seething at yet another surrender (Remember Man Utd last year?). Yes, one of his substitutions was forced, as Chris Perry buckled in a crunching challenge with Pierre Wome, but why leave Robbie Keane as the only unused outfield sub? Why replace Etherington with Iversen, who played on the right, and was totally non-effective - just to allow Ziege to play on the left as he had taken up a right wing back position, when Hoddle withdrew Acimovic.
Glenn knows best, I suppose, but we wanted to see Robbie Keane.
Fulham got into the Spurs area enough in the first half, but Inamoto was over-hitting his long balls sent Gerard style towards Sava, and Boa-Morte failed to strike up an understanding with Sava, then also embarrassingly lost the ball too often. His replacement - Malbranque was to be most effective. Spurs had an army of players unavailable for selection, but it was Jamie Redknapp they missed most, as try as he might to get a foot on the ball, Goran Bunjevcevic looked a little too lightweight, and Acimovic was more inclined to link up with Etherington in attack. Spurs played 4-4-2, with Perry on the right and Thatcher on the left. Sadly, their lack of subtlety was to prove all too telling in the end, as Fulham kept bouncing back with the ball from too many aimless hoofs down the field.
Spurs had the first decent chance after 8 minutes, when Etherington passed to Teddy in the middle - he found Les Ferdinand in space on the right, but Les fired his shot across the goal and wide. A bad infield pass from Thatcher gave the ball to Sava, who tried an exchange with Boa-Morte, but he failed to make contact with the returned ball. Saha was forced to leave early, but Barry Hayles became a thorn in the side of the defence. Although Anthony Gardner was to appear quite masterful in the first half, even he struggled as the game wore on.
Spurs intermittently played stylishly, and one build up from the left enabled Teddy and Les Ferdinand to feed Simon Davies on the right. Simon shot from a sharp angle, but the ball was held by Van Der Sar. Kasey Keller had an easy save to make from a Legwinski shot, as Les had lost the ball in the middle to Boa-Morte who led the counter attack for the hosts. After half an hour, Boa-Morte and Hayles gave Legwinski another shooting chance, and Gardner deflected the goal-bound shot for a corner.
Simon Davies had been winning some useful corners through his fighting spirit, and from one of these Dean Richards gave Spurs the lead with a resounding header in the middle of the box from an Acimovic corner that was well-delivered after several previous disappointments. Spurs then dominated and Van Der Sar had a panic, when an Acimovic free kick from the right was flicked on by Sheringham to Gardner who headed downwards. The ball bounced up and over the keeper, but was cleared by a defender. Then came Spurs second goal. Les Ferdinand picked the ball up deep near the bye line, passed inside and back to Matty Etherington, who powered his way into the box, and passed inside to Teddy. Sheringham hit a well driver left foot shot to the keeper's left and into the corner of the net.
After the break, Fulham were restricted to long range efforts by Malbranque and Legwinski. Acimovic even tried a 45 yard lob of the keeper, but it was an easy catch for Van Der Sar, who did have to take a couple of backward steps. After 52 minutes, Spurs had a great move from the back. Teddy was deep in his own half, and found Acimovic who had the choice of Davies on his right or Etherington on his left. Milenko chose Matty, who closed in on goal, but hit his shot across the keeper and off target. Spurs then did have the ball in the net for the third time. Teddy fed Davies on the right. Davies' cross seemed to be to the level Acimovic, who headed home powerfully, and started a joyous celebration, pulling his shirt over his head, only to emerge and find that Halsey had disallowed the goal.
Now Fulham became more and more energetic and relentless in pursuit of some reward. Keller made a great save, flying to his right, when Hayles passed back to Malbranque, whose shot was deflected by Kasey for a corner. Keller then had to hold Inamoto's low drive. After some good defensive work from Gardner, Thatcher sent Etherington away with a speculative downfield ball. Matty's cross could have been headed home by Ferdinand, who chose to try and set up his Captain, only to misjudge the pass.
Keller's next save was an easy hold of a Sava header, but then Hayles was guilty at the back post of heading wide a deep Finnan cross, when he could have scored. Fulham's first goal came after our defence lost its footing on the left, and Hayles teed the ball up for Inamoto, who made no mistake with a shot low to Keller's right. Hayles was now getting the better of Gardner, and the ball broke to Finnan whose powerful shot hit the top of the bar and went for a throw-in.
Ziege was put on for Acimovic, and we reverted the a back three, with Ziege playing an unfamiliar right wing-back role. Perry and Wome had to be replaced (Wome was stretchered), as Perry stretched to clear a ball, and the two crunched together. Mark Halsey had been prepared to ignore the appeals for a penalty when Gardner was the player who ended on the floor, but he accepted the decision of his assistant and gave a penalty (I did not see who he was supposed to have fouled), and Malbranque fried to Kasey's left and scored, although Keller did get a touch on the ball, I believe.
In the closing stages, Keller had to save first from Finnan who had pierced the defence, and then Hayles and Malbranque were through in a 2 against 1 with Gary Doherty. Malbranque's shot was saved excellently. There were at least five minutes of added time, and in the dying seconds, Legwinski broke through our left side defence, and this time Kasey could not prevent the goal that sent the home crowd home in delight, and the Spurs fans in despair.
On a night when Liverpool surrendered another two goal lead (this time to Birmingham), and Man Utd lost at home for the second successive year to Bolton, Spurs have held onto second place despite this first defeat of the season.
Chant of the day
WE WANT KEANE!
WE WANT KEANE!
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