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Match Reports
Fulham v Spurs, 20.01.07


Fulham scorer:-
Montella (pen), 84

Spurs scorer:-
Chimbonda, 88

Attendance: - 23,580

Referee: - Mike Dean

Fulham (4-4-2):- Lastuvka; Rosenior, Christanval, Pearce, Queudrue; Volz (sub Dempsey, 80), Brown (Capt.), Bocanegra, Radzinski (sub Montella, 70); Helguson, McBride

Subs not used: - Warner; Knight; Omozusi

Booked: - Helguson, Brown, Queudrue

Sent off: - (Second Yellow) Helguson

Spurs (4-4-2):- Robinson (Capt.); Chimbonda, Dawson, Gardner, Lee; Ghaly (sub Lennon, 60), Huddlestone, Tainio (sub Zokora, 26), Malbranque; Defoe (sub Keane, 67), Berbatov

Subs not used: - Cerny; Ekotto

Booked: - Malbranque, Dawson

On a very difficult day for football, where the wind howled from the River Thames, next to the ground, quality football was always going to be hard to find today at Craven Cottage. This was very poor fare for the full house, although the home fans will probably feel better for giving their former star, Steed Malbranque plenty of abuse whenever he was on the ball. Malbranque was almost the only shining star in Martin Jol’s armoury today, with an excellent work rate, and more productivity than any other individual colleague, and probably several of his team-mates put together. Spurs did not force Fulham keeper Lastuvka to make a save till the 74th minute.

Martin Jol clearly had set his sights upon next Wednesdays Carling Cup semi-final, leaving Aaron Lennon on the bench, along with Didier Zokora, who had impressed on Wednesday night. It wasn’t long before Zokora was required, as Tainio had to go off after just 26 minutes. Whilst Jermain Defoe started today, he showed his frustration when substituted by Robbie Keane mid-way through the second half, kicking a hoarding or two as he left the pitch. The fact is however that Defoe’s favourite position today was offside, but I can understand his frustration, as he had just won Spurs a promising corner, when he was called off by the Spurs bench.

Former Spur, Michael Brown was not just skipper for the day, but has been appointed Club Captain since the departure of Boa Morte, of whom there was barely a mention in the programme. Still beset by several injury problems, Chris Coleman continued to improvise in the middle, moving Volz to the right side of midfield, as Spurs loanee Wayne Routledge had to miss this game. Bocanegra partnered Brown in the middle, where Huddlestone and company struggled to a) find space to manoeuvre the ball, and b) when given the opportunity, to create anything meaningful. It was one of those days today when too many of Paul Robinson’s kicks went either astray, or straight into opposition areas.

Nine minutes passed before the first threat of the game, and that came from a Radzinski ball from the left, collected by McBride on the nearside, and fired low outside the goal, giving Robinson nothing to do. Spurs then did manage a period of decent passing football, but when they got into threatening areas, Berbatov and Chimbonda failed to make best use of the situation. Following a Spurs corner, Huddlestone did lift a ball into the area, which Gardner headed over the bar by a distance.

Paul Robinson was the busier of the keepers, and soon after Zokora had replaced Tainio, Bocanegra received a deep cross beyond the far post, returning the ball for Helguson, whose close range shot was saved by Robbo, diving to his right. Helguson then got his first booking for a rash challenge upon Malbranque in front of the main stand. Robinson made a save from McBride’s 20 yard shot, then made a great reflex save in added time from another close range effort by McBride.

Helguson’s game was over though after 52 minutes, when he got a second yellow for a foul on Huddlestone in the middle. Spurs fans were baying for Aaron Lennon to be sent on, and they got their wish after an hour. The trouble was that little of the Spurs play went through Lennon, as it was more down the left side, where Lee’s attacking ability is quite inept. Soon after Lennon’s insertion though he was “used by not using him” to quote Barry Davies from an old commentary, as Chimbonda and Defoe fed the ball across to Malbranque, whose shot was deflected for a comer.

It was Malbranque, who, by my reckoning, had that first Spurs effort on target, after 74 minutes, which was easy for Lastuvka to pick up. It looked as if Fulham’s ten men were going to hold out for a draw (which was their sixth consecutive Premiership draw – all against London sides), when suddenly Gardner headed the ball to McBride, whose shot was apparently handled by Michael Dawson. I say apparently, because it was at the other end from my position. The shot was hit with power, and Dawson was on the edge of the area, with Robinson apparently able to cover the shot. There seemed no need for a deliberate handling offence. Dawson got a yellow, but Coleman wanted a red card for what he perceived as a professional infringement.

Fulham substitute Montella, who had scored two goals in Fulham’s Cup win on Wednesday, stepped up, and nonchalantly sent Robinson the wrong way, to give Fulham the lead. Somehow, Spurs managed to take a share of the spoils, with two minutes remaining, collecting Huddlestone’s free kick, in space at the back of the area, and firing low beneath the keeper, who should have made the save. It was Chimbonda’s first goal for Spurs, and one that he thoroughly deserves for his performance over the season.

Spurs may be overtaken tomorrow, when Everton play at Wigan, but will most certainly drop a place or two, when they miss a midweek game in ten days time. Then, in two weeks we host Man Utd, which will be a formidable task Perhaps Martin Jol knows what he is doing, concentrating on the Cup games, but as we all know, there is a long hard road ahead of us, if we want to reach Europe again next season.

· Venting my spleen

· Squad numbers,appearances,bookings & goalscorers
· Read the preview for this game.

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