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Fulham v Spurs, 06.11.11

(4 P.M.)

Fulham scorer:-
Kaboul (o.g), 57

Spurs scorers:-
Baird (o.g), 10
Lennon, 45
Defoe, 90 (+5)

Attendance:- 25,698

Referee:- Mr. P. Walton
Assistants:- Mr. D. Bryan & Mr. S. Long
Fourth official:- Mr. M. Oliver

Fulham (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; Grygera (sub Kelly, 46), Baird, Hangeland, Riise; Duff (sub Ruiz, 71), Sidwell, Murphy (Capt.) (sub Etuhu, 76), Dempsey; Zamora, Dembele
(Armband to Hangeland)
Subs not used:- Etheridge; Briggs, Kasami, Frei

No Bookings

Spurs (4-4-1-1):- Friedel; Walker, Kaboul, King (Capt.), Ekotto; Lennon (sub Sandro, 78), Parker, Modric, Bale; Van der Vaart (sub Defoe, 66); Adebayor

Subs not used:- Cudicini; Corluka, Bassong; Livermore, Pienaar

Booked:- Kaboul (Dissent)

How did we do that?

How Spurs won this game 3-1, I don’t really know. I cannot remember seeing a home side play so well and lose by such a scoreline. Okay, so Spurs scored with almost the very last kick of the game to flatter their margin of victory twice over, but Fulham put us under so much pressure in the second half, with two goalmouth scrambles in added time, that I just do not know how they did not get something out of the game. The figures will state though that Spurs did indeed win; they have now achieved their best ever Premier League points tally after the first ten games; they are level on points with Chelsea with a game in hand, and they are currently top of the “London League”!

How Spurs won this game can be answered by the man of the match performance by Brad Friedel, the oldest of the two goalkeepers, by just one year at 40! Then there was some desperate but successful defending by Ledley King and Younes Kaboul, but the main difference really is that we scored from our chances whereas Fulham often squandered theirs. Zamora must have skied two or three attempts alone. It really is goals that count.

The game was preceded by the announcement of and clownish arrival across the pitch of the Fulham chairman, Mohammed Al Fayed, waving his scarf at the home fans. I saw at least three of those fans clapping his arrival! The parade then consisted of the players and of course the Fulham manager, Martin Jol. There was a full-on Jol love-in by the Spurs crowd, which to be honest got a bit embarrassing, and I was proud to be one of those who instigated a rousing rendition of “Harry Redknapp’s Blue and White Army”. A few rows in front of me, there were also a line of fans with the message “Get well Harry” emblazoned upon the back of their shirts in large single letters. Sitting at home watching this on TV might not have done Harry’s heart too much good!

Spurs were able to field the same team as that which beat QPR by the same scoreline last Sunday, so that was eleven changes from the team which had travelled to Russia midweek. Fulham featured 9 starters who had played and won against Wisla Krakow on Thursday, and over the course of the game surely displayed more rhythm than did Spurs. The overall performance of the two sides did make me wonder about the benefit of Spurs’ clear policy to rest their top players in Europa league matches. They might have fresh legs, but are they “in the groove”?

For all their Europa league achievements; their 6-0 win over QPR; and their ability to hold Manchester City (the only Premier league team to do so far this season), Martin Jol’s side are in desperate need of Premier League points, and perhaps it was that factor, rather than the “Ex-Spur” factor that gave them so much impetus in this game. Right from the start, Spurs and Friedel were under pressure, as former Liverpool star John Arne Riise won a corner on the left, which was taken by Murphy. The ball swung in and Sidwell stole in at the near post to head down, fortunately more or less straight at the goalkeeper who made a good reaction save.

Spurs responded with a cross-field move from right to left, ending in Van der Vaart directing the ball from a central position for Ekotto, whose cross led to a corner, which did not lead to the level of threat experienced at the Spurs end. Spurs took an early lead though, and it came through a goal of real quality. Adebayor hit a great ball to the right for Walker to make a marauding run down past Riise and to the bye-line. Walker cut back to Lennon, whose cross/shot was not collected by Schwarzer. The ball ran out to Bale beyond the back post, and he fired in. Baird got the final touch, but Bale is claiming the goal. It was his third in two games, and his fourth league goal of the season.(Subsequently the Premier League's Dubious Goals panel decided this was in fact an own goal)

Fulham took a while to threaten again, but it came when Dembele was in acres of space in front of the Spurs goal. He too fired straight at Friedel, who was happy to concede another corner. Spurs had been strong in defence under growing Fulham pressure, and Scott Parker had had to leave the field once after being caught by a forearm smash delivered by the elbow of Sidwell, as he tried to pass the Spurs player. Spurs had occasional patches of strong possession football too, but only found that killer touch in flashes – when scoring actually! Walker took a Spurs throw deep in his own half, and Adebayor played a neat flick to Lennon, who made a run and hit a shot that was deflected by Riise and held by Schwarzer.

Parker had to leave the field for a second time with his blood injury, before returning to battle. Bale and Lennon had switched flanks, not for the first time, and as half-time approached the two combined down the left flank, with a one-two exchange. Lennon advanced and actually scored across Schwarzer with his left foot for a great goal.

There was considerable added time as Grygera had to be treated for a long time and stretchered off after coming off worse in a challenge upon Bale. Grygera was replaced after the break but another ex-Spurs, Stephen Kelly. Spurs had a bright counter-attack as Van der Vaart, Adebayor and Bale brought the ball forward and Bale had a shot on goal, which fell lamely into the hands of Schwarzer.

Duff had a shot which took a looping deflection for a Fulham corner, from which Hangeland rose to head, but Friedel tipped over the bar. Dempsey was joining the Fulham attack more and more in what was looking more like a 4-3-3 formation. He fed the ball to Zamora, now working more to his right, and another shot took a deflection for another Fulham corner. The Fulham pressure had been mounting, and their efforts were unsurprisingly rewarded with a goal in the 57th minute, but in a freakish fashion, as Ledley rose to meet a Duff corner, but headed the ball into the back of Kaboul for an own goal. Hangeland was in the challenge with Kaboul, but there was no real Fulham celebration.

There was more and more mounting pressure on the Spurs goal though, as Spurs struggled to get the ball out of their half, and to get some controlling possession. The ball just seemed to keep coming back like a boomerang. There was one more chance for Spurs, as an Adebayor shot went straight to the keeper, but most of the action was in the Spurs half, and the pressure became more and more relentless. Friedel was down well to Dembele’s shot, and then Zamora had a shot blocked.

Van der Vaart was replaced by Defoe, but the ball was rarely reaching the Fulham half. Referee Mr Walton awarded Fulham a free kick on the edge of the area for a handball against Kaboul. The ball had been struck at him from short range, and was surely ball to hand. Kaboul got the only booking of the game for throwing the ball away in disgust. Murphy and Zamora stood over the kick, which was touched to Baird, whose shot was well saved by Friedel.

Damien Duff was replaced by Bryan Ruiz, who threaded a nice ball through the middle for Dempsey. Dempsey rounded Friedel’s advance, but Ledley King made a great interception of Dempsey’s shot on goal. Spurs fans had been crying out really for Sandro to enter the fray, but we had to wait till 77 minutes, before he came on for Lennon. Now Bale took on the right side, with Parker and Sandro in the middle and Modric towards the left flank. The pressure remained on the Spurs goal though as Friedel saved another effort by Zamora.

As we entered added time there were two incredible goalmouth scrambles. Zamora, Ruiz and Etuhu were all involved before Friedel made a great save at close range from Dempsey. There was a great appeal from the Fulham fans and one or two Fulham players for handball against Kyle Walker, as the ball fell under his falling body after Friedel’s save and he basically cuddled the ball. The referee gave no penalty. From the corner, Friedel saved Hangeland’s header, and then Luka Modric cleared a follow-up shot off the line.

As the final whistle loomed, Bale was happy to run the ball down to the corner flag and win a throw, but the Spurs bonus came from the throw as Adebayor flicked the ball from the bye-line to Defoe who fired low into the net for that flattering scoreline. Brad Friedel’s goal had been peppered by 23 Fulham attempts, 13 of which had been on target. Spurs had just 6 attempts, but were just more clinical. If we can win games like this, then just what might the rest of the season hold for us?

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