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Fulham let Tottenham off

last updated Monday 28th December 2009, 10:18 AM
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John Aizlewood at The Times


Fulham 0 Tottenham 0


To the disappointment of some, Boxing Day fixtures no longer take place against a backdrop of cigars being smoked and whisky being nipped, but the tradition of unpredictable, mildly bizarre festive fare remains alive in theory.

Alas, in practice a strangely stale London derby failed to offer much in the way of cheer, seasonal or otherwise, save for the statistic that Fulham are undefeated in eight encounters and Tottenham have lost just one Premier League game since October.

"A good game for a 0-0," argued Fulham manager Roy Hodgson. "There were many examples of exceptional technique and I'm quite pleased with our showing. Whatever happens at Chelsea on Monday, 2009 has been a magnificent year."

Heurelho Gomes, however, had a lunchtime to savour. At the venue where his career in England reached its butter-fingered nadir 13 months ago, the Brazilian frustrated Fulham's strikers with a display of splendid shot-stopping athleticism.

"He was short of confidence when I came here last season," explained Harry Redknapp. "Now, he's the goalkeeper people had told me he'd been when he played in Holland. I've no problem leaving here with just a point."

Before 10 minutes had passed, Gomes had distinguished himself with expert handling from a truculent Zoltan Gera backheel and with a flying tip over of Danny Murphy's top corner-bound howitzer. And when Gomes was beaten just after the half-hour, Clint Dempsey's free kick rattled his bar and flew to safety.

For the most part, though, lone striker Bobby Zamora, for all his enthusiasm against a former club, lacked support. And while Redknapp might not have just found a usually fit central defensive paring in Sebastien Bassong and Michael Dawson, he may have stumbled upon one which can batten down the hatches. And batten down those hatches they did.

If Fulham briefly suggested they had set sail with guns blazing, Tottenham held their fire, with Jermain Defoe smouldering on the bench. Robbie Keane and Peter Crouch seem less on different wavelengths, more on different planets.

There was the fascination of Crouch facing the Premier League defender he most resembles, the lofty Brede Hangeland, but like mostly nullified like. The game soon settled into the footballing equivalent of pursuit cycling, with neither team prepared to make a break for three points.

The second period was scrappier still, but Fulham looked more likely to score. Gomes distinguished himself three times in five minutes, twice from Zamora headers and from a Dempsey long-ranger.

Eventually, Redknapp had seen enough. Defoe emerged like a man with something to prove, while a finally fully fit Luka Modric - without a start since August - offered the spark Spurs had lacked. After 81 minutes, Mark Schwarzer was finally called into meaningful action, diving to parry Crouch's volley and then, more impressively still, Jermaine Jenas's point-blank follow-up.

That though, was the first and last display of Tottenham's offensive prowess. There was one more opportunity for Fulham to rue their fortune when Dempsey came within a whisker of connecting with Damien Duff's cross at the back post.

Yellow card: Fulham: Pantsil.

Referee: S Bennett Attendance: 25,679

FULHAM: Schwarzer 7, Pantsil 6, Hughes 7, Hangeland 6, Konchesky 6, Duff 7, Murphy 6, Baird 5, Gera 5, Dempsey 5, Zamora 6.

TOTTENHAM: Gomes 8, Corluka 6, Dawson 7, Bassong 7 (King 90+3min), Assou-Ekotto 6, Lennon 5, Palacios 5, Jenas 6, Kranjcar 6 (Modric 71min), Keane 4 (Defoe 71min), Crouch 6

BOXING DAY BLUES
Despite Fulham's fine form over the past two seasons, particularly at Craven Cottage, Boxing Day remains one of their least favourite days in the football calender. The 0-0 draw against Tottenham was only their second point on Boxing Day in six years, the other coming in a draw by the same score at yesterday's opponents last year. Tottenham, on the other hand, have a good record on Boxing Day. The two draws with Fulham have been the only times they have not won in six years
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