0 users online

Fulham must work harder - The Times

last updated Monday 25th March 2002, 9:49 AM
Fulham (0) 0 Tottenham Hotspur (2) 2

If nothing else — and most Tottenham Hotspur fans would say there is nothing else — Spurs know they have the beating of Fulham. This was their third victory against Jean Tigana’s side this season, and a result that puts Fulham’s sustained FA Barclaycard Premiership status in doubt.

Fulham striker Steve Marlet
Fulham striker Steve Marlet created several chances and was unfortunate to see a header hit the woodwork
Steve Marlet Profile
Steve Marlet Stories
No wonder Tigana does not want to talk about the FA Cup — although there is no evidence that their forthcoming semi-final against Chelsea is a distraction. Fulham are playing exactly as they have all season. It is a measured, sometimes stylish, approach that yields few goals.

Tottenham too have had trouble scoring, conceding 13 and scoring none in their previous four fixtures, but two first-half goals in the space of three minutes from Teddy Sheringham and Gus Poyet wrapped up a much needed morale-boosting victory for Glenn Hoddle’s team.

Tigana’s vow that he does not want his players to ditch the style and slog aggressively for points has not cheered the supporters. Fewer than 16,000 attended this match, by far Fulham’s smallest crowd for a game back in the Premiership.

They looked too good to return straight back to the Nationwide League at the start of the season, but now that seems a plausible scenario. You can tell they are wondering about it at Craven Cottage. An announcement came over the public address system that the box office would be open for the sale of tickets for the home game against West Bromwich Albion. It was a Freudian slip. Fulham entertain West Ham United on Easter Monday.

It is a game that they need to win to stop the pressure becoming unbearable after six consecutive defeats in the league.

Tigana has never experienced six losses on the trot before. He said there were two solutions — “You can sack the manager or the players can change inside.”

There seems little evidence that either will happen. Still, Tottenham fans were casting envious glances at the home supporters. Fulham could still qualify for Europe via the FA Cup.

Tigana has had a simple, uncomplicated run to the semi-final stage — in stark contrast to the finale that the league has in store.

Their home match against Bolton Wanderers might be more tense than any cup final.

Tottenham could, if they chose, see the tail end of European qualification in sight, but it would take a monumental effort after their recent poor run. “It’s been a bit of a sticky wicket for the past couple of weeks,” Hoddle, the Tottenham manager, said.

One minute they have a three-pronged attack on qualification for the Uefa Cup and then, in a blast of inefficiency, they find themsleves with a huge empty feeling.

So they greedily accepted the luck on offer at Craven Cottage. “Our major motivation was to get back to winning. It’s something we’ve got to build on, where it takes us depends on how we build on this win,” Hoddle said.

Spurs took the lead by virtue of a stroke of extreme good fortune. Sheringham, who had not scored a Premiership goal since December 3, managed to produce one courtesy of his chiselled cheekbones. A free kick from Christian Ziege struck the Fulham wall and the ball rebounded into the face of Sheringham. When your team has not managed to score in the previous four fixtures, a striker does not really care how they go in.

There was a small element of luck in Tottenham’s second three minutes later. Ledley King, criticised by his manager in the past week for being at fault for the goal conceded against Charlton Athletic, spread the ball magnificently across the pitch to Steffen Iversen. Ziege then took control and fired a shot at Edwin van der Sar. The Fulham goalkeeper parried well but the ball fell kindly for Poyet.

It should really have been 3-0. A ball over the top from Anthony Gardner fooled the Fulham offside trap, leaving Iversen with a vast amount of space and what must have seemed like three weeks in which to beat the keeper. Iversen panicked and shot too early and without guile.

Match Stats Fulham Spurs
Goal attempts 9 11
On Target 3 4
Blocked shots 3 2
Hit woodwork 1 0
Fouls 16 13
Offsides 1 1
Corners 4 6
Yellows 2 2
Reds 0 0
source: www.sports.com
Fulham breathed a sigh of relief and improved. Steve Marlet revealed why Tigana splashed out £12 million for his services. He created several chances and was unfortunate to see a header hit the woodwork with the ball then cleared off the line by Ben Thatcher. A fierce strike from Louis Saha brought a fine save from Neil Sullivan. “People say to me that we are unlucky. We are not unlucky, we need to work more,” Tigana said.

Even when disaster is looming, albeit far from imminent, Fulham cannot stop themselves from over-elaboration. A lofted ball in the first half from Sean Davis was met by Marlet and Saha tried a balletic twist instead of a good old-fashioned strike.

They are groaning at the Cottage. That kind of flair was overpowering in the First Division. In the relegation battle it is indulgent.

FULHAM (4-2-2-2): E van der Sar 5 — S Finnan 7, A Ouaddou 5, A Goma 5, J Harley 5 (sub: R Brevett, 58min 5) — S Davis 7, S Legwinski 5 — S Malbranque 6, L Saha 6 — B Hayles 6, S Marlet 7. Substitutes not used: M Taylor, A Melville, J Collins, L Boa Morte. Booked: Malbranque(f, 65), Goma(f, 71).

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-3-1-2): N Sullivan 7 — L King 7, C Perry 6, A Gardner 5, B Thatcher 5 — D Anderton 4 (sub: S Davies 76), T Sherwood 7, C Ziege 7 — G Poyet 5 — T Sheringham 5, S Iversen 6. Substitutes not used: K Keller, S Rebrov, M Etherington, A Thelwell. Booked: Gardner, Sherwood.

Referee: P Durkin 6.
Source The Times by Alyson Rudd
Since 1998
"It's been updated!"