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Fulham need a win- D. Telegraph

last updated Monday 25th March 2002, 12:10 PM
Fulham (0) 0 Tottenham (2) 2
Fulham are beginning to contradict the old adage that there are no easy games in the Premiership. Tottenham were no more than mediocre, but that was enough to end their poor run and extend Fulham's misery.
Fulham Manager Jean Tigana
Fulham striker Barry Hayles makes the goal for Fulham
Jean Tigana Stories

This was Fulham's sixth consecutive League defeat, their worst run since April 1986, when they were bottom of the old Second Division.

Fulham, who meet Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals, would be guaranteed UEFA Cup football if they were to play Champions League-bound Arsenal in the final. By then, though, Fulham could be back in the First Division. Europe and relegation would be an ignominious double.

If Fulham play like this against Chelsea, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen will have a field day. Yesterday's defeat leaves them just three points above the relegation zone and, while a speedy return to the Nationwide League seems unlikely, Jean Tigana - not to mention chairman and paymaster Mohamed Fayed - will be relieved to win the three games the manager feels are needed to ensure safety.

Maintaining their place among English football's elite was always Fulham's priority though, given the significant investment last summer, it has turned into a nondescript first Premiership season for the team from Craven Cottage.

Tottenham - no goals scored, 13 conceded and four defeats in their last four matches - were grateful to break their losing streak. "This was a big result for us," said Glenn Hoddle after his 50th game in charge."We had some of the good fortune that has deserted us in recent weeks."

The result was better than the performance. Darren Anderton fully justified his exclusion from the latest England squad, Christian Ziege's passing was uncharacteristically wasteful, while Steffen Iversen and Simon Davies both missed good chances.

It looked easier to score when Iversen was one-on-one with Edwin van der Sar and Hoddle said: "We should have had the game sewn up when Steffen was through."

The two goals Spurs did manage will hardly feature in any best-of videos. In fact their first, by Teddy Sheringham, would probably win the luckiest goal of the month competition.

Ziege's 28th minute free-kick clipped Sylvain Legwinski and hit Sheringham in the face. To the striker's surprise and delight, the ball went past a bemused Van der Sar for the Footballer of the Year's first League goal since Dec 3.
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

Three minutes later Fulham's defensive frailties were highlighted when they failed to deal with Ledley King's long cross-field pass to Sheringham. The ball bounced to Ziege whose shot - which was going wide - was parried by Van der Sar, leaving Gustavo Poyet the simple task of converting the rebound.

Fulham's two best opportunities came in the final quarter. After 71 minutes, Steve Marlet's header struck the inside of an upright before being cleared by Ben Thatcher and, with seven minutes remaining, Louis Saha had a shot well saved by Neil Sullivan.

This was the ninth time Fulham had failed to score in their last 17 League games. Fulham have no natural width and their best player, Steed Malbranque, was well marshalled by Spurs.

"For us the game only started in the second half," said Tigana. "We needed to change our attitude."

Tigana, one of the most stylish midfielders of his generation, wants Fulham to play as he did. "This is football, not rugby and I will never tell my players to kick the opponent," he said.

Worthy sentiments, but Fulham need a bit more bite and a touch of the devil in them, combining style and strength, skill and steel.

Fulham: Van der Sar, Finnan, Goma, Ouaddou, Harley (Brevett 58), Malbranque, Legwinski, Davis, Hayles, Marlet, Saha.

Subs Not Used: Taylor, Melville, Collins, Boa Morte.

Booked: Malbranque(f, 65), Goma(f, 71).

Tottenham: Sullivan, Perry, King, Gardner, Thatcher, Anderton (Davies 75), Sherwood, Poyet, Ziege, Iversen, Sheringham.

Subs Not Used: Keller, Rebrov, Etherington, Thelwell.

Booked: Gardner, Sherwood.

Goals: Sheringham 28, Poyet 32.

Att: 15,885 Ref: P Durkin (Dorset).
Source D. Telegraph by Christopher Davies
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