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Fulham teach Spurs a lesson - The Times

last updated Thursday 12th September 2002, 11:23 AM
Fulham (0) 3- 2 (2) Tottenham

Fulham gave Tottenham a harsh lesson last night. Spurs will no doubt now testify, life can be tough at the top. Just as they were preparing to leapfrog Arsenal, their North London rivals, to regain the leadership of the Barclaycard Premiership at Loftus Road last night, the roof caved in on them.
     
  Fulham midfielder Sylvain Legwinski  
  Fulham midfielder Sylvain Legwinski scores the winner against Spurs
 


Had it been Arsenal leading 2-0 against Fulham after 44 minutes, the contest would have been effectively over. They know how to close out a game. But what did Tottenham do? Seduced by an unbeaten run of four matches and their position at the head of the table until Arsenal’s 2-1 win against Manchester City the night before, they suddenly thought that they were a decent team. It was a Hamlet moment: get out the cigar, blow plumes of smoke into the air, sit back and take the three points.

And what happened? Tottenham did not have a clue how to shut up shop and once Junichi Inamoto had reduced the gap in the 68th minute, driving home a low shot after a succession of defensive errors, the writing was on the wall. Writ large, too.

Pretty passing became panicky clearances and Fulham’s spirit was rewarded seven minutes from the end when Mark Halsey, the referee, awarded a penalty for Anthony Gardner’s clumsy challenge on Barry Hayles. At first, Halsey waved play on, but he sought guidance from one of his assistants and the decision was reversed. Correctly.

Steed Malbranque rapped in the penalty kick and, four minutes into time added on for stoppages, Facundo Sava released Sylvain Legwinski to drive in the winner. The Fulham supporters went wild in their temporary home, while the chants of “We are top of the league” from the Tottenham fans faded into the warm evening air.

Perhaps Darren Anderton and Jamie Redknapp, who were injured and absent, might have made a difference in midfield for Tottenham, filling the alarming gaps that had appeared in the second half. There were no excuses, though, for the way in which Tottenham capitulated so meekly. The many doubters who had been waiting for them to fall from their lofty perch got what they wanted. Spectacularly.

Glenn Hoddle dismissed the charge of complacency. “No, it wasn’t that,” the Tottenham manager said. “It was simply lack of defence and ability on the ball. We kept giving the ball away, especially in dangerous positions, and we gave the three goals away as well.

“We were 2-0 up in the first half and you can’t have any excuses after that. The performance was not good enough and I’m scratching my head as to where that second-half display came from. I just didn’t see it coming.” No one did.

Hoddle had started without Robbie Keane, Tottenham’s recent £7 million signing. Keane may have left Leeds United to escape his apparently permanent place on the substitutes’ bench, but it was where he was to start his career with Tottenham. Hoddle preferred to go with the established, if ageing, forward pairing of Les Ferdinand and Teddy Sheringham and stuck with his thirtysomethings throughout.
Match Stats Fulham Spurs
Goal attempts 13 7
On Target 8 4
Fouls 8 11
Corners 9 6
Yellows 0 1
Reds 0 0
source: www.sportinglife.com


Tottenham pumped forward a series of long passes, ostensibly for the headed flicks of Ferdinand and Sheringham. There were no support troops to pick up the pieces, however, and most of their clever touches went unrewarded.

Fulham tried to reply positively but flattered to deceive. Luis Boa Morte created an opening for Legwinski, but his effort was collected comfortably by Kasey Keller, the Tottenham goalkeeper. Another shot by Legwinski deflected off Ben Thatcher and caused Keller a few anxious moments before it drifted harmlessly wide of goal.

Tottenham then powered ahead. First, in the 36th minute, Dean Richards came charging up from defence to plant the crispest of headers past Edwin van der Sar in the Fulham goal from Milenko Acimovic’s corner. Zat Knight, Richards’s supposed marker, was left trailing in his wake.

Then, in the 44th minute, after Fulham had survived several more scares, they found themselves 2-0 adrift. Ferdinand, with his back to goal, provided a clever pass, Matthew Etherington ran through and touched it on and Sheringham did the rest. With the deftest of left-foot shots, he scooped the ball home.

Come the second half, come the collapse. A groggy Chris Perry was led off after being struck in the face by Pierre Womé’s boot — a challange that Christian Damiano, the Fulham assistant manager, said was “dangerous” — and, but for a series of fine saves by Keller, Fulham would have completed the comeback long before they did.

Tottenham’s Hamlet moment is over. If they do not learn to look after leads and to treasure them, they will not lead the league again for a long time.

Fulham:
Van der Sar, Finnan, Knight, Goma, Wome (Collins 81), Davis, Legwinski, Inamoto, Boa Morte (Malbranque 45), Saha (Hayles 21), Sava.
Subs Not Used: Taylor, Melville.
Goals: Inamoto 68, Malbranque 84 pen, Legwinski 90.

Tottenham:
Keller, Bunjevcevic, Perry (Doherty 80), Richards, Gardner, Thatcher, Acimovic (Ziege 73), Etherington (Iversen 84), Davies, Ferdinand, Sheringham.
Subs Not Used: Hirschfeld, Keane.
Booked: Thatcher.
Goals: Richards 36, Sheringham 44.
Att: 16,757
Ref: M Halsey (Lancashire).
Source The Times by Russell Kempson
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