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Tottenham 0-1 Fulham Prem29 1213 Daily Mail

last updated Tuesday 19th March 2013, 11:54 AM
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Matt Barlow at Daily Mail

Tottenham (0) 0 Fulham (0) 1

How Martin Jol enjoyed this one. Broad grins, solid handshakes and bear hugs erupted on the Fulham bench at the final whistle. Nothing personal, mind you.

It was all about the points for the Fulham manager. The fact Tottenham's annual flirtation with the self-destruct button had received a crafty nudge from a couple of their favourite old boys was merely coincidence.

Jol had drawn up plans to beat Spurs for the first time since he was sacked as their boss and Dimitar Berbatov supplied the key, sweeping in his first goal at White Hart Lane since leaving for Manchester United in September 2008.

Berbatov declined to celebrate, despite a reception best described as mixed from those fans who once adored him, but they can probably recall him 'celebrating' Tottenham goals in the same moody fashion.

It was a third successive defeat for Andre Villas-Boas and his team.This includes a loss at Inter Milan which did not stop progress into the last eight of the Europa League but Chelsea eased past them into third place in the Barclays Premier League and Arsenal have appeared in the wing mirrors again.

As the stadium emptied into Tottenham High Road in the rain there was none of the euphoria which had followed victory in the north London derby two weeks earlier. Instead, Spurs fans were confronting the threat of another near miss in qualification for the Champions League.

'We can't hide from what has happened in the past,' said manager Villas-Boas. 'We have the opportunity to fight it. It has been a difficult month. The most important thing is that we have enough games to get out of this situation.

'Merit to Arsenal for getting back into it. We couldn't get a result at Liverpool and the situation has shifted and now they're in with a chance. After the break we must get back to our business.'

The first half was strangely subdued, devoid of incident. Perhaps Spurs had been badly dented by their 4-1 beating in Italy. The home fans were quiet and, unusually, the team could not rouse them with any adventure until it was too late.

Gareth Bale, as ever, was the big threat but suffered an injury just before the interval, twisting an ankle in an innocent tangle with Giorgos Karagounis.

Bale needed treatment and trod gingerly for a while on the touchline before returning to the fray. By the start of the second half he was moving freely and Villas-Boas had been forced into a different change, with Michael Dawson off, complaining of a tight hamstring.

The Tottenham boss reacted by loosening his tactical grip on Fulham's dangerous right flank. Having originally deployed Benoit Assou-Ekotto on the left to protect Kyle Naughton, he reshuffled and sent on Clint Dempsey.

The game improved greatly but, within seven minutes of the restart, Spurs were behind. The visitors broke down the right and Sascha Riether burst on to a pass from Ashkan Dejagah.

Without a trace of effort Berbatov beat Naughton in the race to reach Riether's low cross and clipped it past Hugo Lloris. He has scored in nine games this season and Fulham have not lost any of them.

'We were talking before the game and he said "You have to trust me",' said Jol. 'I thought he was joking. He's said it twice now. He said it before the Stoke game and he said it again.

'He's a wonderful player. The only thing he wants is a day off if he scores.'

Fulham won the Stoke game in February too, with a Berbatov goal. His lack of industry may irritate but it is likely to be tolerated if he wins games and accrues points in the quest for survival.

'He's a terrific boy if you have a good connection with him,' said Jol. 'It's important to try to get the understanding. He looks like he's sulking and his body language is not great but I spoke about it years ago and it's still the same.

'It's not against his team-mates. He's disappointed in himself sometimes but if you know him he can be a winner. He's very important.'

Steve Sidwell and Brede Hangeland went close to extending the lead before Spurs, improved by the introduction of Jermain Defoe and Tom Carroll, gathered momentum.

Mark Schwarzer denied Defoe twice with exceptional saves, the second at point-blank distance, and also dashed out to smother bravely at Bale's feet.

Emmanuel Adebayor, well policed by Hangeland, headed wide as the Spurs effort fizzled out.

It was a 'collective win', according to Jol, and he was right.

As Schwarzer plucked a high cross out of the sky in the final seconds, Berbatov could be found lurking on the left wing with his hands on his hips.

For Fulham, the pair equally vital. For Spurs, they have caused a little anxiety.

Tottenham: Lloris, Naughton, Caulker, Dawson (Dempsey 46), Vertonghen, Sigurdsson (Defoe 62), Dembele (Carroll 67), Parker, Assou-Ekotto, Adebayor, Bale.
Subs not used: Friedel, Walker, Holtby, Livermore.

Booked: Dempsey.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise, Dejagah, Sidwell, Karagounis (Enoh 77), Duff, Ruiz (Emanuelson 90), Berbatov.
Subs not used: Etheridge, Hughes, Richardson, Petric, Rodallega.

Booked: Dejagah.

Goals: Berbatov 52.

Attendance: 36,004.

Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire).

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