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Tottenham 0-1 Fulham Prem29 1213 The Sun

last updated Tuesday 19th March 2013, 11:55 AM
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Paul Jiggins at SunSport

Tottenham (0) 0 Fulham (0) 1

TRUST the Demon Berba to stick the knife in.

Dimitar Berbatov returned to Tottenham yesterday and plunged a dagger into the heart of their Champions League hopes.

The Fulham striker's razor-sharp winner seven minutes into the second half left a gaping hole in his old club's top-four dream.

It was his first goal at White Hart Lane since he made his £30million switch to Manchester United in September 2008.

Fulham also had keeper Mark Schwarzer - who pulled off an incredible last-minute save from Jermain Defoe - to thank for pulling off what will rightly be seen by many as almost a giantkilling.

Whether Tottenham can recover from this devastating blow remains to be seen. After going 12 games unbeaten in all competitions, they have now lost three in a row for the first time under boss Andre Villas-Boas.

The defeats at Liverpool and Inter Milan were understandable and maybe even half-expected.

This loss was not.

Tottenham were tipped to win and get their season back on track. Their failure to do so could prove costly.

While they once looked set to launch a bid for second place in the Premier League, they now appear to face a fight to the finish in the top four. This defeat and Chelsea's 2-0 win over West Ham saw AVB's men slip from third to fourth.

Even more worrying is that they are only one place and four points above their bitter rivals Arsenal - who have a game in hand.

If the Gunners win that it really will be squeaky bum time in N17.

Spurs boss AVB, the players and fans will not need reminding that it was about this time last year that their bid to finish third started to go nipples north.

Spurs, under Harry Redknapp, eventually salvaged fourth place before being denied a Champions League spot when Chelsea lifted the trophy against all the odds. Missing out on Europe's elite because of Chelsea was bad enough.

But missing out because of Arsenal does not even bear thinking about.

Spurs still have enough quality and winnable fixtures to make sure that does not happen.

But they will have to perform a damn sight better than this if they are to avoid Thursday nights on ITV4 for a second straight season.

For a club that just reached the last eight of the Europa League and started the day third in the Prem, the atmosphere at White Hart Lane was strangely subdued.

It is not often Fulham's away supporters out-sing their hosts.

To be fair, the Spurs players did little to raise the decibel levels inside the stadium, especially in a dreadful first half. Gareth Bale's sixth-minute header, which was cleared off the line by Sascha Riether, was about as good as it got for the home side before the break.

AVB was dealt another blow when Michael Dawson failed to reappear after half-time having strained his hamstring.

That should have told Spurs it was not going to be their day as they had only lost once this season with Dawson in their line-up. Bale tried to up the tempo and saw a shot saved by Schwarzer in the 51st minute.

But a minute later Spurs were stunned as Berbatov struck after an excellent break upfield.

Ashkan Dejagah released Riether on the right and he outstripped the defence for pace before whipping in a low cross which Berba cleverly clipped past keeper Hugo Lloris for his 11th goal of the season.

It was a typical goal and a typical performance by the Bulgarian.

Apart from a few sublime touches and flicks, he had a quiet afternoon before popping up with the decisive goal.

Berba got a warm reception when his name was announced before kick-off - and in return refused to celebrate wildly.

The Cottagers must have known then they would leave the Lane with at least a point as they had avoided defeat in all of the previous eight games where Berbatov scored. The winning margin could have been even greater, though, as Steve Sidwell's deflected shot almost caught out Lloris before Brede Hangeland headed inches wide at the far post after a corner was flicked on.

Villas-Boas sent on Defoe for Gylfi Sigurdsson and the England striker almost made an impact when his 69th-minute snap shot was blocked by Schwarzer.

Dejagah wasted a glorious chance to head in Fulham's second before Schwarzer pulled off an even better save to deny Defoe again in the 89th minute.

Bale surged down the right and crossed for Defoe, whose first-time shot from six yards out produced a fantastic reflex stop from the Australian.


TOTTENHAM: Lloris 6, Naughton 6, Dawson 5 (Dempsey 6), Caulker 6, Assou-Ekotto 6, Vertonghen 6, Parker 6, Sigurdsson 5 (Defoe 6), Bale 7, Adebayor 6, Dembele 6 (Carroll 5).
Subs not used: Friedel, Holtby, Walker, Livermore.

Booked: Dempsey.

FULHAM: Schwarzer 7, Riether 8, Senderos 6, Hangeland 6, Riise 6, Karagounis 6 (Enoh 5), Sidwell 6, Dejagah 7, Duff 5, Berbatov 8, Ruiz 6 (Emanuelson 3).
Subs not used: Etheridge, Petric, Richardson, Hughes, Rodallega.

Booked: Dejagah.

REF: M Jones 8

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