|DATE||Sunday 17th March 2013|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
With one derby fresh in the memories, another comes along just like
a London bus. And the man who was once accused of parking the
bus for Spurs at Stamford Bridge drives his current team to White
Hart Lane containing another familiar face in Dimitar Berbatov.
One is highly popular with the Spurs fans for where he had taken the club, while the other left under a cloud when he refused to play until he got his move to Manchester United. So, it will be mixed emotions all round and hopefully, the visitors will return West feeling sad after the game.
With not many players out injured, Fulham come with virtually a full strength side and that includes first choice keeper Mark Schwarzer. The tall Aussie has not always had the best of times against Spurs and often spoons one in for us, so there will be the onus on Tottenham to hit the target as often as possible to test the handling of the goalie. Added to that, following in on shots will be an asset, as he may spill some and the likes of Defoe and Bale could profit if they are in and around him.
The Fulham defence is still built on the rock at centre half of Brede Hangeland. Not the player he was when he first came in at Craven Cottage, he is still a formidable obstacle to get around and attempts to play high balls forward will probably end on his head. Alongside him, former Gooner Phillipe Senderos has been paired with the big man and this pairing hasn't kept the goals out, but has stiffened the back four a bit. Aaron Hughes has played in central defence, although often features at right back. With Sascha Riether and Jon-Arne Riise outside them, there is an attacking threat, but Riise doesn't have the legs he did when at Liverpool and may get caught out of position, while Riether doesn't have that problem, but the movement of Tottenham might pull him out of his position.
Ashkan Dejagah and Damien Duff play wide in midfield, with Berbatov and Ruiz up top. Both the forwards are skilful and can score spectacular goals, but their work when they haven't got the ball is questionable and Spurs must make the most of those traits. Duff and Dejagah are both tricky, with Duff now in the veteran stage of his career, while the Iranian likes to cut inside to shoot at goal. Inside them the pairing of Steve Sidwell and Giorgos Karagounis both run their legs off and can score when supporting the attack, but may have other things to occupy them on the day. Other options in midfield include our former player Simon Davies, who is just coming back from a long term injury, on loan Gooner Emmanuel Frimpong and another loanee in Urby Emanuelson, all of whom would add to the solidity of the midfield. In attack, Hugo Rodellega can come on to add a physical presence to the forward line and Mladen Petric is a nippy forward, who can beat a man in tight situations and make a shooting opportunity out of very little.
Jol is likely to go with his favoured 4-4-2 and Spurs might find that more to their liking than the Inter formation they came up against in mid-week. With Spurs having stuttered a bit in in the last week, such a blip was only to be expected at some stage, so it is now up to the manager and players to turn that around and go on a decent run until the end of the season.
Games between London teams are always well contested and with players in the other side who have experience of fiercer derbies than Spurs-Fulham, it will mean a competitive game, with Fulham looking to improve their away record. Despite the return of former a manager and a striker, I think Tottenham will have too much going forward for Fulham to cope with and enough at the back to keep it tight.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 3 Fulham 1|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Younes Kaboul and Sandro - victims of knee surgery - are still both out, but Gareth Bale will be back in the team after serving his European suspension in midweek and Aaron Lennon may also return on the right wing. After being rested in midweek, Michael Dawson and Hugo Lloris are set to come back into the side, while it is hoped Clint Dempsey may be ready to play some part of the match.
FULHAM TEAM NEWS :
Mahamadou Diarra is missing with a knee injury that might rule him out for the rest of the season, but Steve Sidwell has shaken off a knock to take his place in midfield.
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
in these countries on these stations ...
0 (0) Fulham
Sunday 17th March 2013 Kick off 15:00
White Hart Lane
Dempsey (high kicking on Karagounis) 77
Dejagah (foul on Demeble) 16
|Crowd : 36,004||Weather : - Showery throughout|
|Referee : Mike Jones (Cheshire)||Assistant Referees : M. Mullarkey; S. Ledger|
|Fourth Official : Phil Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent)||-|
|Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Fulham :||kit|
Gylfi SIGURDSSON (18
Jermain DEFOE 62)
Bryan RUIZ (28
Urby EMANUELSON 90+1)
|Manager : Andre Villas-Boas||Manager : Martin Jol|
|Sponsor : Aurasma||Shirt sponsor : FXPro|
|Kit Supplier : Under Armour||Kit Supplier : Kappa|
What was an instantly forgettable first half in this match against Fulham, turned into a second half that you would want to forget, as things went from bad to worse and Spurs slipped to a 0-1 defeat. No doubt it was a set-back in the pursuit of a top four finish and not one of the team's finest hours, but the boos that accompanied the whistle at the end of the game were perhaps a little harsh. On paper, Spurs should have won this match, but as we know if it was that easy, Tottenham would have won many more trophies than they have on their honours list.
Lining up in a 3-5-2 formation, the personnel to fit into this team confused the Spurs fans and for the bulk of the first half, it looked as though it would be difficult to tell which team took longest to work out the new Tottenham formation. With three centre-halves (Caulker, Dawson and Vertonghen) at the back and two full backs (Assou-Ekotto and Naughton) in midfield, it was a mash-up that turned into a mess-up. Bale playing up front with Adebayor failed to work, as more often than not, it was the Togo striker who was wide instead of being in the middle.
The first half was notable for at least one thing, but it wasn't a stat to be proud of. As far as I can remember, neither goalkeeper had a save to make. Bale's header from Sigurdsson's corner was headed off the line by Jon Arne Riise in the fifth minute and after that, it was all sweat and toil as Spurs tried to find space through the Fulham massed ranks and failed to do so, as the ball was being moved too slowly and the players weren't moving to make the space to play in. With Tottenham's crossing being poor, it was left to the Fulham defenders to have our best chances, with Senderos and Hangeland slicing clearances just wide of their own goal. Sigurdsson got his foot under a shot and sliced it wide form 18 yards and Parker tried a 25 yarder that dipped, but not enough to get it on target, while Bale blasted too high when Naughton had acrobatically kept a long cross in play.
When the Cottagers did get forward, Berbatov was often isolated on his own and lost possession, or passed the ball off the pitch instead of to his own players. As it was, the only moments of fun to be had were booing Karagounis, who, when any Spurs player went within a five mile radius of him went down quicker than the currency exchange rate in his home country. He was really a cheating play-actor and it is a shame that referees only punish simulation of a dive and not simulation of someone in their death throes. When a player did go down hurt, it was Gareth bale a minute before half-time. It was of his own making, as he tried a tricky turn and stepped on the ball, turning his ankle. This left him playing the rest of the game, but only as a shadow of himself, having but one leg to stand on.
Pat Jennings made a St. Patrick's Day appearance at half-time and Michael Dawson didn't make an appearance for the second half. Clint Dempsey replaced him, as Spurs fell back into their more usual 4-2-3-1 formation. But with Bale injured and Fulham happy to pack their own half as soon as they lost the ball, there was not enough guile in the Spurs team to open them up often enough. This resulted in many fewer effort son goal than we normally have and Bale's skip inside from the right onto his left foot for a shot drew the first save from Schwarzer with 51 minutes gone. It was the worse thing that could have happened, as the keeper quickly distributed the ball out to the right and Dejagah fed Riether on their right, where a challenge was not forthcoming and the full back played a ball across the face of the Spurs goal and Berbatov side-footed it past Lloris to give Fulham the lead. Vertonghen was in the middle, but had Berbatov missed it, there were two other black shirted players who could have converted it, as Spurs were out-numbered in the middle. To his credit, despite the stick he was taking, our former striker did not celebrate his goal and took the congratulations of his team-mates without fuss.
Not have looked like scoring one, to score two now would palpably be beyond Tottenham on the day. It wasn't as though they were not trying, but they were either tired from the Inter Milan game in mid-week or they were unable to work out how to beat the system that Jol had got his players to put into practice. Ten men behind the ball on most occasions, they packed the space between the 18 yard line and centre circle, leaving little space to play in or play through. Fulham cold have extended their lead, but Vertonghen took the sting out of Sidwell's drive and it popped up for Lloris to claim comfortably, while from a corner shortly afterwards, Ruiz flicked it on and Hangeland came in at the far post and headed wide of the left hand post of Lloris' goal, when it looked easier to hit the target.
Spurs had to do something and Defoe was introduced in place of Sigurdsson, with the little striker getting a 12 yard shot away from Caulker's pull back, but it was beaten away by Schwarzer in the 70th minute, while at the other end, Ruiz skidded a couple of corners in low, which caused confusion. Spurs then brought Tom Carroll on and his sharp passing quickened the tempo and he looked for the through ball that might open Fulham up, but slick with the rain on the turf, it often skidded through to the keeper or off for a goal-kick.
As the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, Bale's low ball in from the right found Defoe in front of goal eight yards out and his shot should have rippled the net, but it unluckily found the chest of Schwarzer, who kept it out without knowing too much about it. But by then it was too late. We shouldn't have been waiting until the 90th minute to be forcing saves and creating chances. The slow tempo early on had allowed the Fulham defence to set up for the remainder of the game and that is what they had done well.
The Spurs fans were disgruntled at the end, with the players trooping off with their heads down, looking shattered. Spurs are not Manchester United, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid just yet. We have no right to sweep teams away and this showed that there is still a way to go until that happens, with the side needing to realise that every game is a tough one and not one which will just go their way as they think it should. We have games remaining against sides who will make it tougher for us than Fulham did.
In hindsight (a wonderful superpower), you could say that we played into Fulham's hands by packing our midfield as they did theirs. This made the middle third of the pitch over-crowded and difficult to play through. Long high balls forward were a mistake by Spurs, as they would invariably be won by Hangeland and the team lacked the penetration on the flanks which Lennon and Bale had provided in much of our unbeaten run. But all is not lost yet, as there will be more twists and turns in the race to the end of the season, as teams have points to play for ... or not in come cases. Whatever happens, Spurs have to play their own part in this and win as many games as possible. It won't be easy, but then ... on paper ... that didn't look the case, ever since the fixtures came out.
We just have to ensure that when they come out this summer, it is with the realisation that we will have European games on Tuesday's or Wednesdays, rather than Thursdays.
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|What you thought|
Here are the Spurs stats from the game ....
Shots on target - Not enough
|Other scores during this week :|
|Aston Villa||3||Queens Park Rangers||2||Saturday|
|Stoke City||0||West Bromwich Albion||0||Saturday|
|Chelsea||2||West Ham United||0||Sunday|
|Wigan Athletic||2||Newcastle United||1||Sunday|
|8||West Bromwich Albion||30||13||5||12||40||38||44||+2|
|14||West Ham United||29||9||6||14||32||43||33||-11|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||30||4||11||15||26||48||23||-22|
Position before match :
Position after match : 4th
Position after the weekend : 4th
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