OPPONENTS Fulham at Wembley
COMPETITION Premier League 
DATE Saturday 18th August 2018    Kick off 15.00
PREVIEW As Tottenham return to Wembley for the start of another season, we find ourselves pitched against West London opposition for our opening game at the national stadium for the second season running.  Last time it was Chelsea, whose win started the vicious rumour of a Wembley hoodoo over Spurs which failed to ring true over the course of the season and this time, Fulham return to the scene of their play-off victory in May.

We had a good season at Wembley after the initial settling in, so it will be familiar territory for the team, while Fulham face their second London derby in two games at the beginning of their first campaign back in the top flight.  The step up has come with the associated signing of lots of players to strengthen and deepen the squad, so there may be an issue over the newcomers gelling into a cohesive unit, but they may have to learn quickly, having played an open, attacking style in the Championship which may not be conducive to survival in the Premier League.  They may have changed their style after having been beaten by Crystal Palace last week, which might make it more difficult for Spurs to break them down.

We weren't at our best last week with players missing and some of those who played looking rusty, but they were able to play a good enough game to take the three points, despite Newcastle missing some good chances.  It will be a different team this week and if Pochettino plays three at the back, then our wing backs need to give Fulham problems in wide positions to deter their own attacking widemen.

The focus of the game will probably be on two player - one from each side.  On the Tottenham side, Harry Kane will be looking to break the "hoodoo" of not scoring in over 900 minutes of August football in the Premier League.  He didn't look at his sharpest at Newcastle and this prompted stories of him not being fully fit, which have followed him from the summer's World Cup.  Last time out against Fulham, he got an FA Cup hat-trick at Craven Cottage and players do have a knack of scoring heavily against particular teams, so hopefully, he can visualise that match and take it into this meeting with the Cottagers.  For Fulham, all eyes will be on Ryan Sessignon, who could quite easily have been playing in a white shirt this afternoon had his club not have been promoted.  A wing back in the shape and style of Gareth Bale, it is almost eerie the way his movement with the ball resembles our former Welsh left footer.  Spurs must be aware of not only his ability on the ball, but his movement off it, with his pace making the visitor's counter-attacking a potent weapon.

But Sessignon is not the only one that Spurs need to be aware of, as completing the permanent signing of Aleksandar Mitrovic from Newcastle, after scoring lots in the Championship last season, is a decent buy.  He has caused us problems when he was with the Magpies and is a strong, physical centre-forward, but is quick footed in the box and good in the air.  He can also be a little hot-headed, as when he got sent off in the final game of the 2016-17 season against us.  Jean-Michael Seri was a midfielder linked with a lot of top clubs when with Nice, but Fulham secured his services this summer and it will be interesting to see what he brings to the Premier League, as his creativity and work ethic was what made him an appealing signing.

The West Londoners have also signed a couple of Spanish keepers, defenders Gooners Calum Chambers and Man U's Timothy Fosu-Mensah on loan, left back Joe Bryan from Bristol City on a permanent deal, along with Nice defender Maxime Le Marchand and Marseille midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and a loan for Atletico Madrid striker Luciano Vietto.  They also brought in Swansea City central defender Alfie Mawson, who is injured for this match and former Chelsea wide midfielder Andre Schurrle from Borussia Dortmund on a  two year loan deal.  Mawson is a rugged defender, who might need a little more polishing up, while Schurrle was let go by Chelsea a little too early possibly, as he always looked a very good player and I am keen to see what he is like now.

Of the players that came up from the Championship, midfielder Tom Cairney is a driving force being a good passer of the ball and a player who likes to get on the score-sheet.  His movement and ability to bring the ball forward is key to Fulham's attacking intent.  Some of the other players they used to get them promoted might well find the football a little more testing now, but the manager proved when with Watford that he can organise a side to be competitive.

The game will go one of two ways I think.  Either Fulham will target games for points against the bottom half sides, while making themselves difficult to beat and hoping to nick something from the top ten or, they will still be in transition and will be open in their play, which might allow Tottenham to pick them off.  With a settled side, Spurs might be able to benefit from an established pattern of play and the return to Wembley and familiar surroundings might suit them well.  I reckon Fulham will settle for a point if they can get it, so it might be an attritional game, which I think Spurs will just come out on top of.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    1         Fulham    0
Premier League Saturday 18th August 2018
Tottenham Hotspur  3 (1)                                                                        Fulham  1 (0)
Moura  42m 45s
Trippier  73m 41s
Kane  76m 55s
Mitrovic  51m 44s
Crowd :   58,297 Weather :  Warm, overcast, sunny
Referee :  Anthony Taylor (Manchester) Assistant Referees :  Gary Beswick; Adam Nunn
Fourth Official :  Simon Hooper  
Tottenham kicked off and played towards the East Stand in the first half.
Game time : -  90 + 5 minutes.




Tottenham Hotspur : kit Fulham : kit
  1  Hugo LLORIS  (c)

  6  Davinson SANCHEZ  (19  Mousa DEMBELE  63)

15  Eric DIER  (11  Erik LAMELA  73)

27  Lucas MOURA 
20  DELE Alli
Christian ERIKSEN
  2  Kieran TRIPPIER 

10  Harry KANE    (29  Harry WINKS  89)

Unused subs: 
13  Michel VORM

24  Serge AURIER
  3  Danny ROSE
7  Moussa SISSOKO

  31  FABRI

21  Timothy FOSU-MENSAH
20  Maxime Le MARCHAND
23  Joe BRYAN  (22  Cyrus CHRISTIE  85)

10  Tom CAIRNEY (c)  (  8  Stefan JOHANSEN  73)
29  Andre-Frank Zambo ANGUISSA
24  Jean-Michael SERI

  9  Alksandar MITROVIC 
47  Aboubakar KAMARA  (
14  Andre SCHURRLE  88)

Unused subs: 
Sergio RICO
  6  Kevin McDONALD
  7  Neeskens KEBANO
Luciano VIETTO

Manager :  Mauricio Pochettino Manager :  Slavisa Jokanovic
Sponsor :   AIA Shirt sponsor :  dafabet
Kit Supplier :  Nike Kit Supplier :   adidas
Match report

Tottenham still struggled to find their usual efficient attacking play at the start of this London derby against Fulham, but by the end were starting to click as they ran out 3-1 winners over their West London opponents.  And with three fine goals, a lot of things were looking a lot rosier than when the Cottagers had equalised six minutes into the second half.

After a minutes applause for the sad passing of Alan Gilzean, Spurs kicked off and were at Fulham straight away.  The visitors spent an anxious first half, looking tentative in their system with a number of new signings looking unused to their new team-mates.  Ben Davies had a first minute shot go wide and Christian Eriksen almost released Kane through the middle with a long pass, but if it had been a yard to the right he would have been away.  Unfortunately, the ball hit him on the back !  It didn't look like it was going to be Kane's day early on ... or Lucas Moura's come to that.  Davies' fizzing cross from the left came to Lucas in the middle of the goal and he got his head to it, but directed it wide to the right of a gaping goal in front of him.  Then, when a weak square pass from the Fulham right 25 yards out was played straight to the Brazilian, his first touch was far too heavy, taking the ball into the box and his determination to win it saw him clatter into Fabri as he came out to get the ball.  It ran into the middle of the penalty area, where Kane clipped it over a defender into an empty net, but Anthony Taylor had already blown for a foul on the keeper.  Not a good couple of minutes for the former PSG man.

Spurs were finding Kieran Trippier unerringly on the right win, with Bryan affording him plenty of space, but unlike his England performances in the summer, he wasn't able to find a white Spurs as he could one of his country's in the World Cup.  The main supply to Trippier was coming from long diagonal balls from the returning Toby Alderweireld, who got a good reception despite his on-going transfer situation.  Toby was solid and his reading of the game and his positioning make up for his lack of blistering pace.

There was a shout for a penalty, as Kane went down under challenge from Fosu-Mensah, but Harry got up as play continued and when Dele fed him, he got a shot away, but it went wide.  Tottenham' failure to find a Spurs head from set-pieces continued, with both Trippier and Eriksen failing to do what they consistently did in Russia from corners.  Fulham were starting to put a few passes together after about 20 minutes and Sessignon got in on their right, looking to sneak a shot in at the near post, but it was blocked for a corner. Nothing resulted from it and Spurs were soon on the attack again, with Eriksen hitting a shot from the edge of the box wide of the mark.  Hugo had already dived full length to his right to palm away a shot along the ground from Tom Cairney's 25 yard side-footed effort and after Toby had shot wide and Eriksen a free-kick one saved and spilled, a dinked ball over the defence put Sessignon free in the box on the right hand side, but Lloris was out like lightning to dive at his feet and stop his shot 15 yards out from goal. 

There was a frantic end to the first half, with Spurs keeping the ball in Fulham's defensive third.  As the ball pinged around the penalty area, Ben Davies hit a shot that was blocked, with the ball running across the box to Trippier, who was also denied by a block before Christian Eriksen swept the loose ball at goal, but his shot went over the bar.  Another series of passes released Trips on the right and he played an astute pass into the right hand side of the box tight to the line for Eriksen.  His low pass across the box was aiming for Dier at the near post, but on-loan Gooner Calum Chambers got there first although he could only poke it to the edge of the box.  Lucas Moura ran onto the loose ball and from right on the 18 yard line, just a couple of yards to right of centre, he curled a delightful left footed shot that hit the net off the keeper's right hand post with the goalie completely unable to stop it despite a full length dive.  It was a stunning goal from a player who had looked sharp in pre-season and atoned for his earlier misses.

Fulham tried to get back into the game before the half-time whistle, winning a free-kick and a corner, but before they could take the latter, Taylor blew for half-time and the teams trooped off before Mido came out for an interview that was completely incomprehensible over the PA.  I hope that the sound system at the new Lane (when it's finished) will be better than that at the National stadium.  Much discussion at half-time revolved around Moura's goal, which looks an early contender for Goal of the Month.

However, the game still had 45 minutes to play and within a couple of minutes of the restart, Kamara and Mitrovic linked up around the D for the Serbian to hit a shot between Vertonghen's legs and saw it rebound off the bottom of Lloris' right hand post and out, where Cairney got a shot to the rebound, but missed to the right.  Fosu-Mensah shot wide before Dele had a shot saved at the other end, with Fabri punching clear after a drilled shot when the ball dropped for him from Trippier's free-kick as the game became more open.  A bit too open for Spurs, as Bryan got away down the Fulham left and put a low ball across goal.  It travelled to the far post and Ryan Sessignon was free, but couldn't get his shot on goal, but pulled it across to find Mitrovic laying on the floor, from where he headed the ball up and over Hugo's recovering dive to level the scores with six minutes of the second half gone.   It was a scruffy goal, but it had been coming as Fulham were putting some passes together.

It led to a spell of possession for the Cottagers, winning some set-pieces, but they could not fashion a decent effort on goal and to rectify the balance of play, Mauricio Pochettino took off Davinson Sanchez, dropping Eric Dier back into the back three and bringing on Mousa Demeble to firm things up in midfield.  This half, it was Davies who was the target of Tottenham's passes into wide positions.  Vertonghen benefited from the Welshman's pass to hit a shot that was blocked and when it ran to Dele, he suffered the same fate.  A one-two between Mitorvic and Sessignon saw the striker with a clear shot at goal, but he swung at it with his left foot and skewed the ball well wide to his left from a position just left of centre 15 yards out. 

Fulham were blocking more efforts, with Eriksen denied this time, but in the 71st minute, it looked like Harry Kane might finally break his August duck when a wicked curling ball into the six yard box behind the defence from Dier on the right picked out the Spurs striker.  Kane let it with a volley as he has done many time, but while the ball beat Fabri, it didn't find the net, but left the crossbar shuddering as the ball bounced back out into play.  Spurs were pushing onto the Fulham defence and Dele tried to release Kane, but was hit late by Zambo Anguiisa and Taylor pointed for a free-kick 30 yards out from goal.  Pochettino took the opportunity to bring on Lamela for Dier and Fulham swapped Cairney for Johansen.  Pochettino's change had the immediate effect of giving Tottenham the lead, as Trippier stepped up and took the free-kick responsibility from Eriksen and fired a shot to the keeper's right which curled away from him into the goal to make the score 2-1.  It was a really well struck ball and reminiscent of his free-kick in the World Cup semi-final, so maybe he will be on free-kick duty from now on !!

Three minutes later and with 77 minutes gone, Spurs were 3-1 ahead.  Tottenham played the ball out from the back, with Vertonghen playing in front of Erik Lamela, who ran from the the edge of the centre circle inside his own half, holding off challenges as he went and while it looked like he had hung onto the ball too long, he released it when five yards outside the box to his left,  where Kane was inside the penalty area.  Faced with Chambers, who I had forgotten was playing, he cut inside onto his right foot and placed an exquisitely placed shot just out of Fabri's reach when he dived to ground to his left and inside the post to record the record breaking goal.  In his 15th match in August, he notched his first Premier League goal, so people will now have to try and find another stat to try and undermine him, but they won't be able to.  His hunger for goals and his ability to make openings to get shots away is undiminished and it was a classy finish.

Having said that he could easily have added a fourth when Davies pulled a low ball back.  Kane was on his own just ahead of the penalty spot, but his left foot shot was scuffed straight at the keeper, who couldn't hold the shot (even though it wasn't too hard), as he had failed to do all afternoon.  Fulham have spent 5 million on him and another keeper - Sergio Rico - has come in on loan from Sevilla, so they will have to assess who is going to be best for them in the PL, as Spurs could have scored more if they had followed in on shots, as he let most of them go in front of goal.  Lamela had a shot saved by Fabri low down to his right before Kane's effort, Ben ran onto a loose ball on the edge of the box and hit it hard, but too high and just wide and both players had shots on goal before the end, by which time, Fulham were pleased it was all over.

For them, there were some encouraging signs, with Mitrovic showing he can score from odd situations, Sessignon looked lively, but wasn't involved enough as he had defensive duties to attend to and Seri displayed an eye for a pass, but again was only fleetingly involved.  On the minus side, their defence looks a shambles.  Bryan allowed Trippier too much space in the first half and then Fosu-Mensah Davies in the second.  In fact, the Manchester United loanee was all over the place and found it difficult to complete passes, failing to find a red shirt.  Chambers was anonymous and when he was called on to do something, he usually didn't do it.  Le Marchand, a new signing from Marseille also didn't put in a performance that sticks in the memory.   Kamara looked a big old unit, who lacked control and cohesion, while Anguissa - a record signing - looked out of sorts, but these players have only just joined the club on the last day of the transfer window, so they may need time to settle.

Fulham looked to have set up for a point and to hit on the break and apart from a spell at the start of the second half, what they got was a bit of a chasing, although we weren't at our best.  It could easily have been a cricket score, but Spurs spurned chances and got away with it today, but as Pochettino said after the game, they need to be more clinical.  The manager's changes both changed the way Spurs shaped up and made it difficult for the opposition to deal with.  As both Lamela and Dembele now look trim and fit, they are a threat - Mousa with his ability to hang onto the ball and use it well and Erik's strong running with the ball and creativity - that will trouble other teams.

A satisfactory result and sitting second after the days games, is not a bad start.  Seeing as how Spurs usually start slowly, this might help us later in the season.

Pete Stachio

Match facts

This was Fulham's 1,000th match in the top flight.

Harry Kane scored in a Premier League match in August for the first time, after 15 games (1067 minutes and 49 shots).

Lucas Moura scored his first Premier League goal.

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What you thought
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Other scores during this week :
Cardiff City 0 Newcastle United 0 Saturday
Chelsea 3 Arsenal 2 Saturday
Everton 2 Southampton 1 Saturday
Leicester City 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Saturday
West Ham United London 1 Bournemouth 2 Saturday
Brighton & Hove Albion 3 Manchester United 2 Sunday
Burnley 1 Watford 3 Sunday
Manchester City 6 Huddersfield Town 1 Sunday
Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2 Monday




League Table  2018-19
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester City 2 2 0 0 8 1 6 +7
2 Liverpool 2 2 0 0 6 0 6 +6
3 Chelsea 2 2 0 0 6 2 6 +4
4 Watford 2 2 0 0 5 1 6 +4
5 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2 2 0 0 5 2 6 +3
6 Bournemouth 2 2 0 0 4 1 6 +3
7 Everton 2 1 1 0 4 3 4 +1
8 Leicester City 2 1 0 0 3 2 3 +1
9 Manchester United 2 1 0 1 4 4 3 0
10 Crystal Palace 2 1 0 1 2 2 3 0
11 Brighton & Hove Albion 2 1 0 1 3 4 3 -1
12 Southampton 2 0 1 1 1 2 1 -1
13 Newcastle United 2 0 1 1 1 2 1 -1
14 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 0 1 1 2 4 1 -2
15 Burnley 2 0 1 1 1 3 1 -2
16 Cardiff City 2 0 1 1 0 2 1 -2
17 Arsenal 2 0 0 2 2 5 0 -3
18 Fulham 2 0 0 2 1 5 0 -4
19 West Ham United London 2 0 0 2 1 6 0 -5
20 Huddersfield Town 2 0 0 2 1 9 0 -8


Position before match :  8th
Position after match :  2nd
Position after the weekend :  5th


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