Tottenham Hotspur blew a great opportunity to extend their lead over Arsenal and consolidate their third place position in the Premier League in a forgettable match at White Hart Lane.
Spurs started brightly with man of the moment Gareth Bale back in the side and the Welshman immediately looked lively, getting in on the action from the off.
A couple of early corners were awarded to spurs as they pressured Fulham and it was Bale’s header from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s in-swinger that was cleared off the line – the first real chance of the match in the 6th minute.
A quiet spell ensued, as the match became somewhat disjointed, in which neither team seriously threatened for some time, but it was a spell in which Fulham did seem to grow a little in confidence.
In the 24th minute, a free kick from the left hand side was swung in by Sigurdsson and the ball was cleared. It fell to Scott Parker who struck the ball from fully 30 yards – a good effort, but the ball was always rising.
At the 37 minute mark, some good build up play on the left side for Spurs saw Jan Vertonghen essentially though on goal and only the loss of his footing ensured Fulham came away from the attack unscathed.
Bryan Ruiz played the most incisive ball of the game, up to that point, in the 40th minute setting John Arne Riise through on goal, but the Norwegian could only win a corner off Kyle Naughton.
In the 42nd minute, Gareth Bale went down in a heap clutching his achilles, causing great concern in the Spurs camp, though Fulham continued with their attack and Hugo Lloris almost cost his team with a fumble. Spurs managed to clear and Bale received treatment before returning to the pitch, just as Sigurdsson blasted a long-distance effort high and wide.
Three minutes of first half injury time came to an end, bringing a poor and largely uneventful first half to a conclusion with the scores tied at 0-0.
Spurs came out for the second half having made a substitution, with former Fulham man Clint Dempsey being brought on to replace Michael Dawson – indicating a change in approach for the home team.
Good news for Spurs was that Gareth Bale came back out, following his injury scare, and with a change of boots nonetheless.
Two minutes in, it was Fulham with the first effort on goal of the second half, as Steve Sidwell dragged his shot wide from just outside the Spurs penalty box.
Gareth Bale cut inside on 51 minutes to strike a familiar looking left-footed drive towards goal, which was comfortably gathered by Mark Schwarzer.
However, it was Fulham who took the lead a minute later, as Sascha Riether crossed to former Spurs man Dimitar Berbatov who made no mistake from 8 yards out – the Bulgarian’s low-key celebration a sign of respect to his former employers.
57 minutes in, Steve Sidwell struck from 25 yards and a deflection looped the ball worryingly towards goal, but Lloris was alert and equal to it to prevent it from sneaking in.
A minute later, it should have been 2-0 as Ruiz flicked on a Karagounis corner and Hangeland headed wide with the goal gaping.
With 62 minutes on the clock, Spurs brought on Jermain Defoe for Gylfi Sigurdsson as they pushed for an equaliser and on 67 minutes Tom Carroll came on for Moussa Dembele.
In the 70th minute, Schwarzer was given his first real test when Caulker whipped in a low ball from the right and Defoe got on the end of it. The England striker shot straight at the Australian keeper when he should have done better.
Tom Carroll almost created an opening on 73 minutes when he brilliantly weaved past three Fulham midfielders, but his through-ball was just too long for Bale and was gathered by Schwarzer.
A minute later, Spurs had a genuine opening when Naughton crossed from the right. Adebayor rose to meet the ball, but his header was put wide.
Fulham made their first substitution on 77 minutes, with Enoh being brought on for Karagounis.
This was followed by another incredibly quiet spell, as Fulham opted to get as many men behind the ball as possible when Spurs were in possession, making it very difficult for the home team to create any meaningful openings.
Mark Schwarzer made a fantastic save on the 89 minute mark. Kyle Naughton brilliantly won possession in the Spurs half and set his team on a counter-attack. Bale crossed from the right and it was met by Defoe. Schwarzer saved from point-blank range to keep the shot out.
Four minutes of stoppage time were signaled as Fulham brought on Urby Emanuelson to replace Bryan Ruiz.
The match came to a close with Fulham the victors, collecting a surprise 3 points at White Hart Lane as an off-colour Spurs couldn’t pull a goal back.
Referee: Mike Jones.
Attendance: 36, 004.
Lloris; Naughton, Dawson (Dempsey, 46), Caulker, Vertonghen; Sigurdsson (Defoe, 62), Parker, Dembele (Carroll, 67), Assou-Ekotto; Bale, Adebayor.
Schwarzer; Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise; Dejagah, Sidwell, Karagounis (Enoh, 77), Duff; Ruiz (Emanuelson, 92), Berbatov.
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This article was first posted on March 18, 2013