Friday, 22 October 2010
Fulham 1 -2 Tottenham Hotpsur
I say it quietened the fans, but they seems to have been less atmosphere at the Cottage so far this season, despite a surprising run of sell out crowds (even the upcoming Wigan game is now a full house). Maybe the seats have been taken up by more tourists like me (only not as loud) who have had their interest piqued by last year's Europa League exploits? Perhaps the crowd is still trying to work out the new look Fulham, something which has been particularly hard given Hughes' late appointment followed up by the rash of injuries experienced recently.
It was some of these injuries that saw another new pairing upfront - Kamara and the returning Dembele - who seemed to link up well. When they got the ball that is. The first ten minutes of this game was totally dominated by Spurs. In fact Fulham only started to get a grip of the game after a sliced clearance by Gomes and after that they eventually worked the upper hand in the first half.
Jonathan Greening, another player who was in to cover injuries, was having one of his best games for Fulham, breaking up play in the centre of the field and then pushing the whites forward. On the left wing Dempsey was having one of his odd games where he'd constantly miscontrol any passes that came his way, yet probably saw more of the ball than any other Fulham player in the first half. While many of the fans would like to see Gera given a start, I think Hughes sees a lot of himself in the American and likes the fire that he provides the team.
When Fulham did score, it was all thanks to Dempsey. He cut inside and controlled a high ball and ran across the goal area, taking three defenders with him. As we joked over where the hell he was going he somehow screwed a ball back across the goalmouth which left Kamara more or less with an open goal, and he easily dispatched the ball past Gomes.
As the Hammy End taunted the away fans, I was just remarking how fortunate it was that Fulham had at least made their dominance pay when I looked up to see Van Der Vaart clip the ball over Schwarzer and against the bar. Unfortunately it fell for Pavlychenko who had an even easier task than Kamara to equalise within a minute. Damn.
The second half was a much more even affair, with Tom Huddlestone doing a great job of screening his patched up back line from any Fulham attacks. This was probably down to Harry Redknapp's substitution at half time that introduced Lennon and pushed Modric further inside. Lennon had the effect of pushing the quietly impressive Salcido back into his own half to counter the effect of the winger's pace. Lennon's a strange player. He's got a lot of great attributes but doesn't appear to have much of a footballing brain. When he gets a pass it's a little reminiscent of when a dog gets a ball on the park pitch and runs around with it. Occasionally it becomes a dangerous run, but more usually peters out into nothing.
Considering Bale's previous appearances at the Cottage, he was surprisingly subdued during this game. I had originally put it down to exertions from international week, but he has since scored a hat-trick against the European champions, so maybe he was just well shackled by his old Southampton team-mate Chris Baird. In fact Bale was so frustrated at one point that he threw himself to the ground in a pointless and very disappointing dive. He fared better against Stephen Kelly when Baird was moved to centre midfield and Kelly kept showing him inside for some reason.
The winner, when it came, was contentious and covered in another post. But the biggest disappointment was Fulham didn't respond to it in the same way the Tottenham had responded to going behind. Had Huddlestone's goal been a 'normal' one, perhaps they would have found it easier to regain momentum. But the messiness of both the goal and the officiating could well have robbed them of any momentum and they didn't look like clawing the game back this time. It was a game when both teams had their chances (in fact both Kamara and Baird put free headers from corners disappointingly over the bar) and both keepers made some solid saves, but at the end of the day Spurs got that extra little slice of luck which gave them all three points. They played well and had an even better bench. They should do well this season again and Fulham shouldn't be too downhearted at the first league loss of the season given the circumstances.