Tottenham recovered from going behind against rejuvenated Fulham with two goals from Vald Chiriches and substitute Lewis Holtby in the last eighteen minutes to take all three points at Craven Cottage.
Fulham 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Scorers: Dejagah Chiriches, Holtby
Team: Lloris. Walker, Chiriches, Dawson, Vertonghen. Sandro (Chadli), Capoue (Holyby), Paulinho. Lamela (Townsend), Defoe, Lennon Subs: (unused) Friedel, Naughton, Sigurdsson, Soldado
Andre Villas-Boas made three changes from the team which drew with United on Sunday. Mousa Dembele was injured so was replaced by Etienne Capoue while Erik Lamela and Jermain Defoe came in for Nacer Chadli and Roberto Soldado respectively. Hugo Lloris played his 50th game for Spurs since joining in the summer of 2012 and Dembele’s absence meant that he missed the opportunity to play against his former club and it was the first time this season that he hadn’t make an appearance for Spurs having been involved in every other game.
In the first half Fulham responded with spirit for their new manager, working hard to press Tottenham and then break quickly to trouble Spurs on a number of occasions. It was Defoe who brought the first save of the game after 4 minutes when he received the ball from Sandro who had intercepted a pass on the half-way line and played a first time ball forward to the England striker. Defoe shot from the edge of the area but the goalkeeper dived low to save.
Fulham had the better of the opening stage and were causing Spurs problems when they attacked in numbers and with pace. Berbatov brought a save from Lloris after 22 minutes. He received a pass with his back to goal but with a delightful touch turned and shot from 8 yards but Lloris dived low to make a great save pushing the ball out for a corner. On the break from the corner, Spurs had a great chance to go ahead. Lennon picked up a loose ball inside his half and played it to Defoe who found Paulinho on the edge of the box. He cut across the area and past two defenders to open up the goal but blasted the ball over with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Spurs had another good chance after half an hour when Paulinho released Defoe who played the ball across the area to Lamela whose shot went just past the post. Lamela switched to the left and cut in towards goal two minutes later and his powerful shot was deflected bringing a good save from the goalkeeper. With Lennon on the right Spurs were much more dangerous in the final fifteen minutes of the half, forcing Fulham back. After 33 minutes he cut in and shot, then Capoue got forward but sliced his shot wide. Fulham troubled Spurs from corners and set pieces but In the last minutes of the half but Walker got to the bye-line and cut the ball back to Paulinho but he put a weak effort wide.
At half-time, Lewis Holtby was introduced in place of Capoue as Spurs started brightly and he had an early shot deflected and claimed by the goalkeeper. A cross from Lennon to Defoe was blocked as the striker shot. Then another cross from Lennon was back-heeled towards goal by Defoe but the block fell to Sandro whose shot went behind.
After a bright ten minutes Fulham came back into the game and when Dawson gave the ball away coming out of defence, Parker played it to Berbatov who found Dejagah on the right. He cut in towards goal and fired across Lloris to give Fulham the lead in the 56th minute. The goal further encouraged Fulham in their efforts as they pulled back everyone when Spurs had the ball but continued to worry Spurs on the break.
As Spurs continued to dominate possession, Fulham allowed them to have the ball as they passed it sideways and back without getting into the home penalty area. On 72 minutes the goalkeeper did well to clear a cross from Walker and put it out for a corner. The poor corner was cleared but fell to Chiriches who hit it first time. The ball kept low, Defoe jumped over it and it went in off the post to bring Spurs back into the game. It was the Romanian’s first goal for Spurs and rather fortuitous but was of vital importance to Tottenham.
After 75 minutes, Defoe should have added a second. Walker played a long ball forward, Defoe had the pace to beat the defender but fired over with the goalkeeper to beat. Four minutes later Berbatov brought another save from Lloris following a quick free-kick, the goalkeeper pushing the ball out for a corner. Then Lloris had to be alert to another effort from Berbatov which he blocked and was cleared.
A minute later Spurs went ahead. Good, determined play on the right by Walker to keep the ball in, he flicked it to Holtby who cut in towards goal and fired a great shot past the goalkeeper after 81 minutes. It was his first Premier League goal. Paulinho thought he had added a third two minutes later when he got his head to a cross but the goalkeeper made a great save to tip the ball over.
Spurs continued to have the majority of possession but Fulham pressed in the final minutes and caused alarm from free-kicks. The substitute Ruiz. with his first touch, brought a save from Lloris after 86 minutes and in added time they saw an effort hit the bar.
Tottenham took the points but they are still a long way from looking settled as a team. It was a game played at a high tempo and went from end to end but Fulham gave their all for the new manager and will consider themselves very unfortunate to take nothing from the game. On the positive side for Spurs, they showed the application and desire to get back into the game after going a goal down and managed to grind out a result even though they didn’t play all that well. At the moment, the three points are most important for Spurs to keep their season alive.