BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 26TH DECEMBER, 2009
FULHAM 0 (0) TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 0 (0)
Referee:- Steve Bennett
Assistants:- Mr. M. Yerby & Mr. S. Child
Fourth Official:- Mr. K. Friend
Fulham (4-4-2):- Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Duff, Murphy (Capt.), Baird, Dempsey; Gera, Zamora
Subs not used:- Stockdale; Smalling, Kallio; Etuhu, Greening; Johnson, Nevland
Booked:- Pantsil (foul on Crouch)
Spurs (4-4-2):- Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, Bassong (sub King, 90), Ekotto; Lennon, Jenas, Palacios, Kranjcar (sub Modric, 71); Keane (Capt.) (sub Defoe, 71), Crouch
(Armband to Dawson)
Subs not used:- Alnwick; Bale; Huddlestone; Pavlyuchenko
Gomes the hero, as Spurs earn a point
In the stadium where last year he became figure of fun and abuse, Spurs’ goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes came up with just the kind of performance which had caught the eye when he played for PSV Eindhoven against us in the UEFA Cup. Gomes made three or four top class saves, not least one where he had to make ground and then stretch to save a Zamora header. Spurs fans have been consistently expressing their love for the charismatic Brazilian for well over a year now anyway, but he has been on top form this season, and whilst this was a good team performance, the keeper was the difference between an honourable draw and defeat. Mind you, Mark Schwarzer had to make a heroic double save at the other end for the home side too.
A Boxing Day fixture between these two sides is becoming an annual event, and for the second year in succession, there were no goals for the fans that had come out on a bright and relatively mild Boxing Day by the River Thames. This year’s game was at least more entertaining. Roy Hodgson clearly had a game plan for Tottenham, which might have entailed specific players, as none of his substitutes made it off the bench. Nominally Gera was alongside Zamora up front, but he was falling back to support the midfield, whilst Clint Dempsey regularly assisted Konchesky to double mark Lennon, who as a result was somewhat neutralised. The midfield area was quite packed and tight for most of the game, with Jenas beside Palacios, whilst Tom Huddlestone got a rest – possibly ahead of Monday’s match at home to West Ham. Jermain Defoe was also rested for most of the game, but replaced Robbie Keane at the same time as Luka Modric replaced his compatriot, Niko Kranjcar. Modric became the key which might have helped to break down the opposition, and did look back to his sharpest form.
Damien Duff was a great threat to Spurs down the Fulham right flank, but Ekotto and Bassong handled the threat well, and in fact Ekotto looked in very confident and stylish form, finding time to play the ball before often making an accurate pass. Benoit is going to be sorely missed when he departs for the African Cup of Nations. This Spurs defence has kept three consecutive clean sheets now, and that has not been achieved for over 4 years.
Duff provided a nervous moment for Gomes and his team after only a minute, when Sebastien Bassong only cleared to the feet of Duff, whose shot was saved but rebounded dangerously off the keeper, before being cleared. Kranjcar had a fourth minute free kick held by Schwarzer at the other end. Peter Crouch was in good form, winning and controlling many high balls, before feeding to feet. Spurs’ approach play was good, without an end product. Gomes was well positioned to block a Duff shot with a reaction save, but the ball ran for Pantsil, whose cross was met at the near post by Gera, whose shot was held by the big Spurs keeper. Another Duff cross was met by Gera, but this time hiss shot was deflected over for a corner. After the corner, Gomes made a finger tip save from Murphy, who had been afforded too much time and space on the edge of the area. Baird hit a shot wide from the ensuing corner.
Spurs had survived an early onslaught, and now began to get more of a footing in the game. Peter Crouch hit the net with a smashing right footed shot on the turn, after a period of good passing play by the team. However, Mr. Bennett must have already blown his whistle for a free kick in Spurs’ favour. Kranjcar took the kick but curled it just outside the keeper’s right post. It was scant reward after the “goal” being discounted.
Palacios made an error and the ball ran to Duff who fed Dempsey for a shot that went wide. Ekotto delivered a great long ball to the feet of Lennon who put in a hard low cross that was held by Schwarzer. At the other end, Dempsey hit a free kick from 22 yards which hit the top of the Spurs bar. Gomes then came out well to beat Zamora to a good threaded ball by Murphy, but then he put his team under pressure with a poor clearance. Ekotto sent Keane away on a run down the left channel with another good pass, but Keane’s shot was well blocked for a Spurs corner.
Having weathered the storm, we hoped to see Spurs take the game by the scruff of the neck, but whilst they had a better second half, the goal never came. Crouch and Jenas exchanged passes before Jenas tried a left footer that passed just outside Schwarzer’s right post. Spurs had a couple of penalty appeals for handball, one of which came when Konchesky handled a Kranjcar ball. Gomes’ best save came after 62 minutes, when Duff crossed from the right and Zamora tried to direct his effort across the keeper, with not enough power. Gomes had to not only make ground, but also stretch to the full to palm the ball around the corner.
Crouch had a decent effort go over the bar in front of the Spurs fans, but then Gomes was at full stretch again to save from Dempsey. Within a minute, Gomes was the hero again, with a brilliant dive to deny Zamora. Spurs made their double substitution, and Modric looked lively working from the left flank, but across the middle as well. In particular he was combining well with the advancing Ekotto, whose cross was headed by Crouch to the near post, where Defoe tried a right-footed hook shot. Another Ekotto cross was well controlled by Crouch, before he hit a powerful right foot shot to the right of the keeper. Schwarzer parried the ball, and Jenas followed up at close range but that effort was saved too. Spurs fans wanted a corner, but the linesman (who was rather unsighted) signalled a goal kick for Mr. Bennett who should have been in a better position.
Fulham’s final chance came from a Zamora pass to Duff on the right, and a shot that passed safely across the goal. In added time, Bassong suffered a knock and had to be replaced by Ledley King, making his first appearance since 7th November. Perhaps we’ll see Ledley for 90 minutes on Monday.
Spurs remain fifth in the keen contest for a Champions League place. A win at home to West Ham is imperative for that challenge to be maintained.
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