Three second-half goals blew Fulham away and gave Tottenham a well-deserved 3-0 win at Craven Cottage today.
It was a perfect away performance from Andre Villas-Boas’s side, as they controlled the tempo for large periods, got their goal early in the second half and then sat back and picked off Fulham on the break.
With Clint Dempsey, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe, Spurs are set up to counter-attack, and they were clinical today, Sandro scoring the first, before Defoe added a couple more to his collection. The only worry for Villas-Boas will be Bale – the Welshman limping off after 55 minutes with a hamstring injury.
Dempsey and Mousa Dembele returned to their former club for the first time, and it was the American who fashioned the first chance of the game, skipping past Aaron Hughes before wastefully shooting wide.
A fast early tempo threatened to make this London fixture an absorbing watch, but injuries to Michael Dawson for Spurs, and Sascha Riether for Fulham halted the flow, and the game fizzled without ever really firing.
Mladen Petric was presented with the best chance of the first-half. Great work from the mercurial Dimitar Berbatov, who was also facing a former-club, saw a cross flashed across the box, and an instinctive flick from Petric turned the ball goal-ward, only for Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris to keep the scores level.
Gareth Bale, fresh from his match-winning performance against Liverpool in mid-week, was barely involved in the first 45 minutes, but came to the fore when Christopher Foy adjudged the Welshman to have dived. Out came the yellow card, much to the delight of the home fans. That’s Bale’s fourth booking for diving this season.
But the pantomime villain was undoubtedly the returning Dempsey. Although Demebele switched London postcodes just like the Yank, the Belgian was greeted to a warm welcome, and rapturous applause from all corners of the ground when he was substituted in the second-half. Dempsey was just greeted by boos.
The second period started in much the same vein as the first, Spurs enjoying possession but Fulham looking dangerous on the break. Martin Jol’s side looked prepared to contain Spurs’ threat, but then, on 55 minutes, Fulham sat just too far back.
If there’s one player to give time too in this Tottenham team in the attacking third it’s Brazilian midfielder Sandro. But, when given space just inside the opposition half, the former-Internacional star unleashed a rocket from all of 35 yards.
Still, Mark Schwarzer should have saved it – the Fulham keeper palming it into the post and into the net.
Fulham rarely threatened Lloris’s goal after that before Defoe doubled Tottenham’s lead on 72 minutes after great work from substitute Sigurdsson. The Icelandic midfielder replaced Bale, after the winger pulled up with a hamstring complaint, and wrongfooted Senderos brilliantly before squaring for Defoe to sweep the ball home.
The 2-0 cushion gave Spurs breathing space, and allowed Villas-Boas’s side to sit back and pick off at will. On 80 minutes they extended their advantage. Dempsey slipped though Defoe, and the England international neatly finished past Schwarzer.
An excellent result for Tottenham, who made it nine points out nine this week after wins over Liverpool and West Ham. They face Panathiankos in the Europa League next, before a tricky trip to Everton. For Fulham, they face big games against struggling Newcastle and Queens Park Rangers.