My god, Tottenham needed that. Fulham on the other hand, did not. By hook or by crook Spurs got the win they needed so badly to buy Andre Villas-Boas time. Precious time.
They needed all their resolve to secure three points at Craven Cottage, which bounced and booed, raucously roared and tried to help their side on to a win.
Fulham, in their first game under Rene Meulensteen following Martin Jol’s departure, played a fine part in a fine spectacle that they only just deserved to lose. But lose they did, 2-1 against a Spurs side showing signs of recovery following their Man City mauling.
When Ashkin Dejagah scored the game’s first goal, it looked as though they wouldn’t. The 27-year-old raced through from the impressive Dimitar Berbatov’s lofted through ball which exposed Tottenham’s frailties at the back. He made no mistake as he slotted past Lloris to put Spurs in real trouble.
But back they came eventually. First through defender Vlad Chiriches - a Rolls Royce with a faulty sat nav if ever there was one - who strolled on to a half-cleared corner to smack his low shot into the net from around 30 yards with 20 minutes remaining. Maarten Stekelenburg, left flat-footed by Jermain Defoe’s dummy, could only watch it go in.
Then with seven minutes left Tottenham grabbed the winner the so badly needed. Lewis Holtby, hit and miss to date and in this game, had his name sung to the tune of a popular Depeche Mode song. They needed more than that after the young German stepped inside and smacked his shot into the back of the net to help his side end a four-game unbeaten run.
Tottenham were much changed as they looked to brace themselves for a run of eight fixtures in December. Meulensteen, who made seven changes of his own, said Fulham would sit deep. The onus was on Spurs, not something they've dealt with well in the past.
The first half was a real slugfest between two sides with something to prove. Tottenham landed a jab after five minutes, with Jermain Defoe forcing a save from Stekelenburg after five minutes.
It was Fulham who first took a real hold of the game; John Arne Riise in particular finding space on Tottenham’s right with Erik Lamela going walkies.
Berbatov tested Lloris from close-range while Paulinho and Lamela came within inches of breaking the deadlock in the first half.
This was end-to end stuff, but for either side, there was no ending. Dejegah could have broken the deadlock earlier on, if only his header after 25 minutes was more accurate following Paulinho’s golden chance.
Spurs started the second half stronger with Villas-Boas going on the attack by swapping Capoue for Lewis Holtby. They could have scored through Defoe’s cheeky backheel on 53 minutes, but it was the home side who eventually took the lead.
With Vertonghen out of position, Berbatov’s lofted ball found Dejagah who made no mistake when he slotted past Lloris after 57 minutes. Tottenham hadn’t scored an equaliser after going behind all season. With Fulham dropping deep and offering no space, their chances of doing so looked in increasingly slim.
Villas-Boas rolled the dice and took his only remaining defensive midfielder, Sandro, off to open the game wide up. At least they would go down swinging. They were creating little but trying their hardest.
It was no surprise that when the equaliser come it was through no great ingenuity from the visitors, but that mattered little to Spurs or their supporters.
Kyle Walker’s poor corner was half-cleared to Vlad Chiriches, who fired low and hard from 30-yards. Spurs were back in the game with little more than 15 minutes left.
In the final ten minutes it was Spurs who were looking the most likely to score although their lack of penetration was clear for all to see. It was frantic, shapeless, wonderfully open stuff thanks to a raft of subs that saw Spurs end the game with two number tens in Paulinho and Holtby, playing where enforcers once roamed.
When the winner eventually came, it was a single moment of brilliance rather than a collective one.
Kyle Walker fed Lewis Holtby, who until then had offered very little, on the right hand side. The German skipped inside fired an unstoppable shot past Stekelenburg, much to the sheer relief of Villas-Boas and the travelling support.
Another debut goal for a Spurs player at a crucial time and the 4th long-range effort in two games. They may not be creating, but they’re certainly scoring after a slow start in front of goal.
Bryan Ruiz, on as a sub, then forced a sublime save from Lloris with three minutes remaining as Spurs looked to cling on. Lloris was called into action late on - but not before Stekelenburg produced something equally as good to turn Paulinho’s header away from goal. Kasami hit the post with time running out.
The result lifts Tottenham up to 6th and they are now unbeaten in three games in all competitions. That will matter little to VIllas-Boas, who was saved from some rather awkward questions by two fine goals indeed.
For Fulham and Muelensteen there was plenty to be happy about and plenty on display that was absent during their abject defeat against West Ham last weekend, but that will the merest crumb of comfort as they fell further into trouble at the bottom.
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