Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tottenham 2 Fulham 0

Spurs successfully achieved a comfortable win over London rivals, Fulham but in the bigger race for the Champions League, lost out to near neighbours, Arsenal, who took the three points they required at West Brom to maintain the status quo in the Premier League table.  Spurs must now wait for next Saturday's Champions League Final result before knowing if they have secured a place in the play-offs in August.

Tottenham Hotspur 2  Fulham 0
Scorers: Adebayor, Defoe
 Team: Friedel; Walker (Nelsen), Gallas, Kaboul (Smith), Bale; Lennon, Livermore, Sandro, Modric; Van der Vaart (Defoe); Adebayor  Subs: (unused) Cudicini, Giovani, Kane, Saha

On the day, Spurs did all that they could - they won their final home game of the season and waited for the other results.  Newcastle United lost at Everton, ending their challenge for the Champions League and for a period before and after half-time Spurs were in prime position but the Arsenal equaliser at the Hawthorns early in the second half, their third goal from goalkeeping mistakes, ended Spurs' dream of finishing third and being the top team in London.

Gareth Bale moved to left back to replace the suspended Danny Rose who was sent off at Aston Villa last weekend.  Jake Livermore joined Sandro in central midfield with Luka Modric moving further left.  Two young players, Adam Smith and Harry Kane, were among the substitutes.  Smith came on for the last fifteen minutes in place of the injured Younes Kaboul and Kane has returned from a successful loan period with Millwall where he won the Young Player of the Year award.  The Fulham team under Martin Jol contained two former Spurs players - full back, Stephen Kelly and midfielder, Danny Murphy.

Spurs had the perfect start with a goal after 1 minute 37 seconds.  Emmanuel Adebayor received the ball from Rafael Van der Vaart and placed it into the Fulham net.  
[Advantage Spurs for the Champions League]

After six minutes a run by Aaron Lennon at pace had Fulham back pedalling but he ran into trouble and lost the ball.  About the same time Arsenal took the lead against West Bromwich Albion.  
[Advantage Arsenal]
 Spurs continued to dominate with Kaboul playing wider on the left of central defence to provide greater freedom for Gareth Bale from left back.  On ten minutes a shot by Modric was deflected into space on the left of the penalty area and it became a race between Bale and Schwarzer for the ball. 
Bale got in a shot but the goalkeeper had closed him down and blocked the shot for a corner.  From the dangerous Van der Vaart corner a Kaboul header was cleared by the goalkeeper for another corner.

West Brom drew level against Arsenal.
[Advantage Tottenham]
Livermore shot over after thirteen minutes after a series of one two passes between himself and Lennon.   Then after another corner the ball was played back into Adebayor but he was unable to make proper contact with the ball.  News reached White Hart Lane that West Brom had taken the lead.
[Advantage Tottenham]
Spurs were very much in control with Fulham offering little threat and when Bale put in a dangerous cross Schwarzer had to come and claim it after twenty minutes.  Fulham had a short period of possession but when Bale dispossessed Kelly, he had to be quick to get back and retrieve a dangerous situation for the visitors.

Adebayor was next to threaten the visitors with a powerful run from central midfield but he was blocked and Van der Vaart's free-kick struck the wall.  Adebayor won a corner which just cleared Bale's head.  Arsenal drew level at The Hawthorns.
[Advantage Tottenham]
For a period before half-time Fulham showed more threat and Walker was tested in his defensive duties on the right.  A good run by Lennon, enabled him to get behind the defence and he pulled the ball back to Adebayor who put it across to Van der Vaart but his shot went just past the post.  With ten minutes to go to half-time Spurs had 62% of possession but they were given a wake up call when Riise collected the ball in his own half and ran towards goal with a powerful shot which Friedel saved well.  A minute later a shot by Dembele was partially saved by Friedel but William Gallas got back to clear for a throw in.  From the long throw Friedel made a good punched clearance.  Apart from this short period of pressure, Fulham offered little threat and Spurs finished the half the stronger with shots from Walker and Bale going over. 

The second half started with a run by Lennon which ended with a foul by Murphy.  Modric's free-kick was headed out for a corner.  Ryan Nelsen replaced Walker who had been injured at the end of the first half.  Gallas reluctantly moved to right back to accommodate Nelsen but his movement released Lennon on the right and Sandro headed his cross over after fifty two minutes.  A minute later Adebayor appeared to have got through on goal to force a save but he was flagged offside.

Another minute on and Arsenal regained the lead against West Bromwich Albion.
[Advantage Arsenal]
For a time the game seemed to go rather flat as if everyone at White Hart Lane was aware of what had happened at The Hawthorns.  Just before the hour Dembele shot against a post and then Spurs introduced Jermain Defoe in place of Van der Vaart.  Two minutes was all Defoe needed to score - he set Lennon off on the right and when the winger's shot deflected to him, he scored the second. 

 Spurs were in control and they started to play with a freedom and confidence that has been missing for much of the past three months.  A run by Bale ended with Defoe shooting over.  With fifteen minutes left Adam Smith made his debut and apart from a couple of late saves by Friedel the match ended with Spurs taking the three points to maintain Fulham's poor record at White Hart Lane.

No change in the Midlands meant that Spurs finished fourth and must await the outcome on the Champions League Final and hope that Bayern Munich are successful.

At the end of what was a comfortable, routine win for Spurs, the overwhelming feeling was of disappointment at the end of an extraordinary season, that Spurs return to form had come just a little to late to secure the third place finish and automatic qualification for the Group stages, that had seemed guaranteed back in January and February.  One point and one goal was all that had been required.

Spurs now face an uncertain period:
  •  Will they make the Champions League?
  • Will they get through the play-offs in August, if they are in the competition?
  • What bearing will this situation have on retaining players and making new signings?
Tottenham's planning for the new season will now be full of 'ifs and buts' but it has been a fantastic season for the club, the best that many supporters have ever experienced with Tottenham, at one point, being considered as title challengers  - a new experience for all of us.

A great season, playing the best football in the League and many memories to keep us going through the summer.  While we may feel down at the moment, we'll all be back in August - you know you will. 
   

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