Spurs took all three points from Saturday's London derby at White Hart Lane but Fulham deserved at least a point after producing another fine away performance on New Year's Day.
Following Tuesday night’s impressive two-nil away victory over Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium, Mark Hughes retained the same starting eleven for Saturday’s New Year’s Day derby against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
Fulham started at the Lane where they left off in Stoke – playing with real confidence and commitment. Hughes’ side took the game to Spurs, moving the ball at pace through midfield and down the flanks with some impressive one-touch football.
Fulham created arguably the first real opening of the match before the the first ten minutes of play had elapsed. Following an early free-kick opportunity after 3 minutes that van der Vaart smashed against the wall from 25 yards, Fulham carved their way through Tottenham’s defence. Etuhu, sprinting into the area, latched onto a through ball but just failed to unleash a shot on goal before being marshalled away to safety by Gallas.
The first booking of the game came Fulham’s way after 18 minutes, with Pantsil finding his name in the book after an over exuberant challenge on Bale down Fulham’s right hand side. On the other flank Chris Baird was putting in another faultless performance against Lennon, neutralising one of the game’s most potent attacking threats.
Spurs captain Michael Dawson joined Pantsil in the book after 25 minutes after a crude challenge on Clint Dempsey. Dawson’s booking preceded the first substitution of the game, which saw Harry Redknapp replace the injured Alan Hutton with Vedran Corluka at right back.
Right on the half hour mark Lennon went in search of possession in a central position and after a quick counter attack the winger fired off a shot form 25 yards. A deflection took all the sting out of Lennon’s effort but van der Vaart followed suit moments later with a stinging strike from 25 yards.
Opportunities were few and far between for both sides as half-time approached. Two well organised defences nullified both team’s attacking potency whilst Fulham rarely looked under any real pressure at the back. That was to the credit of Hughes’ Team, who played with real confidence and verve during the first half.
However, four minutes before half-time Spurs got a huge slice of luck when Gareth Bale’s headed in van der Vaart's free-kick into the net. Fulham did not deserve such misfortune after matching the home side in every respect during the first 45.
Both side’s remained unchanged for the second period as Fulham looked to reduce the deficit. Danny Murphy was looking to orchestrate proceedings from the middle of the park with some probing passes over Spurs’ defence but to no avail.
Ten minutes into the second half Fulham earned a free-kick 30 yards from goal and Chris Baird duly obliged. Unfortunately he couldn’t replicate his set piece from Tuesday night as Tottenham’s wall stood firm.
Just after the hour mark had passed Fulham moved up a gear and almost pulled the game level on two occasions. First Spurs got lucky again when Gallas cleared the ball off the goal line as Dempsey steamed in. Then Andrew Johnson’s shot was saved by Gomes seconds before a penalty appeal from the striker was turned down.
Harry Redknapp looked to stem the flow of pressure by changing the focus at the other end, replacing Roman Pavlyuchenko with Peter Crouch. 15 minutes from time Spurs first opportunity of the second half fell to Bale 12 yards from goal. Fortunately the Welsh international sent his side-footed volley over Schwarzer’s bar. Two minutes later Dawson fired over from exactly the same spot following a Tottenham corner.
Redknapp made his second change of the game ten minutes from time, introducing Jenas for van der Vaart. Mark Hughes followed suit, taking off Damien Duff for Zoltan Gera.
With seven minutes remaining Fulham threw everything at Spurs, forcing the home side into some last ditch defending to deny the Whites. Whilst Fulham attacked at will Hughes’ side never looked threatened by the counter attack. In fact Aaron Hughes was so commanding in his own half that all the focus remained in Tottenham’s half. Hughes was quite simply world class on Saturday.
Fulham continued to attack at will but to no avail. To their credit, Gallas and Dawson excelled in central defence and kept Fulham from finding a way back into the game. The points went Tottenham's way thanks to a huge slice of luck in the first half but Fulham can take heart from Saturday's match. If they can replicate the form they have shown this week they will soon be moving up the Barclays Premier League table. Fulham will look to step out of the bottom three on Tuesday night when they welcome West Bromwich Albion to the Cottage.