Defeat for Fulham

Saturday 15 December 2001

Happy days are here again in N17, and there is a growing belief that glory, glory days could follow. Tottenham outplayed and out-passed Fulham, which is not something many teams have done to Jean Tigana's side this season.

Teddy Sheringham, on his 700th club appearance, and Darren Anderton were inspirational, and Les Ferdinand, in opening the scoring, claimed the prize of the Premiership's 10,000th goal.

Fulham, whose only defeat in their nine previous games had been with a weakened team against Spurs in the Worthington Cup, will come again, though not with any great enthusiasm to this particular venue: they have not won at Tottenham since 1948, 23 visits ago.

Apart from conceding three goals against Manchester United and Arsenal, they had stood firm in defence, and the lanky goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar had not bent his back in more than six hours of football. Ferdinand soon changed that, Anderton whipped in a second and in the last 20 minutes Simon Davies and Sergei Rebrov distorted the scoreline but delighted the crowd.

"We've had 10 goals in a week and two clean sheets," said Tottenham's manager, Glenn Hoddle, who would have been greedy to ask for more. Dismissing Bolton's Extra B XI from the Worthington Cup was one thing, overcoming a full-strength Fulham side in such style was something else. Tigana had brought Sylvain Legwinski back to guard Gus Poyet, with less success than Steffen Freund had in his personal duel with the normally influential Steed Malbranque, who was unusually quiet.

The old lags, Ferdinand and Sheringham, always seemed likely to test the visitors' defensive solidity and so it proved. In only the seventh minute, Ferdinand's clever turn allowed Mauricio Taricco to set up Poyet for a dangerous effort well blocked by Van der Sar. Ferdinand was therefore able to claim goal No 10,000 - and £10,000 for the charities of his choice - 13 minutes later.

Freund forced his way forward, the ball bouncing kindly for Davies on the right. The ever-improving wing-back fed Anderton, whose low cross gave Ferdinand the easiest of tap-ins - "a two-yard thunderbolt" he called it later.

Spurs had been concerned beforehand about the striker's fitness and reckoned him to be only 75 per cent ready, but were keen to capitalise on his hat-trick - one of the fastest in the club's history - against Bolton. He duly managed an hour, leading the line with characteristic vim, as well picking up a caution for use of the elbow on Legwinski.

Whatever the merits of that decision, the referee, Neale Barry, appeared to make a pig's ear of two others. After Malbranque had fouled Freund, he first summoned Rufus Brevett and then, on the advice of his assistant Wendy Toms, cautioned the innocent Louis Saha instead. Just before full-time, when it was fortunately too late to matter, Luis Boa Morte was booked for diving when he deserved a penalty for Ledley King's push.

Tigana, on the touchline, burst out laughing at Saha's caution, but was grim-faced as his team fell further into arrears five minutes from half-time. Ferdinand was again involved, subtly laying off Sheringham's flick for Anderton, who sent his drive fizzing just inside the right-hand post.

Fulham, who had begun well, should have retrieved a goal soon afterwards. Barry Hayles, a Tottenham fan who had never previously failed to score against them, had time and space to take down Steve Finnan's cross but shot high over the bar.

There was a worse miss than that within two minutes of the resumption. Poyet, such a force in the air, headed down Anderton's corner, and Dean Richards, barely a yard out, achieved the apparently impossible in lifting the ball too high. Hayles was at fault again in carelessly heading wide an inviting cross from Finnan.

Hoddle was sufficiently concerned to give a demonstration of putting his foot on the ball - a familiar enough sight at White Hart Lane - while delaying a throw-in and shouting at his troops to do the same and regain some composure and control. He did his bit by sending on Rebrov for a tiring Ferdinand.

The manager had said in contrasting circumstances at Charlton last week - with his team 2-0 down - that the third goal of the match was the key. To his delight, Tottenham scored it this time, and added a fourth, both in thrilling fashion. In the 70th minute, Davies took Anderton's superbly flighted pass on his chest, cut inside and shot left-footed past a helpless Van der Sar. Six minutes later, an exquisite Sheringham pass was matched by Rebrov's finish. Poyet might have added a fifth and even a sixth as the home crowd celebrated Hoddle's new order.