It could have been worse

Thursday 12 September 2002

Tottenham boss Glenn Hoddle admitted his side could have "no excuses" for meekly throwing away a 2-0 lead to crash to defeat at Fulham as he criticised their lack of defensive resilience.

Hoddle defended his decision to keep £7million striker Robbie Keane on the bench as he insisted that the new signing was ready to come on before a serious injury to Chris Perry forced his hand.

As it was, a Tottenham side that looked set to top the table after holding a half-time lead courtesy of strikes by Dean Richards and Teddy Sheringham, simply capitulated after the break.

Once Junichi Inamoto had pulled a goal back, only keeper Kasey Keller gave Spurs any real hope of holding on before Anthony Gardner was penalised for fouling Barry Hayles with six minutes left.

Substitute Steed Malbranque equalised from the spot after referee Mark Halsey had consulted his assistant and then Sylvain Legwinski clinched the 3-2 comeback victory almost five minutes into injury-time.

To his credit, Hoddle did not attempt to use the controversial penalty decision or Perry's injury as an excuse for the way that his team had thrown away victory.

He admitted: "The most alarming thing is that although we conceded three goals, it could have been five. That's how poor we were in the second-half.

"It was a kick in the teeth. There are harsh lessons to be learned and we must learn them. There are no excuses, our second-half performance was just not good enough.

"We needed to show more defensive resilience and quality. If we are going to achieve things, that's something which has to happen.

"The penalty was a crucial decision that went against us. A couple of players said it was a penalty, a couple said it wasn't. The linesman has obviously seen something."

Dozens of Spurs fans chanted for Keane to be brought on to make his debut, especially due to his ability to hold the ball up.

However, Hoddle insisted: "He was warmed up and ready to come on just before Chris Perry got badly injured, so he couldn't go on at right-back.

"Then Matthew Etherington had to come off and I had to put Steffen Iversen onto the right side of midfield."

Perry was concussed after being caught by Pierre Wome's flying boot in a sickening collision in a sliding tackle and will now require an X-ray

Hoddle described it as a "nasty" injury but did not blame Wome directly, describing the incident as an "accident in a 50-50 tackle".

Fulham assistant boss Christian Damiano nevertheless admitted it had been a "dangerous" tackle by his defender, who could have been sent off for being so reckless but instead ended up being taken off himself with a black eye.

Damiano also praised referee Mark Halsey's "good decision" in consulting his assistant before awarding Fulham's spot-kick after initially appearing unconvinced by the appeals from the home side.

He concluded: "We have fantastic spirit in the squad and we never stopped believing we could win. This is a fantastic win for us against a very strong team."

Source: Sporting Life