In front of the second packed house of the FA Cup quarter-finals, this was a strange tie, played at a furious pace but, probably because of that, of poor quality. A single goal always looked like being sufficient to win it but was rarely promised, each goalkeeper making perhaps one save of any note.
Spurs, aiming for a 17th semi-final, were the neater but enjoyed only one spell of sustained pressure, soon after half-time. Fulham, after five successive home wins and an unbeaten February, proved unable to match their recent exploits and must be a little fearful of a replay at Tottenham, where they have won once in 25 visits. That will go on the back burner in any case until 24 March, with two glamorous Europa League encounters against Juventus and a visit to Old Trafford to sort out before then.
They will be desperate for the return of their captain, Danny Murphy, although he is frustratingly suspended for Thursday's game in Turin. Murphy's craft might just have provided the sort of service that Bobby Zamora lacked, or unlocked a door that remained resolutely barred. The manager, Roy Hodgson, chose to praise Murphy's deputy Jonathan Greening, a sentiment not shared by those in the stands who otherwise contributed to a crackling atmosphere worthy of a better game.
What supporters seemed to agree with both managers about was the justice of the result and the state of the surface on which it was played. "You've got to be very good to play on that pitch," Tottenham's Harry Redknapp said. "We kept possession well, though there weren't many chances. I'd have taken a replay before the game but it will be hard."
Hodgson said: "We don't feel we're out of the competition. We're just as capable of giving a good away performance as at home. It's a wonderful time for the club." That was reflected in presentations before the match – normally a kiss of death – to Hodgson and Mark Schwarzer as Manager and Player of the Month respectively. In the event, the goalkeeper had little opportunity to further enhance his considerable reputation, although Heurelho Gomes (left) at the other end was happy to redeem his in front of a home crowd who had revelled in his embarrassment when conceding a soft winning goal in last season's League fixture. Almost 20 minutes had elapsed before he was required to make a save, a comfortable enough one as Zamora turned inside and shot.
On the soft pitch Tottenham were still able to knock the ball around, which they did for much of the time without creating anything more than half-chances. Niko Kranjcar was stationed out on the right, where he was less effective than in most recent games, and his compatriot Luka Modric was as neat as ever without taking hold of the game. Kranjcar, set up by Peter Crouch just outside the penalty area, troubled Schwarzer once with a swerving shot that he did not hold, and the goalkeeper played safe with a good downward header from Crouch that bounced in front of him, pushing it away for a corner.
Fulham made, if anything at all, quarter-chances. Shortly before the interval Zoltan Gera and Damien Duff almost put Zamora through in quick succession, only for Benoît Assou-Ekotto and Michael Dawson to produce timely interventions.
The second half began with the game's first outbreak of authentic excitement. Nicky Shorey started the move with an excellent ball down the line for Simon Davies to hoist to the far post. Zamora outjumped his marker to nod across goal, where Gera's header was held by Gomes. Hesitant defensive work by Assou-Ekotto then allowed Gera to set up Duff for a shot wide, before the Irishman brought a leaping save from Gomes.
When it was time for changes, Hodgson was first to act, sending on the tall Swedish striker David Elm for Davies to provide some closer support for Zamora, whose new confidence had been evident throughout. Gera, who had been playing just behind him, dropped a little further back, sending one long ball forward that Zamora just failed to latch on to.
With 10 minutes to play Jermain Defoe, another victim of last Wednesday's heavy Wembley pitch, replaced Pavlyuchenko. Overall, however, the two defences remained in control until the finish. Just as the first half had ended in anti-climax so the game's last attempt on goal, by Zamora on his right foot, went for a throw-in. Had ITV scheduled a highlights programme last night, there would have been few to show from here.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: Hangeland
Match rating: 4/10Reuse content