How bad were Harry Redknapp's side? After 23 minutes, they were down to 10 men, three goals behind and, to put it bluntly, Richard Keys had more chance of a comeback than Tottenham in the FA Cup.
When things go awry for Spurs they do so in spectacular fashion and yesterday just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Defensive calamities, a red card for Michael Dawson, two penalties conceded and four goals behind at half-time meant Spurs were not so much eliminated from the FA Cup as frog-marched to the door and thrown out on their faces.
Redknapp got it wrong with the team he picked – a strange configuration with Luka Modric in the holding midfield position, Steven Pienaar on the left and Rafael van der Vaart on the right. But it was in the centre of his defence that it became almost comically bad at an early stage.
It was the third time this season that Spurs have gone three goals down in a game but at least against Young Boys and Internazionale away in the Champions League this season they salvaged something from the second half. Yesterday was Spurs' heaviest defeat to Fulham in their history.
Much of it was the result of a dreadful afternoon for Dawson, who was culpable in part for both the penalties and got himself sent off in the process. "He started sloppy and gave two goals away, which is not like him," Redknapp said. "He got off to a terrible start. We gave away two horrendous goals and Dawson got sent off. You can't keep coming back from these starts."
Redknapp still hopes to sign Phil Neville from Everton and, judging by Alan Hutton's performance, it was not hard to see why. Robbie Keane has gone on loan to West Ham. There were strong suggestions in Spain yesterday that Spurs have made a bid for Fernando Llorente of Athletic Bilbao. Redknapp denied a bid had been made for West Ham captain Scott Parker.
Yesterday Spurs suffered, as their manager said, a "horrific start" but as bad as they were, Redknapp's side were beautifully dispatched by a Fulham team who are starting to rediscover their form.
There was a vintage performance from Danny Murphy who tucked away too penalties with the minimum of fuss in the space of three first-half minutes. Andy Johnson looked like the player he was before that cartilage injury last season and, in Moussa Dembélé, Fulham have what might just be one of the signings of the season.
A fifth-round place at home to the winners of the replay between Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers awaits for Mark Hughes' team and on this kind of form they look like a decent bet for the quarter-finals.
Yesterday, there was a flavour of the club's Europa League run last season, a determined, attacking Fulham team making life awkward for their opponents all game.
The first goal started with Dawson, who gave the ball away to Johnson as he tried to play the ball out from the back. Johnson played in Clint Dempsey who was allowed to charge into the box by Hutton before the right-back made a clumsy lunge and conceded the penalty.
Murphy dispatched that one and within two minutes he was back at the penalty spot. This time, Dawson received the ball on the edge of his area, turned awkwardly and was robbed by Dembélé. The Spurs captain grabbed the Belgian striker's shirt and although Dembélé got away and hit a shot that was saved, referee Phil Dowd sent off Dawson for a denial of a goalscoring opportunity.
"I thought the second penalty was harsh and the sending-off as well," Redknapp said. "Michael feels it was harsh because Dembélé had the shot." Hughes countered that view, saying Dowd had already whistled for the penalty before Dembélé hit his shot.
After Murphy scored the penalty, Redknapp replaced Sandro with William Gallas to sure up the defence but not before Fulham almost scored their third. On 23 minutes they did; Johnson flicked on a corner and Brede Hangeland swept the ball in at the back post. It was embarrassing.
By half-time Fulham had scored a fourth. The impressive Dembélé picked the ball up on the halfway line and, with few options open to him, turned and ran at Sébastien Bassong. After he had left the Frenchman behind, there were few takers when it came to making a tackle on Dembélé, who scored from the edge of the area.
In the place of Jermain Defoe, Redknapp sent on Peter Crouch, who covered considerably more ground in the second half. Fulham might have had more at the end of the game as Spurs tired. Hughes said that he believed his team could go further. "We have no apprehension about taking on anyone here," he said. "We are hoping to get to the business end of the competition."
Fulham (4-4-2): Stockdale; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido; Duff, Sidwell, Murphy (Greening, 74), Dempsey; Johnson (Gera, 68), Dembélé (Davies, 80). Substitutes not used Etheridge (gk), Kelly, Kamara, Dikgacoi. Booked Duff.
Tottenham (4-1-4-1): Gomes; Hutton, Dawson, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Modric; Van der Vaart (Jenas, 66), Pienaar, Sandro (Gallas, 17), Lennon; Defoe (Crouch, h-t). Substitutes not used Cudicini (gk), Pavlyuchenko, Kranjcar, Corluka.
Booked Van der Vaart. Sent off Dawson (13).
Man of the match Dembélé.
Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire).
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