Andre Villas-Boas said that his Tottenham Hotspur team could build on tonight’s 2-1 victory over Fulham, their first win in five in the Premier League that lifted his team to sixth place.
The Spurs manager left out £26m striker Roberto Soldado with Jermain Defoe preferred for the first time in the league since the 3-0 defeat at home to West Ham. In the end it was goals from Vlad Chiriches and Lewis Holtby that won the game for Spurs after Ashkan Dejagah gave Fulham the lead on 53 minutes.
Villas-Boas said that he had only been his “normal self” when he struck back at critics in the newspapers and Alan Sugar on Sunday after the 2-2 draw with Manchester United. “Yeah, I am happy because it was important for us to get back to winning ways,” he said. “It is a boost of confidence for everybody, staff-wise and player-wise. We have to build on this win and get on a good run of results to join the top teams competing for the Champions League spots.”
He brought in Defoe for Soldado and also gave a start to Erik Lamela, only his second start in the league. The Spurs manager suggested that the striker’s position was now Defoe’s to take although the Englishman failed to score.
Villas-Boas said: “It was also giving Defoe back an opportunity to break back into the team. He is doing well. We have two wonderful strikers and they are not scoring as much as they wanted but they are producing football for the team. All of us want them to finish off situations that they have so hopefully that can happen soon. Whichever striker it is. Most important is for the team to win. Both of them are fighting hard for their place.”
Asked whether it was now Defoe’s place to lose, he said: “We have to see. Robbie played two games in arrow before. Now we have to analyse Sunderland and make the best decision.”
Jan Vertonghen was carried off at the end with a swollen ankle which Villas-Boas said will require a scan to assess the damage. Mousa Dembele missed the game with hip pains that have plagued him since last season
The new Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen said that his team had responded to his demand to inspire the home supporters who applauded their players off. He said that Dimitar Berbatov, his team’s best player, would be crucial to their Premier League survival.
Meulensteen, who made seven changes from Martin Jol’s last team, said: “I thought Dimitar was unbelievable tonight. I know what he is capable of because I worked with him so long. Will I ask him to stay? The most important thing is we have to focus game by game. We’ve had some good chats. Dimitar is a player who really cares for this club. That was evident. If he plays like this of course he will.”