Bentley fires reminder as Spurs stroll to victory
Tottenham Hotspur 2 Fulham 0
He has long been the forgotten man of White Hart Lane, so David Bentley's goal last night was an overdue reminder that beneath the hype and bravado that prefaced his fall from grace there is still a decent English footballer hoping to rebuild his career.
It was only a deflected free-kick against a struggling Fulham team, but for Bentley it was the little bit of good fortune that he has needed after months in the shadows. He was only in the team because Niko Kranjcar was ill and this was his first start in the Premier League since October but he took his chance with a goal that reminds the world that he still exists.
Bentley has fallen so far from favour that the best opportunity to kick start his career probably lies in a move away from Spurs with suggestions yesterday that he may be sent to West Ham on loan. It was only Bentley's second league start of the season and you have to go back to October 2008 for the last time he played for England, in Fabio Capello's first year in charge.
Redknapp and Bentley have not always seen eye to eye and you suspect that Redknapp would rather see the back of him, even if last night he did come up with the goods. "David had an opportunity and he took it well," he said. "If he plays well he will get a chance, it's up to him, if he shows a good attitude and in to work every day and trains hard I have got no problems with him."
The real class act on the Spurs side was Luka Modric who switched to the left side to accommodate Bentley on the right. It was the Croatia international who made the first goal for Peter Crouch and helped Spurs to a victory that puts them three points further ahead of Liverpool a places behind in fifth.
It was Tottenham's first win in four games and the first time in almost three years at the club that Gareth Bale has started and finished a game that Spurs have won. The only concern for Redknapp was a first-half collision between Heurelho Gomes and Ledley King that meant his goalkeeper required a painkilling injection at half-time – it might yet cause problems at a club who have no experienced No 2.
For Fulham, this was their fourth straight league defeat and their fifth game without a win since they beat Manchester United 3-0 at Craven Cottage before Christmas.
Roy Hodgson was upbeat, though, claiming that his side were unfortunate at the nature of Bentley's deflected goal. "Given the number of injury problems we had I thought it was a brave, hard-working performance and we made certain that Tottenham knew they were in a game. We can't complain about the result because we didn't create enough."
For Chris Smalling, English football's overnight sensation, there was a tough examination against Jermain Defoe and Crouch, but for a man who is about to make the biggest move of his life he looked quite composed.
Modric's tenacity and ingenuity created Crouch's first-half goal. He chased a lost cause right to the byline and, when Bjorn Helge Riise hesitated, he hooked the ball back and improvised with a volleyed cross that Crouch clipped past Mark Schwarzer for his 10th goal of the season.
The second Spurs goal on the hour came from Bentley's right boot and off the head of the hapless Riise. The free-kick was wide on the right and when it clipped the Fulham midfielder it took a looping trajectory towards the far corner that gave Schwarzer no chance.
After the game, Hodgson left the door open to the possibility that Smalling's move to Old Trafford may yet become a move to Arsenal saying only that "as far as I know" Smalling would go to United. "Sir Alex Ferguson doesn't make mistakes when he identifies a young player, does he?" said the Fulham manager, conveniently overlooking the likes of Eric Djemba Djemba, David Bellion, Liam Miller and Zoran Tosic.
If Smalling wanted an example of the perils that can befall young players then there is none better in the current game than Bentley's recent problems.
Tottenham Hotspur (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Dawson, King, Bale; Bentley, Palacios, Huddlestone, Modric; Crouch, Defoe (Keane, 82). Susbtitutes not used: Alnwick (gk), Hutton, Bassong, O'Hara, Jenas, Rose
Fulham (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Hughes, Smalling, Hangeland, Baird; Riise (Davies, 64), Murphy, Dikgacoi, Duff; Gera (Kamara, 72); Zamora (Elm, 79). Substitutes not used: Zuberbühler (gk), Kallio, Greening, Nevland
Referee: M Dean (Wirral)
Booked: Tottenham Dawson Fulham Kamara
Man of the match: Modric
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