For 80 minutes, this match was a wind-chilled travesty of misplaced passes and frantic, pointless endeavour, only to be rescued by a pair of goals which introduced belated excitement and provided yet another draw for Fulham, their sixth in succession in the Premiership.
With the home side reduced to 10 men for all but seven minutes of the second half following the dismissal of Heidar Helguson for a second yellow card, the home fans would have been happy to settle for that single point. Enter "The Little Aeroplane", alias Vincenzo Montella, newly arrived at the Cottage on loan from Roma and the two-goal hero of the midweek FA Cup replay win over Leicester.
Montella had been on for less than a quarter of an hour when out of the blue Fulham were awarded a penalty. Brian McBride's shot struck Michael Dawson on the left upper arm and was deflected wide by the intervention. Referee Mike Dean's award, plus a yellow card for the Spurs defender, was less surprising than Fulham's decision to entrust the spot-kick to Montella. He did not let his side down, slotting his kick confidently past Paul Robinson before embarking on the arms-raised celebration which has earned the Italian his nickname.
After an afternoon spent mostly berating their former player, Steed Malbranque, Fulham followers at last had something worthwhile to cheer, at least for five minutes. Then Spurs won a free-kick, taken by Tom Huddlestone. Although Pascal Chimbonda was positioned offside, the deflection off the head of Franck Queudrue was enough to ensure the legality, if not the merit, of his scoring effort, which Fulham's new Czech goalkeeper, Jan Lastuvka, allowed to pass under his dive.
So the indifferent away form of Tottenham continues. With only one victory on their travels and just eight goals scored now in 12 matches, they are some way short of the exhilarating form of last season, and with a Carling Cup semi-final coming up against Arsenal.
Their only notable first-half effort was a Huddlestone thunderbolt from distance which flew well wide. Fulham were no better and the biggest home cheer of the match greeted a caution for Malbranque in the closing minutes of the first half, sparking a flurry of Fulham pressure in which Robinson pulled off a stunning save from McBride's point-blank shot.
Despite being warned during the interval by his manager, Chris Coleman, to watch his tackles, Helguson lasted only until the 52nd minute before launching a late challenge on Huddlestone. The second card, and dismissal, seemed fair enough, though Coleman maintained: "I don't think he touched Huddlestone." The Fulham fans did not think so either, finding someone new to boo besides Malbranque.
With an hour gone, Spurs manager Martin Jol brought on Aaron Lennon, whom he had been hoping to save for the Arsenal game on Wednesday, and seven minutes later he was joined from the bench by Robbie Keane, who replaced a lively Jermaine Defoe as soon as the England man earned a booking.
To their credit, Fulham were still hunting for the three points which Coleman had been yearning for, and, for five joyous minutes, they seemed to have earned them. "A win today would have put us 10th," lamented Coleman, "but I am delighted with my 10 men."Reuse content