It says much about the current standing of Fulham that a side with the ambitions of Tottenham can leave here happy with a point. Craven Cottage is not the walk by the river it once was for the rich and mighty.
Roy Hodgson's men were not the slick outfit who had spectacularly accounted for Manchester United a week before, but the weather-beaten pitch was primarily to blame for that. Fulham still created more than their fair share and, but for the heroics of Heurelho Gomes, would likely have covered their home form – which now reads five wins and two draws in their last seven League games – in an even brighter shade of purple.
The Brazilian goalkeeper made three fine saves in six second-half minutes and so grabbed a huge slice of personal redemption. It was at the same ground last season where Gomes made a howler to hand the home side victory. "He was short of confidence when I got here last year and he has improved out of all recognition," said the Tottenham manager, Harry Redknapp. "He's showing he's the great goalkeeper people told me he was when he played in Holland." Indeed, the £8 million Spurs paid PSV for Gomes is looking less ridiculous by the day.
Hodgson can only dream of such numbers and the Fulham manager admitted he lay in bed yesterday morning running his worried mind through the opposition. "I was working out the difference in the financial situations and how much this Tottenham squad cost to assemble," he said. "We should be proud we limited them to one good scoring chance."
Not that Fulham were negative. Granted, they did a good job in shackling the talents of Aaron Lennon but again the playing surface was as influential as the close attentions of Paul Konchesky in this regard. Otherwise they poured forward and, as Hodgson claimed, they would have been value for the maximum return. "In terms of clear cut chances I'd say we deserved to win," he said.
Only the crossbar denied Clint Dempsey in the 34th minute after a sweetly struck free-kick from 30 yards by the American. By then both sides had carved out opportunities, with Danny Murphy perhaps the most agonised when Gomes tipped over his left-footer from the edge of the area. At the other end Peter Crouch believed he had scored when his volley located the net but the referee, Steve Bennett, had already blown for a Spurs free-kick. On reflection, Bennett would maybe agree he blew prematurely.
The action broke down for large patches after the break although with Dempsey and Damien Duff lively on the flanks and with Bobby Zamora looking comfortable in his lone front role, Tottenham were in danger of being stretched – they were just after the hour mark and had only Gomes to thank for the continued parity.
Twice he leapt across his goal to palm away Zamora headers and in between was just as alert to repel another Dempsey effort. The Cottage was sensing the Boxing Day inevitability of a draw, yet in the 82nd minute were relieved for their own goalkeeper's brilliance – Mark Schwarzer's dive to turn away Crouch's strike was the game's best save, particularly as he then jumped back on his feet to block Jermaine Jenas' shot off the rebound. By now, Redknapp had brought on Jermain Defoe for Robbie Keane and Hodgson rolled his eyes in envy. Fulham might not have the resources but they have so much else going for them. Chelsea had better watch out tomorrow.
Referee: Steve Bennett
Man of the match: Gomes
Match rating: 5/10Reuse content