Huddlestone leaves Fulham in rage
Fulham 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2: Hughes burns with sense of injustice after Tottenham's winner is struck with flag raised for offside.
Danny Murphy departed with an injury, but it was not due to a bad tackle. Indeed, there was not a loose challenge in the match, but controversy, nevertheless, surrounded Fulham's first defeat of the League season. After 63 minutes, with neither side having scored since Diomansy Kamara and Roman Pavlyuchenko both struck around the half-hour mark, Tom Huddlestone sent a rifle bullet of a shot into the Fulham goal. A flag went up.
William Gallas had been spotted loitering with intent in an offside position. He had tried to divert the ball, and was certainly in Mark Schwarzer's vision as the goal-keeper attempted to save. Referee Mike Dean and his linesman consulted. The goal was given. Fulham raged. Thereafter they huffed and puffed, but failed to level.
"We feel the goal should have been wiped out as Gallas is in an offside position when it is struck by Huddlestone," said Mark Hughes. The Fulham manager added: "By all accounts Mike Dean went over to ask if Gallas had touched the ball, the linesman said he had not, though how can he make that decision from there?" Gallas, said Hughes, was interfering with play regardless of whether he made contact because "Mark [Schwarzer] has to hold his position until the ball reaches where Gallas is because Gallas might stick out a toe and touch it".
Asked if he had discussed the issue with Dean, Hughes said: "What's the point? The game's gone. If he has made a genuine mistake he may admit to it but it doesn't do us any good."
Harry Redknapp had a degree of sympathy. "I thought 'great goal'. Once he put his flag up I thought, 'no goal'. It's become very complicated. The fans don't know the rule. How many of us do? I don't fully understand it. I think I'd prefer it to be as it was." The Spurs manager's worry centred on his captain Ledley King, who suffered a recurrence of his groin strain. "He won't play for a while," he said.
Fulham's captain was on the programme cover but inside Murphy was trying to reduce his profile. "Much has been made of some comments that came from a conference I was asked to speak at," he wrote. "These were taken out of context to a large extent and blown out of all proportion." He added: "I have a huge amount of respect for the managers of the clubs I name, and for their achievements in the game", concluding, "let's draw a line under it."
There was never any likelihood of rash tackling being an issue in this fixture, both teams preferring to beat opponents by wit rather than muscle. That said, Hughes did lower the imaginative content of his team in again omitting Zoltan Gera, about whom he seems to have a lower opinion than the club's fans.
Spurs began brightly but Fulham began creating chances, Kamara and Aaron Hughes missing free headers before the former, left unmarked by Gallas, turned in Clint Dempsey's cross after excellent work by the American. The lead lasted less than a minute, Pavlyuchenko tapping in after an exquisite chip by the impressive Rafael van der Vaart hit the bar.
The game changed with the arrival of Aaron Lennon, and the exit of Murphy due to a groin strain. Murphy had been the dominant figure, his passing knitting together Fulham's attacks. Lennon replaced Sandro, whom the game had by-passed, enabling Luka Modric to take up a more central role. Both were soon influential, Lennon quickly picking out Van der Vaart at the far post only for Schwarzer to deny the Dutchman with his feet.
Fifteen minutes later, however, the keeper was beaten. A corner was played deep to Huddlestone, whose piledriver took a slight deflection off Chris Baird as it whistled in. After much debate the goal was given. "It was the key factor in the game," said Hughes. His team were unable to convert their sense of injustice into an equaliser, in part because Kamara missed two excellent chances. Dean later refused to explain his decision.
Bookings: Fulham: Dempsey. Tottenham: Sandro
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the match: Van der Vaart
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