Jermain Defoe books his place in Tottenham hall of fame with single-minded purpose of a lone striker against Fulham
Fulham 0 Tottenham Hotspur 3
Jermain Defoe went into his home gym yesterday, reached for his handwritten list of Tottenham's all-time highest goalscorers, and changed the 126 against his name to 128. A double against Fulham in Saturday's 3-0 win at Craven Cottage brought this season's total to a dozen and, at the rate Defoe is scoring, the 30-year-old should overtake Alan Gilzean (133), Len Duquemin (134) and George Hunt (138) to move into Spurs' top five by the end of the campaign.
Defoe's best season (24 goals in 2009-10) is also under threat, which is very good going for a striker often thought to be at his best playing off a big man, but now leading the line alone. The secret to Defoe's success in Andre Villas-Boas's system is partly his own strength, ability and confidence in front of goal, but also the creativity behind him.
Defoe's first goal was laid on a platter by Gylfi Sigurdsson, his second teed up by Clint Dempsey. Both came after Gareth Bale, usually regarded as Tottenham's prime attacking weapon, went off with a hamstring twinge. Add Mousa Dembélé and Aaron Lennon and there ought to be no shortage of chances for Defoe. Since there is no more single-minded goalscorer in England that should translate into more goals.
Certainly, Villas-Boas is confident enough in his leading striker to declare that he will not be seeking cover when Emmanuel Adebayor heads to South Africa next month to play for Togo in the African Nations Cup. Dempsey, said Villas-Boas, would serve as Defoe's understudy if need be.
Not that one is often required. Defoe famously won a half-century of England caps before playing 90 minutes in any of the matches and has spent much of his two spells at White Hart Lane either coming off, or heading to, the bench. This is not unusual for strikers as they are frequently required to run themselves into the ground working the opposing back four, and are thus often replaced in favour of fresher legs or a more defensive option.
Now, however, managers seem happy to keep Defoe on for the duration. Defoe has started 18 Spurs games this season and usually been on the pitch at, or near, the final whistle; and he has even played the full 90 for England.
That makes a difference. Defoe said afterwards that knowing he would be staying on the pitch gave him the mental security to wait for his opportunity, to remain in position rather than go hunting for the ball. After Sandro's speculative 40-yarder had eluded Mark Schwarzer to put Spurs ahead, he knew chances would follow as Fulham's need to chase an equaliser opened the game up.
"If you play a player like him all the time he will score goals," said Martin Jol, the former Tottenham manager now in charge at Fulham. "He is one of the best goal poachers in England. When I was at Tottenham we had four strikers and maybe [Dimitar] Berbatov was a different class and [Robbie] Keane a bit ahead of him, but he still scored goals. Now he can play as a lone striker as well as off a No 9 like Adebayor."
Berbatov still looked a different class – to everyone on the pitch – but too few Fulham players are on his wavelength. Fulham have not won since October and, as their form on the road is traditionally poor, have reason to be concerned at shipping six goals in their last two matches at the Cottage. However, there was less between the teams than the scoreline suggests and there is too much talent on the pitch and in the manager's office to fear the drop.
Fulham: SCHWARZER 4/10, RIETHER 6, SENDEROS 4, HUGHES 6, RIISE 6, DIARRA 6, DEJAGAH 7, SIDWELL 6, FREI 6, PETRIC 6, BERBATOV 7
Spurs: LLORIS 7, VERTONGHEN 6, CAULKER 6, DAWSON n/a, NAUGHTON 6, BALE 6, SANDRO 7, DEMPSEY 6, SANDRO 7 DEMBELE 7, LENNON 7, DEFOE 7
Goals: Tottenham Sandro 55, Defoe 72, 77.
Subs: Fulham Kelly 6 (Riether, 29), Duff 6 (Frei, 64), Rodallega (Petric, 78). Tott Gallas 6 (Dawson, 18), Sigurdsson (Bale, 62), Carroll (Dembele, 83).
Bookings: Tottenham Bale, Gallas. Man of the match Sandro. Match rating 5/10.
Possession: Fulham 42%. Tottenham 58%.
Attempts on target: Fulham 2. Tottenham 6.
Referee C Foy (Lancashire). Attendance 25,426.
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