The controversial nature of their victory at Craven Cottage on Saturday obscured the impressive manner in which Tottenham achieved it. Tom Huddlestone's winning goal may have been doubtful because team-mate William Gallas was in an offside position but they were the better side and, once Danny Murphy left with a groin injury early in the second period, largely controlled the match.
"It's the third time this season we've come from behind to win. I've had teams who, when you go behind, you think you may as well go home but this team has players who can open teams up," said manager Harry Redknapp.
Rafael van der Vaart was the classiest of those on show, and proved a hard worker too. He will be missed [through suspension] on Wednesday when Spurs take on the European champions, Internazionale, in Milan. Also absent will be Ledley King after he again broke down, this time with a groin injury. "He doesn't train because of his knees," lamented Redknapp, "so he picks up injuries." Not that King would have played in Milan anyway. He needs a week's recuperation at the best of times.
"I wanted him to play here and against Everton next week," Redknapp added. "There's no point in us having a decent run in Europe and then finishing bottom-half of the League, then at the end of the year we have nothing to show for it. This is what Arsenal, Chelsea, Man United do every year. They go well in the Champions League and the League."
King, admitted Redknapp, was so prone to injury he would probably never have started a game when the Spurs manager began playing and there were no substitutes allowed, and he would have been a risky choice when only one was permitted. His problems are another reason why Redknapp agreed to take Gallas, the former Arsenal captain, on a free transfer.
Gallas was at fault for Fulham's opener, ball-watching instead of marking Diomansy Kamara which enabled the latter to profit from Clint Dempsey's cross. Redknapp dismissed that error, preferring to focus on the positives. "You don't play at Chelsea all those years if you are not a good player. He understands the game, he pushed people up, he talked to them. He's a good player. I had no doubts about bringing him in." Gallas is also carrying a knock, but will have to play in Milan as Redknapp, for all the strength of his bench at the weekend, does not really have any alternative.
Mark Hughes had fewer options, but the Fulham manager still felt able to leave Zoltan Gera on his bench. The Hungarian later replaced Moussa Dembélé who, just back from injury, tired after an impressive first half. The same might be said for Fulham, who barely lasted a minute before Roman Pavlyuchenko tapped in after Van der Vaart had dropped a clever chip onto the bar.
It is 20 years since Redknapp survived a car crash in Italy (his friend and then-colleague at Bournemouth Brian Tiler died) and Redknapp was asked if the memory of that helped him keep a sense of perspective. He indicated there were more recent examples. In midweek Tottenham's training ground was visited by a toddler with leukaemia. "She was a pretty girl but there she was with her head shaved. Her mum and dad were there, she is their life. I still get the needle when we lose, and don't sleep. This is important, but there's so much more going on outside." It certainly puts a debateable goal in perspective.
Was Gallas offside for the winner?
In Fifa's 37-page online guide to the offside law there are 13 diagrams. Two specifically refer to the situation referee Mike Dean encountered 63 minutes into this London derby. Enough detail, one might think, to rule out the enemy of consistency – interpretation.
Sadly not. The passage, in relation to the Tom Huddlestone strike which settled the match, lays the responsibility on the referee's opinion. The guide states a player is causing an offence if, while in an offside position, he interferes with an opponent. It defines "interfering with an opponent" as "clearly obstructing the goalkeeper's line of vision or movement; making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent (the opponent must be reasonably close to the play so that the blocking, deceiving or distracting makes a difference)." Huddlestone's shot passed so close to William Gallas the Tottenham defender attempted to divert it into goal. But he was not standing directly in Mark Schwarzer's eyeline to Huddlestone. Presumably, in Dean's opinion, he was thus not offside. Mark Hughes disagreed. Schwarzer, he said, had to wait to see if Gallas touched the ball before diving.
Harry Redknapp said he preferred the old rule, when anyone in an offside position was deemed interfering. That throws up anomalies. If Gareth Bale, whose corner picked out Huddlestone, had not moved he would have been offside when the shot was taken but, being 20 yards wide of goal, he could not have been interfering with play. The current rule is an improvement, but needs correct application.
Possession Fulham 51% Tottenham 49%. Shots on target Fulham 6 Tottenham 6. Referee M Dean (Wirral). Att 25,615. Man of the match Van der Vaart. Match rating 7/10Reuse content