Tottenham 0 Fulham 1 match report: Dimitar Berbatov and Martin Jol return to haunt Spurs

Fulham striker scores only goal of the game as Spurs' top four ambitions are dealt blow

White Hart Lane

These are testing times for Andre Villas-Boas. After beginning the month with the euphoria of the victory over Arsenal that seemed to confirm the balance of power has finally shifted in north London, March is suddenly turning into a familiar tale of anxiety at White Hart Lane.

In the wake of two successive defeats on the road, this time it was two of Tottenham Hotspur’s former employees who inflicted their first home defeat in the league since November. Dimitar Berbatov’s scuffed effort six minutes into the second half was enough to seal a triumphant return for the Bulgarian and his Fulham manager Martin Jol, who raised his hands in the air at the final whistle to celebrate what must have been a hugely satisfying result for the man dumped by Spurs in October 2007.

After they seemed dead certs for next season’s Champions League, Tottenham’s spectacular collapse last season is now in danger of repeating itself. Villas-Boas may have replaced Harry Redknapp in the dugout but the familiar failings at home were all too evident in a poor display which hinted that the confidence built up over a 12-match unbeaten run has all but evaporated.

Since losing 4-2 to Arsenal at the Emirates in November, Tottenham have enjoyed a good record in London derbies, only dropping two points from a maximum of 15. Yet after the jittery display against Internazionale on Thursday night, the return of Gareth Bale to the team after his suspension must have been a relief for Villas-Boas.To accommodate for the absence of Aaron Lennon with a hamstring injury, the Spurs manager shuffled his pack considerably, moving Benoit Assou-Ekotto to the left-wing berth that used to be the Welshman’s favoured starting position before his successful move further forward. The versatile Jan Vertonghen was asked to fill in at left-back, while Emmanuel Adebayor was preferred to Jermain Defoe after his crucial goal at San Siro and Kyle Naughton was handed a rare opportunity in his preferred right-back role as Kyle Walker dropped to the bench.

Having stayed at home for the trip to Milan, Bale looked fresh and almost created himself an opportunity in the opening 60 seconds until a timely interception by Brede Hangeland. When a powerful header from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s corner was expertly cleared off the line by Sascha Riether in the sixth minute, Jol must have feared the worst. But after weathering the initial Bale storm, Fulham slowly found their feet, with the industry of Greece veteran Giorgios Karagounis and Steve Sidwell blunting Tottenham’s attacks at source through the middle. Draws against Arsenal and Chelsea on the road this season have hinted that Jol is finally finding an answer to Fulham’s traditionally poor form away from Craven Cottage, although Berbatov was often too isolated on his return to north London.

A Sigurdsson effort that sliced horribly wide of the target in the 23rd minute after good work from Bale and Scott Parker’s speculative effort that sailed over the bar were the closest Tottenham came to finding a way through a Fulham back line marshalled superbly by the dominant Hangeland. Bale’s shot from distance that flew into the second tier of the stands would have been more at home if he had been playing for Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday; it summed up a frustrating first period for the hosts.

Just before the break, White Hart Lane held its collective breath when Bale went down after slipping under pressure from Karagounis but he hobbled back on following treatment. Something had to change and Villas-Boas threw on former Fulham favourite Clint Dempsey at half-time for Michael Dawson, who was withdrawn after suffering a hamstring strain and will now be assessed ahead of England duty next week.

Five minutes into the second half, Bale tried his luck from distance to sting the gloves of Mark Schwarzer but rather than finally providing the spark for Tottenham, it was rapidly followed by Fulham taking the lead.

A quick break down the right by Ashkan Dejagah put Riether in space and the German delivered an inch-perfect ball into the path of Berbatov. The Bulgarian seemed to scuff his effort but Hugo Lloris dived early and the ball found its way into the corner of the net, to the surprised delight of the visiting supporters.

Stunned into action, Villas-Boas turned to Defoe and the England striker should have done better in the 69th minute when he drilled Caulker’s ball into the box straight at Schwarzer.  Tom Carroll then replaced the ineffective Mousa Dembélé and Adebayor missed the target with a header.

As the clock ticked down, Bale was often forced to retreat as deep as the halfway line to pick up the ball from his defenders but he struggled to create an opportunity.

Dejagah should have settled matters four minutes from time when he opted to head Berbatov’s cross back across a gaping goal.

In the final minute a cross from the outside of Bale’s right boot picked out Defoe, five yards out and apparently offside, but Schwarzer pulled off an outstanding save.

As Jol celebrated, a smattering of boos from the home fans greeted the final whistle but Villas-Boas will know that any more performances like this will mean Thursday night football is the likely outcome once again next season.

Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home