Tottenham 3 Fulham 1 match report: Felix Magath targets home games for safety after Spurs expose frailties
Cottagers unable to deal with Eriksen's set-piece prowess as he laid on two goals for Spurs to give them an outside chance of fourth but Magath says all hope is not lost
Fulham’s progress or Vorsprung durch Technik under their German manager Felix Magath was halted in this London derby, although their fight against relegation is still alive. It was not so much lack of technique as poor marking that undid them, taking the number of goals conceded to a shocking 77. Magath seemed early on yesterday to have organised the defence a little better but Fulham, for all the height of Brede Hangeland, still found themselves giving up all three from crosses, two of which were free-kicks by the outstanding Christian Eriksen.
Yet Tottenham, too, have weaknesses in defence, with Kyle Walker, Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen all missing, and even at 3-1 it took a penalty save by Hugo Lloris to ensure they could see out the last quarter of an hour in comfort and sustain their challenge for a Europa League place.
Fulham did enjoy some good spells, with Steve Sidwell and Scott Parker (until injury slowed him down) predictably combative and Hugo Rodallega chasing willingly onto the longish balls aimed behind Tottenham’s defence. The other encouraging thing for them is having remaining fixtures against three sides who all look to be safe – in the FA Cup finalists Hull City, Stoke and Crystal Palace – with two of them at home.
“We made quite a good game,” Magath said. “What was not so good was two goals from free-kicks and that’s the thing that disturbs me. I told the boys we have to work on it. We were not expecting to win at Tottenham. We have to win our home games and that might be enough.” The first defensive howler came in the 17th minute, when Younes Kaboul was allowed a free header from a few yards out that he planted wide. David Stockdale, a hero in the important home win over Norwich last week, then turned Aaron Lennon’s shot onto a post before in the 34th minute, Lennon was fouled out on the right.
Eriksen took the free-kick and Fernando Amorebieta bizarrely moved out of defence instead of guarding Paulinho, who was able to convert from barely a yard.
The home defence proved equally fallible within a couple of minutes as Sidwell rode a foul by Paulinho, and with the FA Cup final referee Lee Probert playing advantage, got the run of the ball before dinking it over Lloris for an equaliser. But within two minutes of the restart Spurs were back in front when Lennon’s cross was headed in by Harry Kane, the young striker’s third goal in as many games.
Lloris, who had earlier denied Rodallega from close in, did brilliantly to turn his header over the bar, earning the accolade “genuine world class” from Tim Sherwood.
Just after the hour, John Heitinga conceded a free-kick that Eriksen drove to the far side of goal, where Kaboul, unmarked again, met it low on his thigh to score. That means Eriksen has scored four goals and provided five assists in his last five Premier League appearances. Stuck out on the left in the first half, he was given greater freedom after the interval to wander inside and get on the ball, which proved one of the keys to victory.
Spurs escaped a penalty when Danny Rose seemed to push Alex Kacaniklic, then conceded one for Eriksen’s handball. Lloris was the saviour again, diving to keep out Sidwell’s kick and drain Fulham of their previous hope. Sherwood, who admires spirit as much as anything, said he was “all for” the spat between Rose and goalkeeping coach Tony Parks at the final whistle and quite relaxed about midfielder Sandro tweeting that he had been dropped. As for the continued speculation about losing his job – Massimiliano Allegri, formerly of Milan, is the latest name in the frame – the Spurs manager added: “It’s not ideal but I have to prepare the team to win football matches and I think I’m good at it.”
Tottenham (4-4-2): Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Fryers, Rose; Lennon, Paulinho, Chadli (Dembélé, 66), Eriksen (Townsend, 84); Adebayor, Kane (Soldado, 78).
Fulham (4-1-4-1): Stockdale; Heitinga (Zverotic,65), Hangeland, Amorebieta, Riise; Kvist; Kacaniklic, Dejagah, Parker (Karagounis, 55), Sidwell,; Rodallega.
Referee: Lee Probert.
Man of the match: Eriksen (Tottenham)
Match rating: 6/10
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