Tottenham Hotspur may not have a formidable record in London derby games - they have won only one of their last 17 - but that was no excuse for, metaphorically, turning over and letting Fulham walk all over them at Craven Cottage yesterday.
During the brief time that Jacques Santini has been overseeing them, Tottenham had appeared to become more stable defensively. But not yesterday, and in any case, Spurs' fans and reputation are not into stubbornness, which was why, having seen their side lose 2-1 to Bolton at home in the Premiership last weekend, they were encouraged by the response they saw when Santini made five changes for the League Cup game at Bolton in midweek and pulled off a 4-3 win.
Even Fulham, fourth from the bottom at the start of yesterday's proceedings, had scored more goals in the League than their London rivals, but they were coming in on the back of three successive defeats and injury problems. The need to put their backs into this game was clear. And they certainly set about it rigorously.
Lacking the suspended Jamie Redknapp, who was replaced by former Fulham player Sean Davis, Spurs immediately forfeited considerable midfield possession and when they did obtain it they tended to play the ball far and wide and only vaguely in the direction of Jermain Defoe and Robbie Keane.
For 25 minutes they just shaded a game that never challenged the imagination. Then Pedro Mendes, who until then had been the worst culprit when it came to speculative long balls, did send Defoe away on a more hopeful chase. The Tottenham striker caught up with the ball but his shot was somehow more attracted to a corner flag than either of the goalposts.
The question was whether Fulham's industry would penalise Spurs for their lack of positive thought. The answer came after 33 minutes when Luis Boa Morte and Steed Malbranque exchanged passes in an attack down the left side. Malbranque slipped the ball inside to Boa Morte, who saw the substantial figure of Paul Robinson looming and quickly and wisely chose to place the ball inside the far post, which he accomplished exceptionally well.
Mark Crossley, in the Fulham goal, had acquainted himself with the ball not more than half-a-dozen times and never in earnest - Spurs were that ineffective. Replacing Michael Brown with Simon Davies just before half-time added only a fraction more intrusive movement.
In simple terms of possession, Fulham were ahead by a vast margin and as Andy Cole gained an appetite for taunting the centre of the Spurs defence and Mark Pembridge gripped midfield, so they increased it even more, before adding to their advantage in the 61st minute.
Again Boa Morte was prominent. This time he went storming into the penalty area to ridicule Spurs' defensive intentions. His clever, short, chipped centre was perfect for Cole to head strongly and unstoppably past Robinson, who could hardly be faulted for the indiscretions of those in front of him.
With the memory of Bill Nicholson still fresh in the mind, this Tottenham performance was a travesty, not only for how far short it fell from the great teams he had produced, but because the spirit of pride was sadly absent. Santini's excuses were legion. Amongst others: "tiredness", "injuries", and "blending new players". What is more relevant is that his next two games are also London derbies, against Charlton and Arsenal.
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