Tottenham Hotspur 5 Fulham 1: Huddlestone happy to feast on frail Fulham

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The Independent Online

The Christmas festivities are showing no signs of tailing off at White Hart Lane. Ledley King's first appearance for seven months, Robbie Keane's 99th and 100th Premier League goals and the biggest win of Juande Ramos's reign as head coach were all good reasons for celebrations as Fulham's miseries were compounded by yesterday's emphatic defeat.

Two goals apiece by Keane and Tom Huddlestone were reward for Tottenham's domination against opponents who were repeatedly second to the ball in crucial areas. The performance of Huddlestone, who gave an assured display of crisp shooting, inspired passing and fluid movement, was a particular source of satisfaction for Ramos, who felt he had inherited an unfit squad.

"Tom's weight worried us a lot, but he's making a real effort to be fit and you can see the results," Ramos said. "We're happy that the players have slimmed down. They are a lot lighter now and the team appreciate it." Had the Spanish coach ordered his team to steer clear of the turkey on Christmas Day? "Why should I? Turkey's a very healthy food," Ramos replied. "It's the potatoes and alcohol that are the problem."

King, returning after knee surgery, could hardly have wished for a gentler reintroduction. The first 24 minutes were like a passing exercise on the training ground. Everything chan-ged after Steed Malbranque created Tottenham's first chance for Dimitar Berbatov, whose header was saved at the foot of a post by Antti Niemi.

Three minutes later Huddlestone's free-kick from the halfway line was headed on by Pascal Chimbonda to Malbranque, whose first-time shot cannoned back off a post into the path of the grateful Keane. Just before the interval Berbatov laid off Malbranque's cross into the path of Huddlestone, who scored from the edge of the penalty area with a fine left-foot shot.

Diomansy Kamara had provided Fulham's only attacking threat, but the introduction of Hameur Bouazza at half-time brought a new dimension to their play. Two penetrating runs had already created chances before his cross from the left after an hour, bundled home by Clint Dempsey, briefly put Fulham back in contention.

Within two minutes, however, Tottenham had restored their two-goal advantage as Berbatov headed on Jamie O'Hara's corner and Keane, lurking near a post, turned the ball home to take his season's tally to 14, 10 of which have been in the Premier League. Seventy-five of the Irishman's century of top-flight goals have come in 179 appearances for Tottenham.

Tottenham's scoring was not finished and after 71 minutes Huddlestone showed lovely control following Aaron Lennon's pass and drove a right-foot shot into the far corner from 20 yards. In the final minute the midfielder unselfishly fed Jermain Defoe, who scored from eight yards.

Fulham, who had Moritz Volz sent off four minutes from time after receiving a second yellow card, need to appoint a new manager quickly if they are to halt their slide. Martin Jol, Tottenham's former manager, reportedly turned down the chance to succeed Lawrie Sanchez because he feared the Fulham squad is too weak to survive. Ray Lewington, who is in caretaker charge, agreed this was relegation form. "Our team balance isn't right," he said. "Physically we're not strong enough."

Goals: Keane (27) 1-0; Huddlestone (45) 2-0; Dempsey (60) 2-1; Keane (62) 3-1; Huddlestone (71) 4-1; Defoe (90) 5-1.

Tottenham (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Kaboul, King (Taarabt, 74), Lee; Lennon, Huddlestone, O'Hara, Malbranque; Berbatov (Boateng, 64), Keane (Defoe, 68). Substitutes not used: Cerny (gk), Bent.

Fulham (4-3-3): Niemi; Baird (Volz, h-t), Hughes (Healy, 64), Bocanegra, Konchesky; Davies, Murphy, Smertin; Dempsey, Kamara, Seol (Bouazza, h-t). Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Kuqi.

Referee: A Marriner (W Midlands).

Booked: Tottenham Huddlestone. Fulham Baird, Volz, Davies.

Sent off: Fulham Volz.

Man of the match: Huddlestone.

Attendance: 36,077.

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