Fulham pay heavy price again for failing to cash in on solid form, as Tottenham make off with spoils
Fulham (0) 0
Tottenham Hotspur (1) 1 Tosin OG 19
Dele Alli repaid Jose Mourinho for giving him his first league start since the opening day of the season by setting Spurs on the path to all three points at Craven Cottage.
At times the relationship between player and manager has appeared strained to the point of being beyond repair and there was much talk of the Spurs midfielder rejoining his old boss Mauricio Pochettino at PSG in the latest transfer window.
But he showed something of the Alli of old and it was his flick from Heung-Min Son’s pass which found the net via the boot of Tosin Adarabioyo.
Victory keeps alive Spurs’ interest in that battle for a top four finish – and Champions League football next season.
For the Whites, it was an opportunity missed to move out of the bottom three at the expense of Newcastle United and give even more substance to the steady improvement which has turned a once hopeless-looking position into something more hopeful.
It is an unforgiving spell of fixtures for Scott Parker’s men, with Liverpool away on Sunday followed by the visit of relentless league leaders Man City next Saturday night, but there is still time.
Theirs was a familiar tale of so near, yet so far, typified by the second-half moment when they thought they had equalised through Josh Maja, only for VAR to overrule.
Fulham should draw comfort from the fact they managed to nullify much of the threat posed by a fearsome Spurs attack comprising Gareth Bale, and that Harry Kane-Son combo.
The latter duo created the first real moment of danger when they exchanged passes beautifully, Son curving a cross with the outside of the right boot for Kane to nod down.
Alphonse Areola was equal to that one, but in the next attack, Alli found the net via Tosin after Son had rolled another teasing ball towards the six-yard box from the left edge of the penalty area.
Alli then nearly turned provider when his chip to the far post gave Son an opening – the South Korean miscuing with a header.
The Whites did not look dangerous enough in the final third, as has been the case all season, but might have drawn level just before the break when Josh Maja rolled a pass back for Mario Lemina to have a go. The ball was blazed over the bar in ugly fashion.
It wasn’t the first time he’d done that in the first half either.
Joachin Andersen looked the man most likely at Crystal Palace at the weekend and he almost got an equaliser for the Whites when his header from Ivan Cavaleiro’s free-kick had to be tipped over by Hugo Lloris. From the corner, fellow-defender Tosin also went close with a header.
With Antonee Robinson a huge presence in attack on the left and Harrison Reed tigerish as ever in midfield, Parker’s side continued to believe they might yet repeat the excellent 1-1 draw achieved at Spurs a couple of months ago.
Had Ruben Loftus-Cheek possessed a better radar, the curler from the edge of the area after good work from Ademola Lookman might have borne fruit.
And seconds after Lemina had been denied by Lloris, Maja found space in the area to fire low inside the keeper’s left-hand post – only to have it ruled out by VAR for a handball by Lemina in the build-up.
Areola saved well from Kane after Erik Lamela’s deft touch had freed the England striker but the second half was a story of Fulham dominance being matched by their frustration at an inability to carve out the openings they needed. They must hope that does not become the season’s epitaph.
Whites: Areola – Aina, Andersen, Tosin, Robinson (Bryan 75) – Lemina, Reed – Cavaleiro (Mitrovic 71), Loftus-Cheek (Anguissa 64), Lookman – Maja. Subs not used: Tete, Ream, Reid, Onomah, Kongolo, Fabri
Spurs: Lloris – Doherty, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Davies – Ndombele (Lamela 75), Hojbjerg – Bale (Lucas Moura 67), Alli (Sissoko 67), Son – Kane. Subs not used: Reguilon, Winks, Hart, Dier, Tanganga, Vinicius