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By Tom Moore
, at Craven Cottage
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Premier League: Fulham 1 Tottenham 2
Rene Meulensteen’s first game in charge of Fulham ended in an unfortunate defeat to Tottenham as screamers from Vlad Chiriches and Lewis Holtby lifted the pressure on Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas.
Ashkan Dejagah gave the home side the lead after 56 minutes after a wonderful pass from Dimitar Berbatov, whose agent said that he wanted to leave Craven Cottage earlier today.
The lead was no more than Fulham deserved after having the better of the chances in a pulsating first half with Hugo Lloris putting in a man of the match display.
But with 17 minutes remaining, Chiriches fired home from 35 yards past the unsighted Maarten Stekelenburg.
Just 10 minutes later, Spurs had the lead as Holtby curled home from the edge of the box.
The defeat was Fulham’s sixth in a row but the performance was a marked improvement from the Whites after the sacking of Martin Jol on Sunday.
John Arne Riise, Sascha Riether, Philippe Senderos, Giorgos Karagounis, Dimitar Berbatov, Alex Kacaniklic and Ashkan Dejagah were all restored to the side with the Norweigan defender making his first start since August.
Steve Sidwell, Adel Taarabt, Elsad Zverotic and Damien Duff dropped to the bench while Kieran Richardson, Darren Bent, Fernando Amorebieta were left out of the matchday squad.
Tottenham made three changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Manchester United. Mousa Dembele was left out of the squad to face his former club, while Jermain Defoe was preferred to Roberto Soldado for only his second start of the Premier League season. Erik Lamela came in for Nacer Chadli.
Fulham started brightly but it was the visitors that had the first serious attempt on goal as Defoe raced through but Maarten Stekelenburg was equal to his effort.
The Whites responded with three good chances to take the lead – the first two falling to wantaway striker Dimitar Berbatov.
First, the Bulgarian’s header went straight into the arms of Hugo Lloris but he should have done better after Kacaniklic played him through but his touch was too heavy and went straight to the Frenchman.
Giorgos Karagounis then stung the stopper’s hands with a rasping shot that the Dutchman did well to keep out.
The best chance came on 22 minutes after a delightful 50 yard pass from Riise into the path of Pajtim Kasami.
The winger sent a cross in that Berbatov controlled, turned and unleashed a half volley that Lloris did brilliantly to parry.
Tottenham countered with Aaron Lennon and Defoe. The latter teed up Paulinho but his shot went over the bar from a great position.
Fulham went straight back at the Lilywhites and Dejagah had his header deflected over the bar.
Erik Lamela was the next man to try his luck, unleashing a 25 yard thunderbolt that Stekelenburg had to be at his best to deal with.
The last chance of a pulsating first half went to Etienne Capoue but his effort was comfortably wide of the Fulham goal.
Villas-Boas made a switch at half time with Lewis Holtby replacing Capoue, allowing Paulinho to drop deeper and partner Sandro. The German being brought on to play in the number 10 role.
Tottenham had the better start as Defoe’s backheeled effort was blocked into the path of Sandro but the Brazilian’s effort was deflected wide.
Fulham returned to their first half dominance and Berbatov hit the side netting but a minute later he had set up the opener.
The former Spurs man dispossessed Michael Dawson and sent Dejagah free down the right. The Iran international controlled the ball and sent the ball across Lloris and in.
The absence of Vertonghen raised concerns over Danny Rose’s fitness and the Englishman could be back for the game against Sunderland.
Tottenham regrouped as Fulham start to sit back to try and protect their lead and with 17 minutes remaining they scored a wonderful equaliser.
Fulham thought they had cleared a ball into the box but Chiriches sent the ball back where it came from from 35 yards and it found its way into the net.
The Whites nearly had their lead back when Berbatov had another chance but Lloris came to Tottenham’s rescue again.
Spurs took the lead in spectacular style as Holtby picked the ball up, cut inside and launched a curling effort straight into the net with eight minutes remaining.
It was nearly three when Stekelenburg was forced to tip Paulinho’s header over the bar.
Fulham charged forward but the brilliant Lloris came to Tottenham’s aid again to deny Bryan Ruiz.
They had one last chance in stoppage time but Spurs were able to resist the goalmouth scramble, with the Costa Rican again going close, and claim the win.
But there was a major concern for the Lilywhites as Vertonghen had to be helped by Tottenham’s backroom staff off at full time.
Fulham: Stekelenburg, Riether, Riise, Parker (Ruiz 87), Hughes, Senderos, Kasami, Karagounis (Sidwell 62), Berbatov, Dejagah, Kacaniklic (Duff 85).
Unused Substitutes: Stockdale, Taarabt, Zverotic, Boateng.
Tottenham: Lloris, Walker, Vertonghen, Sandro (Townsend 78), Chiriches, Dawson, Lennon, Capoue (Holtby 46), Defoe, Paulinho, Lamela (Chadli 69).
Substitutes: Friedel, Soldado, Naughton, Townsend, Chadli, Sigurdsson, Friedel.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg.