This was one of those defeats that brings you back to earth with a bump. After a morale-boosting point at Stamford Bridge in midweek, Fulham headed into a tough test against Tottenham believing they could match Andre Vilas-Boas’ men and Martin Jol’s team selection was certainly adventurous. Not for the first time in his Craven Cottage tenure, the Dutchman was perhaps too open against a top side – playing both Kerim Frei and Ashkan Dejagah from the start, although the hosts were certainly contributing to an even contest up until Mark Schwarzer let Sandro’s speculative shot from distance squirm through his body and into the net.
The dispiriting nature of Fulham’s meek surrender after Sandro’s strike will have perturbed Jol, who spoke afterwards of a loss of Fulham’s ‘fighting spirit’. Many of the basic mistakes that littered their display were worrying and the squad now have eight days to put things right down at Motspur Park prior to the visit of Newcastle United, another side struggling to recapture their scintilating early-season form, on Monday week.
Schwarzer: The Australian goalkeeper’s decline is now becoming noticeable. Now 40, Schwarzer has a definite difficulty in getting down to save shots hit low to his right – and should never have let Sandro’s effort get through his grasp – although Fulham stood off the Brazilian alarmingly to allow him the pop at goal from such a distance. Stood little chance with the two predatory finishes from Jermain Defoe, but the psychological damage from his earlier mistake was considerable. 5
Riether: Forced off after coming off worse following a clash with Clint Dempsey – having gamely tried to persevere despite spending some time on the sidelines clutching his rib. Fulham badly missed the German who has been one of their most consistent performers this season and it remains to be seen how much recovery time he’ll need. 6
Riise: Found it difficult to contain the lively Aaron Lennon and also struggled to raid forward effectively. The England winger did well to pen his opposite number back, but with Kerim Frei fading badly by the hour mark, Fulham could really have down with some impetus to be provided by their adventurous full-back. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes and will probably still be reflecting on the golden opportunity he spurned in front of goal at Stamford Bridge. The Norwegian was noticeably the only man to venture past the halfway line to applaud the fans following this dismal defeat. 6
Hughes: Unable to replicate his midweek excellence, although this wasn’t a disastrous display from the Northern Ireland centre back. Largely successful in keeping Defoe quiet for much of the contest, but the England striker showed his international class by taking the two clear openings he had in the space of five minutes. Looked comfortable in possession, but had limited ‘out ball’ options due to a lack of movement in front of him. 6
Senderos: The Swiss has swiftly become the scapegoat for every poor performance and, although he was well below his Stamford Bridge levels, so were many other Fulham players this afternoon. Competed well in the air, but gave the ball away far too regularly and his two poor decisions cost Fulham dear. He opted to try and jockey Gilfyi Sigurdssson, but the substitute skipped away from him on his way to byline to cross for the second goal and, five minutes later, Senderos’ late decision to push up having failed to track Defoe’s run allowed the Spurs striker through on goal. Disappointing. 5
Diarra: Still looks short of match sharpness – and the worry is that the Malian midfielder will only be approaching his peak performance levels by the time he’s set to represent his country at the Africa Cup of Nations. He was combative enough in the midfield area, flooring Clint Dempsey early on with one fiesty tackle that delighted the boo boys, but too often chose the wrong option when in possession. Struggled to dictate the game against Spurs’ efficient duo of Sandro and Dembele. 6
Sidwell: Another whole-hearted performance from the man who’s quickly become the heartbeat of the side. Looked lively and, as a Londoner, understood the importance of another local derby. Played at a tempo that was missing from the rest of the side, but was often involved in an uphill struggle, battling to retrieve possession. Might have put Fulham in front with a little bit more guile and pace when released by a brilliant Berbatov pass in the early stages – and maybe that would have made for an altogether happier afternoon. 7
Dejagah: Given an opportunity to reprise his energetic effort against Arsenal last month and, although the Iranian started impressively, he couldn’t get the better of the outstanding Jan Vertonghen, who was filling in for Benoit Assou-Ekotto again at full-back. Full of running, Dejagah’s willingness to attack the Tottenham defence was commendable but he often opted to hold onto the ball or dribble past another man rather than retaining possession. It’s still early in his English adventure but this was a timely lesson about the importance of an end product. Had Frei converted his first-half cross things could have been very different. 6
Frei: For me whilst Frei is still finding his fitness, the teenager’s a far better option off the bench to run at tiring defences. He lifted a shot over from a promising position after Dejagah had been sent scampering down the right by another beautiful Berbatov flick, but faded badly thereafter. At 19 and having had so little time on the pitch this season, it’s harsh to be overly critical but the Turkish international too often took the ball into traffic and looked predictable after being nullified by Kyle Naughton. 5
Petric: Often a chance to press his claims for a permanent place in Fulham’s starting line-up, Petric struggled to get the ball in areas where he could hurt Tottenham in an almost carbon copy of his frustrating afternoon at Stoke a week ago. The Croatian, who couldn’t repeat his Hamburg heroics from a free-kick in a similar position at the Hammersmith End, looks a little more hesitant than he did at the start of the season, when he was taking shots from all angles, but there was no faulting his work rate on what became an infuriating afternoon. Expressed his disbelief at the heavy defeat following the final whistle on Twitter – and is likely to be sacrificed should Bryan Ruiz be fit to return against Newcastle. 6
Berbatov: Brilliant again against his former employers, but you have to wonder whether he’s becoming frustrated with those around him. Was Fulham’s creative hub in a fluent first half, playing two brilliant passes to send Sidwell and Dejagah surging forward, but his scornful look at the Iranian after he headed into the Hammersmith End in the second half said it all. Once again, Berbatov was forced to drop deeper to influence proceedings and found himself regularly running away from goal to retrieve the ball, thereby reducing the time he spent in space that could occupy Tottenham’s two centre halves. Looked horribly isolated without Bryan Ruiz creating space and pulling the strings behind him. 7
Kelly: Like Senderos against Sunderland, the Irish full-back’s been out of the first-team picture for so long it is harsh to judge his effectiveness on an unexpected early arrival caused by Riether’s injury. Did well to contain Gareth Bale – who would be far from your ideal opponent as a full-back looking to make an impression – but made the mistake of showing Sigurdssson inside a matter of minutes after he had replaced the Welsh winger. Five minutes later, he was caught horribly square by Dempsey’s through ball for Defoe as the England forward finished the contest clinically. 5
Duff: Kelly’s compatriot would have justified in his disappointment at being dropped after a diligent and effective display at Stamford Bridge, but being the consummate professional, Duff’s displeasure didn’t show. He made an immediate impact having been sent on for the fading Frei and was far more effective in running at Vertonghen than the teenager, although Defoe’s five-minute double rendered it all rather academic. For me, Jol got this selection wrong – and Duff will be desperate to start against his old club when Newcastle come to town. 6
Rodallega: The Colombian was offered ten minutes to pose a pacier problem for Tottenham’s back four than Fulham had managed previously, but the game was largely played in front of the visitors back four. 6