Brian McBride enjoyed a dream Fulham debut as he came off the bench to score the winner against Tottenham Hotspur and end Spurs’ 100 per cent league record in 2004.
The American international, signed last week from Colombus Crew after Louis Saha’s departure for Manchester United, made an immediate impact eight minutes after stepping off the substitutes bench forcing home a corner at the far post after another debutant Ian Pearce had seen his header parried by Kasey Keller. That represented a remarkable turnaround after Fulham had trailed to Robbie Keane’s first half penalty – and helped Chris Coleman’s men complete a league double over their north London rivals.
Wind and heavy rain meant there wasn’t much attractive football in the early stages. Edwin van der Sar made a smart save scrambling to his right to touch Keane’s powerful strike onto the post, but Fulham failed to heeded the warning when Pearce used his hand to block the Irish international’s chip in the box. It was a clear penalty, which the former Coventry City striker rifled into the bottom left corner with aplomb.
Fulham weren’t too disheartened by going behind and almost levelled in the 20th minute when Keller superbly saved Barry Hayles’ effort from the edge of the box after excellent approach play from Steed Malbranque. van der Sar was then called upon to fist enough an inswinging corner from Helder Postiga – but Fulham continued to take the game to their opponents and got their reward in first half stoppage time.
Tottenham got themselves in a terrible muddle when Gary Doherty and Stephane Dalmat contrived to give away possession in their own half. Luis Boa Morte breezed down the left and was felled by Michael Brown. Matt Messias pointed to the spot, although television replays suggested that the foul might have come just outside the box. Malbranque made no mistake from twelve yards – shooting high into the top right hand corner.
The pace only quickened after the break. Postiga, who has endured a difficult start in England, had another embarrassing miss in front of goal when he completed missed Keane’s cross inside the six-yard box and when he did make a firmer connection, he was denied by a smart save from van der Sar.
McBride replaced Hayles just before the hour mark and he quickly discomforted the Tottenham defence. He almost outwitted Keller with a clever chip and then was in the right place on the goal-line to prod home after his compatriot had made a fantastic save to claw away Pearce’s header. The American forward has entirely different attributes to the silky Saha – but he could become the new Fulham favourite before long.
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Volz, Bocanegra, Pearce, Knight; Djetou, Davis, Clark; Malbranque, Boa Morte (Petta 89), Hayles (McBride 59). Subs (not used): Crossley, Inamoto, Sava.
GOALS: Malbranque (45), McBride (67).
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-4-2): Keller; Carr, Ziege, Gardner, Doherty; Brown, King, Davies, Dalmat; Keane, Postiga (Zamora 79). Subs (not used): Burch, Bunjevcevic, Jackson, Kelly.
GOAL: Keane (pen 18).
REFEREE: Matt Messias (North Yorkshire).