Carlos Bocanegra’s first goal for Fulham ensured Chris Coleman’s side secured a late winner over Tottenham at Craven Cottage tonight and damaged Spurs’ Champions’ League aspirations.
Martin Jol’s decision to play Polish forward Grzegorz Rasiak instead of Jermain Defoe badly backfired as Spurs struggled to build up significant pressure on the Fulham goal or finish the chances that did come their way. Rasiak, badly devoid of confidence, was jeered by the visiting supporters and Defoe’s 20-minute cameo off the bench wasn’t enough to tilt a tight game in the visitors’ favour. Instead, Spurs – reduced to ten men when Michael Dawson was shown a second yellow card – wilted and were beaten at the last when Bocanegra bounced away from Stephen Kelly to head home a stoppage-time free kick.
Fulham introduced Michael Brown, the latest player to leave White Hart Lane as Jol reshapes his squad, as their newest signing before the kick off. The midfielder watched from the stands as he former employers almost took an early lead with Republic Ireland internationals Robbie Keane and Andy Reid linking up impressively before the latter shot inches wide of Antti Niemi’s far post. Fulham almost punished Rasiak for lunging in on Sylvain Legwinski as Paul Robinson pulled off a splendid save to push Brian McBride’s precise strike away from the far corner.
England goalkeeper Robinson repeated the feat just after the half hour mark – showing great agility to keep out a McBride volley that looked destined for the top corner. Chances were far and far between in a scrappy second half until Dawson received his marching orders for fouls on Heidar Helguson and McBride. The American was again denied by Robinson from the resultant free-kick, but Defoe almost stole the points after intercepting a slack pass from Simon Elliott and letting fly from 20 yards, with Niemi juggling his save akwardly.
Fulham won it deep into stoppage time when Tottenham switched off at a left-wing free-kick. Elliott’s delivery reached the heart of the penalty area and Bocanegra escaped the attentions of his marker to finally beat Robinson from six yards out to the delight of the home fans.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Rosenior, Bridge, Knight, Bocanegra; Elliott, Legwinski (Radzinski 23), Malbranque, Boa Morte; Helguson,McBride (John 73). Subs (not used): Warner, Goma, N. Jensen.
GOAL: Bocanegra (90).
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-4-2): Robinson; Kelly, King, Dawson, Stalteri; Reid (Huddlestone 26), Carrick, Jenas, Lennon (Gardner 74); Rasiak (Defoe 70), Keane. Subs (not used): Cerny, Jackson.
BOOKED: Rasiak, Dawson, Jenas.
SENT OFF: Dawson (72).
REFEREE: Howard Webb (South Yorkshire).