Ray Lewington admitted after the Wigan game that he was interested in taking the Fulham job on a full-time basis. That interest ended at White Hart Lane this afternoon as a rampant Tottenham tore into a Fulham side that looked every inch the nervous and disjointed team that has collected a meagre fourteen points from the first half of the season. Should their barren run away from home continue, it will be Championship football at Craven Cottage next season.
It was a rather meek surrender from Lewington’s team. Tottenham monopolised possession from the first whistle, and although Clint Dempsey had the first effort on target of any note, when Spurs found their shooting boots it proved a very long afternoon for the travelling Fulham fans. Disheartening for them, former Fulham midfielder Steed Malbranque was showing all the qualities that made him a bargain buy for Spurs after he had fallen out with Chris Coleman and was left training with the youth team.
That always seemed a terrible waste of Malbranque’s prodigious talent and the Frenchman looked as though he wanted to set the record straight today. He had already been lively enough down the wing before scurrying onto Pascal Chimbonda’s cut-back and crashing a shot against the post. Relief for Fulham was shortlived. As Antti Niemi was getting back to his feet, Robbie Keane rolled in the rebound.
The mercurial Dimitar Berbatov and Malbranque were linking splendidly with one another, both displaying the control and vision that makes them simply irresistable on their day. Despite the final scoreline, the first half saw Fulham have a few chances of their own. Aaron Hughes and Simon Davies both had shots blocked by home defenders but you sensed it was crucial for Fulham to get to the break only a goal down. Sadly, they failed.
Malbranque, who was utterly tormenting Chris Baird, steamed down the Tottenham left and pulled the ball across for Berbatov. Rather than electing to shoot himself, the Bulgarian teed up Tom Huddlestone, who smashed home from the edge of the box. Niemi had no chance and neither did Fulham. Not even replacing Baird with Moritz Volz made things any easier; in fact, in keeping with a torrid afternoon, the German was sent off late on for a second yellow card.
Fulham did bundle in a reply on the hour mark when Clint Dempsey scrambled home a cross from Diomansy Kamara, but their glimmer of hope was soon brutally extinguished. Only two minutes had elapsed before the visiting defence caved in again. Berbatov climbed majestically to flick the ball towards goal and Robbie Keane had the simplest of tasks, converting the loose ball from barely a yard out.
You could see Fulham heads dropping all round the pitch and Spurs were now in complete command. The home crowd, relishing their fourth Boxing Day success in a row, cheered every touch and they soon had another superb strike from Huddlestone to applaud. The former Derby County midfielder showcased his shooting ability from the edge of the box once again, guiding an unstoppable shot into the corner from 19 yards or so. Once Fulham had been reduced to ten, their misery was complete when Huddlestone dribbled past a couple of players and set up substitute Jermain Defoe for a fifth.
Fulham need a manager and quickly.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-4-2): Robinson; Chimbonda, Lee, Kaboul, King (Taarabt 63); O’Hara, Huddlestone, Lennon, Malbranque; Berbatov (Boateng 63), Keane (Defoe 68). Subs (not used): Cerny, Bent.
GOALS: Keane (27, 62), Huddlestone (45, 71), Defoe (90).
FULHAM (4-4-2): Niemi; Baird (Volz 45), Konchesky, Hughes (Healy 64), Bocanegra; Smertin, Murphy, Davies, Seol (Bouazza 45); Kamara, Dempsey. Subs (not used): Warner, Kuqi.
BOOKED: Baird, Volz, Smertin, Davies.
SENT OFF: Volz (87).
GOAL: Dempsey (60).
REFEREE: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).