The overwhelming feeling at the end of a Cup tie that became more engrossing as time ticked by was that Fulham’s chance of a rare walk down Wembley way had slipped away. Tottenham started with a frenzied flurry and settled in their pretty passing swiftly, but Roy Hodgson’s side created more chances as the game grew older and, with Fulham’s notoriously poor domestic away form, you felt that they had to finish the job at Craven Cottage.
That they didn’t owed a lot to Heurelho Gomes. The Brazilian goalkeeper returned to the scene of a horrific error early in his Tottenham career, when he carelessly let a tame shot from Simon Davies trickle into the net, but he carried on from where he left off last Boxing Day when an inspired performance earned Spurs a point. He was much the busier keeper, producing a couple of terrific saves to deny Bobby Zamora and Damien Duff, as Fulham looked a lot more adventurous after the break.
Tottenham had the bulk of the possession in the first period, with little Luka Modric buzzing forward ominously from central midfield, but struggled to penetrate a well-drilled defence. Harry Redknapp paired Roman Pavlyuchenko with Peter Crouch up front but Brede Hangeland won most of the aerial duels and Fulham were fairly comfortable, especially as there was little danger behind the back line with Jermain Defoe only fit enough to manage a brief cameo from the bench.
Bobby Zamora led the line with characteristic endeavour for the home side, engaging in a running battle with Sebastien Bassong, who seemed eager to take Zamora’s shirt away with him long before the final whistle. On the ocassions when Zamora escaped the attentions of his marker, he failed to find the finishing touch. A smart turn on the edge of the box gave him the space to shot at goal but Gomes smothered the shot at his near post.
Spurs, previously restricted to patient passing and hopeful efforts from distance, first tested Schwarzer through Niko Kranjcar, whose powerful shot proved too hot for the Australian to hold, though Hangeland was on hand to sweep the rebound to safety. Schwarzer showed an agility beyond his years to get a hand on a downward header from Crouch that seemed to be creeping inside the far post but that was close as Spurs came.
The sum of Fulham’s attacking efforts were that low Zamora drive and some speculative shots from Damien Duff, although Michael Dawson was forced into a hurried clearance as Zamora bore down on goal. Hodgson’s side were much more effective after the break, with the second half only seconds old when Gomes stretched to brilliantly palm away Zoltan Gera’s header after Zamora had glanced on a cross from Simon Davies. The goalkeeper made a more conventional stop from Dickson Etuhu’s header five minutes later and that lively spell sparked Spurs into life.
They forced a succession of corners and the rampaging Gareth Bale burst alarming past Chris Baird on a couple of ocassions – though the relief was tangible when Michael Dawson drove wide from inside the box. The game was suddenly a lot more open. Zamora somehow worked a yard of space for Duff, whose sidefooter from 20 yards just lacked the pace to take it past a diving Gomes, while Kranjcar’s dangerous cross from the flank eluded everybody in the Fulham penalty area.
Defoe belatedly joined the Tottenham frontline, but it was Fulham who came closest to nicking it towards the end as David Elm came on to partner Zamora. He was agonisingly close to latching onto a raking through pass from Chris Baird and then dragged the game’s last chance frustrating across goal from a narrow angle. Fulham, who badly missed the creativity of injured captain Danny Murphy, might come to rue those late missed chances.
FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Baird, Shorey, Hughes, Hangeland; Etuhu, Greening, Duff, Davies (Elm 73); Gera; Zamora. Subs (not used): Zuberbuhler, Smalling, Kelly, Konchesky, Riise, Okaka.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-4-2): Gomes; Corluka, Assou-Ekotto, Dawson, Bassong; Palacios, Modric, Kranjcar, Bale; Pavlyuchenko (Defoe 81), Crouch. Subs (not used): Alnwick, Dervite, Livermore, Townsend, Rose, Gudjohnsen.
REFEREE: Mark Clattenburg (County Durham).