Tom Huddlestone ended Fulham’s unbeaten start to the Premier League season as Tottenham came from behind to triumph at Craven Cottage – but he might need to include Mike Dean on his Christmas card list.
The referee allowed Huddlestone’s winner to stand despite his assistant Martin Yarby having initially flagged William Gallas offside. Mark Hughes was furious afterwards having watched the officials reverse their decision to rule out Huddlestone’s strike – with Gallas stationed in front of goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, clearly offside, and having moved towards the ball as it headed goalwards. Tottenham urged the referee to go and speak to his assistant and – after some dialogue – the goal was given.
Craven Cottage erupted in anger and Hughes stormed onto the field after the final whistle to confront the official. He hadn’t calmed down by the time of the post-match press conference. “The goal should have been wiped out because Gallas is in an offside position as the ball is struck by Huddlestone. Schwarzer has to hold his position until the ball actually reaches where Gallas is, because he’s thinking at some point Gallas may stick a toe out and deflect it. To say he’s not interfering or not in his eyeline is completely at odds with the truth. I’d like a little bit of clarification. If he’s made a genuine mistake, he’ll admit to it, but it doesn’t do us any good so what’s the point?”
Hughes’ anger was understandable and his side might have even merited more than a point here. They took the lead when Diomansy Kamara made the most of his first league start in nearly twelve months. The Senegalese striker, offered an opportunity as a result of Fulham’s series of attacking injuries, fired home clinically after some brilliant skills from Clint Dempsey were followed by an inch-perfect cross.
Kamara had already spurned a glorious chance – glancing Simon Davies’ corner wide – and Aaron Hughes also headed over when found by an excellent cross from Danny Murphy. Carlos Salcido blasted fractionally off target from 25 yards and Dean waved away loud home penalty appeals against Alan Hutton. Fulham’s lead was fully deserved, but they surrendered it within a minute when the impressive Rafael van de Vaart pounced on an error from Aaron Hughes, struck the post with a clever chip and Roman Pavlyuchenko forced home the rebound.
Schwarzer made a good save from van der Vaart but Fulham still looked threatening with Chris Baird drawing another excellent save from Heurelho Gomes. Spurs then took the lead through Huddlestone’s controversial strike and the setback briefly disrupted Fulham. The visitors could have wrapped up the points but van der Vaart volleyed disappointingly wide and the lively substitute Aaron Lennon, who added real directness to the Tottenham attack, drove over the from the edge of the box.
Kamara nearly impudently fashioned a second with an improvised flick and Fulham wouldn’t have wanted a glorious chance to fall to Salcido after a horribly defensive mix-up between Gomes and Hutton. The Mexican left back screwed wide from a tight angle but produced an excellent challenge to prevent van der Vaart from ending the contest as he stole in at the back post to tap in a Lennon cross.
Kamara shot over from fifteen yards and Hughes threw on Eddie Johnson in a desperate search for an equaliser but Tottenham held on to claim three precious points.
FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Baird, Salcido, Hughes, Hangeland; Greening (E. Johnson 84), Murphy (Kelly 52), Davies, Dempsey; Dembele (Gera 75); Kamara. Subs (not used): Stockdale, Pantsil, Halliche, Riise.
GOAL: Kamara (30).
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-5-1): Gomes; Hutton, Assou-Ekotto, Gallas, King (Bassong 44); Huddlestone, Sandro (Lennon 45) Modric, van der Vaart, Bale; Pavlyuchenko (Crouch 70). Subs (not used): Cudicini, Jenas, Krancjar, Keane.
GOALS: Pavlyuchenko (31), Huddlestone (63).
REFEREE: Mike Dean (Wirral).