Fulham cruised into the last 16 of the FA Cup with an impressive demolition of London rivals Tottenham at Craven Cottage.
The Cottagers burst out of the blocks, scoring four first half goals, including two Danny Murphy penalties, in an encounter that was over as soon as Michael Dawson got sent off in the 13th minute.
In an opening that Dawson will struggle to ever repress, the defender was at fault for the first penalty Spurs conceded, was again at fault and was consequently given an early bath for his role in the hosts’ second penalty.
Fulham pounced on the inadequacies shown by the Tottenham back four through further goals by Brede Hangeland and the lively Moussa Dembele to set up a meeting with either Bolton or Wigan in the final 16 of the cup.
With the hosts showing plenty of attacking intent in the opening exchanges, Dawson had a nightmare five minutes that shaped the rest of the game.
The centre-half was caught napping in possession and when Clint Dempsey surged into the box, Alan Hutton clearly clattered into the American, earning Fulham a stonewall penalty. Usual spot kick taker Murphy stepped up and comfortably slotted the ball into the right hand side of the net.
Deja vu struck moments later, with Dawson giving the ball away in an even more embarrassing manner, after receiving a Heurelho Gomes goal kick in plenty of time and space.
He was quickly pickpocketed by Moussa Dembele and could only respond by tugging the striker down in the area, earning himself a straight red. Murphy duly obliged again, this time tucking the ball into the opposite corner after Gomes presumed the midfielder may opt to hit the same area as before.
Tottenham were visibly shaken after going two-down and their dire showing was nearly further compounded, though Dembele was only able to tickle the top of the bar after he caught the ball on the half-volley just inside the area.
Fulham continued to run rampant and it came as no surprise when they sunk their third goal. With the visitors visibly shellshocked even defending set-pieces seemed a task beyond their capabilites and when Andy Johnson flicked on a Murphy free-kick, the totally free Hangeland pounced to slam the ball home from inside the six yard box.
Perhaps understandably, having been reduced to 10 men, Tottenham struggled to get out of first gear. Fulham’s high-tempo pressing game never really allowed the visitors to get out of their own half, yet some quick feet from Luka Modric saw the Croatian beat two men after receiving the ball from a short corner but he fired disappointingly wide.
In a rare spell of possession that very lightly suggested the visitors may have something to bring to the table at Craven Cottage, Tottenham’s main danger man Rafael van der Vaart collected the ball on the edge of the area following Steven Pienaar’s poor touch. Though, he was quickly crowded out by the Fulham defence, when the trigger was ready to be pulled.
Such optimism was effectively proved redundant when the evervesant Danny Murphy tracked back and stopped Modric as he was cantering towards goal. His block and subsequent pass found Dembele on the halfway line, who turned quickly, rounded a hapless William Gallas and comfortably tucked the ball into the corner of the net in a fluid counter-attack
The half-time whistle came as a welcome relief to Tottenham, who looked flimsy, at best, at the back and uncharacteristically stifled up top, with the tie effectively over.
Fulham began the second half in the same manner they played the first. The impressive Damien Duff weaved his way down the left flank, his excellent cross could only be guided over the bar by the head of Johnson.
Despite chasing the most unlikely of comebacks, Spurs showed as much potency in one burst down the line by Alan Hutton than they did in the entire first half. The Scot’s powerful charge breached Fulham’s back four, yet before his cross could find Peter Crouch, Hangeland walloped the ball out for a corner which eventually petered out to nothing.
With Fulham dominant in possession, the visitors were reduced to chasing the ball around, with the Cottagers stroking it over the park without trying to force any clear cut chances. When Dempsey found himself free on the edge of the area following a lengthy spell of Fulham keep-ball, his goalbound effort was palmed away by the busy Gomes.
Tottenham occasionally threatened at the other end, with the only redeeming featureas of their play being the seemingly telepathic relationship between Van der Vaart and Beniot Assou-Ekotto, as well as Hutton’s escapades down the right touchline. However, a chronic lack of a decent final ball severely hindered Spurs’ attempts to trouble David Stockdale.
As the game trundled towards its inevitable end, substitute Jermaine Jenas nearly scored an excellent consolation, when his volley flashed just inches wide of Stockdale’s post.
Fulham were inches away from netting a fifth when Aaron Hughes’ header from a corner rattled the crossbar and Hangeland’s follow-up was cleared off the line, while Gomes made the most of a tame shot by Duff that was not struck as clinically as the winger would have hoped.
The game ended with Oles all around from the home crowd at Craven Cottage after Fulham barely broke a sweat to eliminate flailing Tottenham from the FA Cup.