It was as if the FA Cup had enough of giantkillings after a Saturday sprinkled full of shocks. Mauricio Pochettino certainly wasn’t messing around, ditching his heavily-trailed plan of rotating his side following Thursday’s defeat in Belgium, in order to field what was closest to his strongest side to avoid any surprises at Craven Cottage. Harry Kane started at the top of a fluid, attacking line up and Fulham had no answer to the England striker’s prowess in front of goal, failing to recover from the body blow of conceding an early goal after a bright start and losing a second – which had a hint of offside about it – shortly after the restart.
Kane, who loves scoring against Fulham, was back to something approaching his irrepressible best up front but the verve and panache that characterised this performance would have cheered Pochettino as his Spurs side have appeared worryingly listless at times in recent weeks. Slavisa Jokanovic’s side could do little to constrain the flowing football their visitors produced once Kane had prodded them into a 16th minute lead, with the fluidity of their effervescent midfield proving far too much to handle. Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen drifted into the spaces that Kevin McDonald was at least theoretically supposed to guard, but the Fulham defence was so frequently overwhelmed it would be harsh to single out just one culprit.
Scott Malone, who has been a revelation at left back since arriving from Cardiff in the summer, certainly had an afternoon to forget. The enduring image of his traumatic ninety minutes will be the way he fell to earth in almost comical slow motion having been befuddled by the sheer speed of Eriksen as he latched onto Kieran Trippier’s throw. Kane darted effortlessly between the Fulham halves to volley emphatically past Marcus Bettinelli from close range – and Tottenham didn’t look back.
Indeed, the visitors could easily have been out of sight by half-time. They certainly didn’t look like a side who hadn’t found the net from open play in more than six hours with Alli, Son Heung-min and Eriksen rampaging forward at will, but Kane snatched at a couple of chances from fiendishly acute angles and Bettinelli did well to narrow the angles and deny Alli only a matter of minutes after the Tottenham opener. The home side were almost the architects of their downfall three minutes before half time when Bettinelli played the ball straight to Kane, only for a splendidly timed tackle from Stefan Johansen to save the day.
There was little sign of the pretty football that has become the hallmark of Jokanovic’s impressive turnaround at Craven Cottage. Tottenham quickly closed down the space afforded to Tom Cairney, pressing the Fulham playmaker into submission, and Neeskens Kebano was horribly isolated as a lone striker, with the solidarity tactic of playing the ball into the space behind Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld failing as Fulham were unable to put the ball into the same postcode as the Congolese forward. Their best moments came right on the cusp of half time, with Johansen striking wide from 20 yards, a Malone cross narrowly eluding Floyd Ayite and Sone Aluko’s surge down the right culminating a chip that Michel Vorm gathered smartly.
Any hope of a second half comeback was swiftly extinguished. The impressive Harry Winks teamed up with Trippier down the right – where they appeared to have oceans of space all afternoon – and Kane appeared from behind Tim Ream to guide home his second. Fulham were rightly incandescent that the goal had stood, given that the scorer appeared to be more than a yard offside, but in truth a second was the least Spurs’ prolonged dominance deserved. Kane wastefully lifted a finish over the bar after being released by a fine slide-rule ball from Alli, but he wasn’t to be denied his hat-trick for long. Once again his England team-mate provided the assist, deliciously dissecting Kalas and Ream with the pass, and Kane, who had enough time to glance across to check the assistant was again keeping his flag down, whipped a fine finish beyond Bettinelli.
This was a chastening reminder of the gulf between a side scrapping to make up ground on the Championship’s play-off contenders and a team firmly established towards the top of the Premier League. Fulham perked up once Cyriac added a more conventional forward threat and, had McDonald steered a free header underneath the bar from a corner before Kane notched his third, it might have set up a grandstand finish. As it was the game petered out with a period of reminiscence for both sets of fans as Scott Parker and Mousa Dembele returned to face their former sides from the bench to rapturous receptions, but Bettinelli remained focused to the last – making fine reflex saves from Moussa Sissoko and Victor Wanyama.
FULHAM (4-1-2-3): Bettinelli; Odoi, Malone, Kalas, Ream; McDonald (Parker 74); Johansen, Cairney; Aluko (Cyriac 66), Ayité (Ryan Sessegnon 56′), Kebano. Subs (not used): Button, Madl, Piazon, Martin.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-2-3-1): Vorm; Trippier, Davies, Alderweireld, Vertonghen; Winks (Dembélé 79), Wanyama; Eriksen, Alli (Onomah 86), Son Heung-Min; Kane (Sissoko 75). Subs (not used): Pau-Lopez, Winner, Carter-Vickers, Janssen.
GOALS: Kane (16, 51, 73).
REFEREE: Robert Madley (Birmingham).