It wasn’t a fairytale return to Wembley for Fulham after all. Three months after that magical day when the Whites won promotion to the Premier League by seeing off Aston Villa, Slavisa Jokanovic’s much-changed side were ultimately outclassed by Tottenham Hotspur but not before they gave Spurs something of a fright with a spirited second half showing. There were more than enough positives to take from an intriguing encounter, even if two straight defeats hint at the step up in class from the Championship.
Jokanovic made three changes from the side that had dominated possession on the opening day against Crystal Palace but were undone by naivety in both boxes. Timothy Fosu-Mensah replaced Cyrus Christie at right back, whilst André-Frank Zambo Anguissa was handed a debut in front of the defence and Aboubakar Kamara started in place of Andre Schurrle. The French forward operated on the left, but the inverted nature of Fulham’s wingers left them a little unbalanced in attack, with Ryan Sessegnon a peripheral figure on the right flank.
Tottenham began the brighter with Ben Davies whipping in a dangerous cross from the left that Lucas Moura should have done better than steer wide with his head at the back post. Harry Kane fell theatrically to the ground shortly afterwards but his appeals for a spot-kick were waved away by referee Anthony Taylor, as the England captain sought to make the most of scant contact from Fosu-Mensah. Fulham gradually felt their way into the contest – with their best spell of possession seeing Kamara and Tom Cairney play in Sessegnon, whose snapshot inside the six-yard box was blocked behind for a corner.
Hugo Lloris was called into action just before the half hour mark when a clever Kamara pass teed up Cairney in a central position just outside the box but Lloris got a firm hand to the Scottish international’s drive as it threatened the bottom corner. At the other end, Christian Eriksen brought a fine reaction save from Fabri with a curling free-kick that nearly crept in at the near post – but Fulham were growing in confidence.
A beautiful through ball from Jean-Michael Seri released Sessegnon, who couldn’t get the ball out of his feet as he bore down on the Tottenham goal, and the onrushing Lloris managed to block his shot at source as he rushed off his line. Spurs might have opened the scoring seconds later when both Chambers and Le Marchand blocked efforts at goal and Eriksen lifted a shot over the bar from the edge of the area as Seri threw himself into a tackle.
Tottenham did take the lead two minutes before the break with a goal of exquisite quality from Moura. The Brazilian winger couldn’t have broken his Premier League duck in finer style – bending an unstoppable shot in off the far post after Chambers and Le Marchand had once again threw themselves in the way of earlier efforts. The goal had cruelly come in the midst of Fulham’s most positive period of play, but the Whites were far from downhearted and launched a second half onslaught on the Tottenham goal that was swiftly rewarded.
The lively Aleksandar Mitrovic fashioned an early chance for himself, showing great strength to withstand a couple of challenges, and crashed an effort off the far-post with Cairney’s follow-up drifting just wide. Fabri produced a strong reaction save to keep out a venomous Dele Alli volley, but Fulham continued to go toe-to-toe with Mauricio Pochettino’s men. They got their reward seven minutes into the second period after a mesmerising spell of 27 consecutive passes when Joe Bryan’s teasing cross caused consternation in the Tottenham defence, Ryan Sessegnon prodded it back across goal and Mitrovic showed great agility to head into the net having been on the floor himself seconds earlier.
Pochettino then turned the contest in Tottenham’s favour by summoning former Fulham midfielder Mousa Dembele from the bench. The Belgian added assurance to Spurs’ midfield and they began to dominate proceedings in a manner not seen since before half-time. The Fulham goal led something of a charmed life with Le Marchand pulling off a brilliant block to save Fabri’s blushes after the Spanish goalkeeper had juggled a deep cross and dropped the ball at the feet of Alli before Kane rifled a drive onto the crossbar.
The damn finally broke with a quarter of an hour to play, when Trippier sparked memories of Russia from earlier in the summer with a superb free-kick to restore Tottenham’s lead. The full-back, making his first Spurs start of the season, bent a delicious finish inside Fabri’s near post from 25 yards after Anguissa’s ambitious forward pass was picked off and Fulham were left short-handed at the back against Kane and Alli. Just three minutes, Kane settled matters with a precise finish into the far corner having stepped away from Chambers after Anguissa had been robbed of possession deep in Fulham territory.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (3-4-2-1): Lloris; Alderweireld, Sánchez (Dembélé 63), Vertonghen; Trippier, Eriksen, Dier (Lamela 73), Davies; Lucas Moura, Dele Alli; Kane (Winks 89). Subs (not used): Vorm, Rose, Aurier, Sissoko.
GOALS: Lucas Moura (43), Trippier (74), Kane (77)
FULHAM (4-3-3): Fabri; Fosu-Mensah, , Bryan (Christie 85′), Chambers, Le Marchand; Anguissa, Seri, Cairney (Johansen 73′); R. Sessegnon, Kamara (Schürrle 88), Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Rico, McDonald, Kebano, Vietto.
GOAL: Mitrovic (52).
REFEREE: Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe)..