Fulham missed the chance to move out of the relegation on a frustrating night at Craven Cottage as Tottenham recorded a third successive win after an unfortunate own goal from Tosin Adarabioyo. The tall defender, who has made such an impact since moving from Manchester City in October, turned Dele Alli’s flick into his own net to settle a tight London derby. Scott Parker’s side probably deserved a point on the strength of an improved second-half showing but saw Josh Maja’s equaliser chalked off by the video assistant referee for an innocuous-looking handball by Mario Lemina.
Alli made the most of his first league start since the opening day of the season, driving forward from his number ten position to turn Heung-Min Son’s terrific cross towards the far corner. The final touch came off the luckless Adarabioyo, but Alli’s instinct for getting into telling positions in the opposition penalty area – something Jose Mourinho’s side have lacked at times this season – was richly rewarded. Spurs looked threatening in the final third after Mourinho played Gareth Bale, Son, Alli and Kane in the same starting eleven with the England skipper spurning two glorious header chances to give the visitors the lead as well as falling to the turf theatrically in the hope of winning a penalty.
Fulham had began the sharper, with their incisive passing and link-up play between their midfielders almost catching Tottenham cold. Ruben Loftus-Cheek created the first opening with a powerful run through the heart of the Spurs midfield but, as all too often this season, his shot lacked conviction and Mario Lemina ballooned the rebound high into the Hammersmith End. Loftus-Cheek almost had another sight of goal when a beautiful reverse pass from the excellent Harrison Reed prised open the Tottenham defence, but a heavy first touch allowed Davinson Sanchez to snuff out the danger. Right on the stroke of half-time a rampaging run from Antonee Robinson fashioned a great opportunity for Lemina, who fired unforgivably over from eight yards.
The home side began the second period with a similar intensity. Joachim Andersen, who regularly switched the play with precise long passes, extended Hugo Lloris with a looping header and the French goalkeeper then fielded a headed effort from Adarabioyo at the ensuing corner. Loftus-Cheek sent a effort over the edge of the box after another excellent passing move that saw Robinson and Lookman, who were posing Tottenham serious problems down the left flank, link up impressively.
The game’s most controversial moment arrived when Maja, who had been hitherto well-marshalled by Toby Alderweireld at the heart of the Tottenham defence, punished a sloppy clearance by Sanchez with a powerful near-post finish that crept past Lloris. The goal was disallowed via the VAR for a handball by Lemina, although the ball bounced back off the on-loan Southampton midfielder’s wrist, when his arm was down by his side and hadn’t moved. It seemed exceptionally harsh – and no doubt that particular rule will be revised come the end of the season.
Fulham kept pushing for an equaliser, but even after introducing Aleksandar Mitrovic to join Maja in attack, couldn’t conjure another clear-cut chance. Spurs went close to sealing it the other end, with Alphonse Areola spreading himself well to deny Kane after Erik Lamela had played him in. The Argentine was excellent off the substitutes’ bench for Tottenham, having already produced a sublime sequence of skills tight to the byline to almost find Kane minutes earlier, and Fulham couldn’t quite reply in kind in stoppage time with Lookman’s cutback far too close to Lloris to allow either Mitrovic or Maja a run at it.
Parker’s charges will have to quickly put this disappointment behind them, with tough tests at Liverpool and against league leaders Manchester City on the horizon. There’s plenty to admire about the grit and character of this side, but Fulham remain deep in relegation trouble – and the breaks just aren’t going for them at the moment.
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Areola; Aina, Robinson (Bryan 75), Adarabioyo, Andersen; Lemina, Reed; Cavaleiro (Mitrovic 71), Lookman, Loftus-Cheek (Anguissa 64), Maja. Subs (not used): Fabri, Tete, Kongolo, Ream, Onomah, Decordova-Reid.
BOOKED: Lookman, Reed.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Doherty, Davies, Alderweireld, Sanchez; Hojbjerg, Ndombele (Lamela 75); Bale (Moura 67), Son, Alli (Sissoko 67); Kane. Subs (not used): Hart, Dier, Tangana, Regulion, Winks, Vinicius.
GOAL: Adarabioyo (o.g.) 19.
REFEREE: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).
VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREE: Jarred Gillett (Australia).