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Schwarzer’s studying pays dividends

Mark Schwarzer credited Fulham’s video analysts after claiming he knew exactly where Jonathan Walters was going to strike his penalty during the 1-0 win over Stoke City this afternoon.

The 40 year-old goalkeeper made a sharp save from Walters’ spot-kick, diving to his left to preserve Fulham’s advantage, after referee Lee Probert had penalised Ashkan Dejagah for handball in the second half of the lunchtime kick-off. It was the Australian’s second penalty save of the season after his injury-time stop from Mikel Arteta in November ensured Fulham came away with a point from the Emirates.

We looked at video footage before the game so I was confident I knew where he was going to go. I was lucky enough to get behind it.

Schwarzer was also delighted to keep a second consecutive clean sheet after Fulham’s goalless draw at Norwich a fortnight ago, telling Sky Sports after the game:

We looked at video footage before the game so I was confident I knew where he was going to go. I was lucky enough to get behind it.

Jol lauds special team effort

Martin Jol praised a superb team effort after Fulham moved closer to Premier League with a narrow win against Stoke at Craven Cottage.

The Fulham manager singled out the work rate of central midfield pairing Steve Sidwell and Giorgos Karagounis, who was preferred to loan signings Emmanuel Frimpong and Urby Emmanuelson, as being as just as crucial to Fulham’s victory as Dimitar Berbatov’s sumptuous first half volley or Mark Schwarzer’s vital penalty save after the break.

I think it was a team effort. If you look at the midfield –  Steve Sidwell and Giorgos Karagounis – you saw the work rate and the work effort, because we have a problem with their style. It was a team effort but a couple of players made the difference today. Mark Schwarzer made it our day because we may have lost two points again if the penalty kick had gone in.

Schwarzer made three great saves. In the first half from Walters when they got in behind our defence, then when Philippe Senderos tried to hold off his man – that was a great save – and, of course, the penalty.

Jol revealed that Berbatov’s sprint towards the Fulham bench after his vicious volley had found the top corner was provoked by his own insistence that the Bulgarian striker had hardly scored any volleys since signing for the club from Manchester United at the end of the summer transfer window.

Dimitar always scores between 15 and 25 goals [a season] so it would be silly to think that he can’t score 15 to 20 goals for us – that is what I always have in mind. His goal was a good one but I can remember him scoring a lot of great goals. I said a couple of months ago that he never scored from volleys anymore, that is why he came up to me! It’s the first goal he’s scored from a volley [for Fulham] and in the past he did that all the time. He tried to prove a point because he’s a good sport. We’ve got other players who can make a difference but he and Mark certainly made a difference today.

Jol believes his side were good value for a victory that, ahead of the afternoon kick-offs, lifted Fulham up to eleventh in the table.

Overall, if you saw the first half, I think we were the better team. But it’s always difficult against them. They changed their system, they put all these big guys up front, they play this style and it was not easy for us. We should have scored a second goal and we didn’t, so in the end they could have punished us for the fact we only scored one goal. But, of course, we’ve got Mark Schwarzer who saved the game and the three points for us.

It’s about players. If you’ve got good football players, they can pass it around. Giorgos, for example, in the first half – he made the difference for us in midfield. That is what I knew, and that is what he showed. Of course we’ve got good players but sometimes you need to play ugly against teams like Stoke to get results and to earn the right to play your own football, and I think in the first half we did that.

The Dutch coach was delighted that his side have managed to pick up a couple of crucial home victories since Christmas that could set them up for a concerted assault on the top half as the season draws to a close.

I felt before the game that we had a few vital games this year. West Ham United was one of them, Newcastle United was one of them, and Norwich City last time – because we could have been dragged into a situation with five or six other clubs. Now we are surrounded by Sunderland, Stoke – who are having a very good season – West Ham, who were flying and are now below us. So I think these points are vital to us.

Schwarzer set to extend his contract

Mark Schwarzer has revealed that he has held initial talks with Fulham over extending his contract at Craven Cottage.

The Australian international has his sights set on representing his country at next year’s World Cup in Brazil but appreciates that his international ambitions – and the longevity of his playing career – are dependent on him remaining number one at club level.

I feel really good and don’t think the age thing is hindering my performances in any way. I’ve had some initial discussions and the intentions are there at the club to keep me. But in what capacity we’ll have to wait and see. I want to be playing each week – that’s the key for me. I love playing and don’t want to be No.2 anywhere.

The World Cup is also a huge priority and the reality is if I am not playing I don’t think it would be possible to be a part of the national team. I just want to be out there enjoying every minute – especially at this stage of my career. If that means I have to move on at the end of the season, then that’s fine also. Let’s just see how we go.

Schwarzer, who turned 40 last October, is now the second-oldest man in the Premier League, with only Tottenham’s second choice goalkeeper Brad Friedel behind him. The Fulham goalkeeper, who kept a clean sheet as Martin Jol’s side held Norwich at Carrow Road yesterday, is adamant that he hasn’t remotely considered hanging up his boots yet.

No, not yet. I will just keep my head down and keep training hard – the last few weeks have been particularly good on a personal level.

I am enjoying my football again and I’ll keep doing my job and see what happens at the end of the season. As long I’m fit and performing, then there’s every chance I can play on for at least another season after this one.

Fulham 0-3 Tottenham: Player ratings

This was one of those defeats that brings you back to earth with a bump. After a morale-boosting point at Stamford Bridge in midweek, Fulham headed into a tough test against Tottenham believing they could match Andre Vilas-Boas’ men and Martin Jol’s team selection was certainly adventurous. Not for the first time in his Craven Cottage tenure, the Dutchman was perhaps too open against a top side – playing both Kerim Frei and Ashkan Dejagah from the start, although the hosts were certainly contributing to an even contest up until Mark Schwarzer let Sandro’s speculative shot from distance squirm through his body and into the net.

The dispiriting nature of Fulham’s meek surrender after Sandro’s strike will have perturbed Jol, who spoke afterwards of a loss of Fulham’s ‘fighting spirit’. Many of the basic mistakes that littered their display were worrying and the squad now have eight days to put things right down at Motspur Park prior to the visit of Newcastle United, another side struggling to recapture their scintilating early-season form, on Monday week.

Player ratings

Schwarzer: The Australian goalkeeper’s decline is now becoming noticeable. Now 40, Schwarzer has a definite difficulty in getting down to save shots hit low to his right – and should never have let Sandro’s effort get through his grasp – although Fulham stood off the Brazilian alarmingly to allow him the pop at goal from such a distance. Stood little chance with the two predatory finishes from Jermain Defoe, but the psychological damage from his earlier mistake was considerable. 5

Riether: Forced off after coming off worse following a clash with Clint Dempsey – having gamely tried to persevere despite spending some time on the sidelines clutching his rib. Fulham badly missed the German who has been one of their most consistent performers this season and it remains to be seen how much recovery time he’ll need. 6

Riise: Found it difficult to contain the lively Aaron Lennon and also struggled to raid forward effectively. The England winger did well to pen his opposite number back, but with Kerim Frei fading badly by the hour mark, Fulham could really have down with some impetus to be provided by their adventurous full-back. He didn’t make any glaring mistakes and will probably still be reflecting on the golden opportunity he spurned in front of goal at Stamford Bridge. The Norwegian was noticeably the only man to venture past the halfway line to applaud the fans following this dismal defeat. 6

Hughes: Unable to replicate his midweek excellence, although this wasn’t a disastrous display from the Northern Ireland centre back. Largely successful in keeping Defoe quiet for much of the contest, but the England striker showed his international class by taking the two clear openings he had in the space of five minutes. Looked comfortable in possession, but had limited ‘out ball’ options due to a lack of movement in front of him. 6

Senderos: The Swiss has swiftly become the scapegoat for every poor performance and, although he was well below his Stamford Bridge levels, so were many other Fulham players this afternoon. Competed well in the air, but gave the ball away far too regularly and his two poor decisions cost Fulham dear. He opted to try and jockey Gilfyi Sigurdssson, but the substitute skipped away from him on his way to byline to cross for the second goal and, five minutes later, Senderos’ late decision to push up having failed to track Defoe’s run allowed the Spurs striker through on goal. Disappointing. 5

Diarra: Still looks short of match sharpness – and the worry is that the Malian midfielder will only be approaching his peak performance levels by the time he’s set to represent his country at the Africa Cup of Nations. He was combative enough in the midfield area, flooring Clint Dempsey early on with one fiesty tackle that delighted the boo boys, but too often chose the wrong option when in possession. Struggled to dictate the game against Spurs’ efficient duo of Sandro and Dembele. 6

Sidwell: Another whole-hearted performance from the man who’s quickly become the heartbeat of the side. Looked lively and, as a Londoner, understood the importance of another local derby. Played at a tempo that was missing from the rest of the side, but was often involved in an uphill struggle, battling to retrieve possession. Might have put Fulham in front with a little bit more guile and pace when released by a brilliant Berbatov pass in the early stages – and maybe that would have made for an altogether happier afternoon. 7

Dejagah: Given an opportunity to reprise his energetic effort against Arsenal last month and, although the Iranian started impressively, he couldn’t get the better of the outstanding Jan Vertonghen, who was filling in for Benoit Assou-Ekotto again at full-back. Full of running, Dejagah’s willingness to attack the Tottenham defence was commendable but he often opted to hold onto the ball or dribble past another man rather than retaining possession. It’s still early in his English adventure but this was a timely lesson about the importance of an end product. Had Frei converted his first-half cross things could have been very different. 6

Frei: For me whilst Frei is still finding his fitness, the teenager’s a far better option off the bench to run at tiring defences. He lifted a shot over from a promising position after Dejagah had been sent scampering down the right by another beautiful Berbatov flick, but faded badly thereafter. At 19 and having had so little time on the pitch this season, it’s harsh to be overly critical but the Turkish international too often took the ball into traffic and looked predictable after being nullified by Kyle Naughton. 5

Petric: Often a chance to press his claims for a permanent place in Fulham’s starting line-up, Petric struggled to get the ball in areas where he could hurt Tottenham in an almost carbon copy of his frustrating afternoon at Stoke a week ago. The Croatian, who couldn’t repeat his Hamburg heroics from a free-kick in a similar position at the Hammersmith End, looks a little more hesitant than he did at the start of the season, when he was taking shots from all angles, but there was no faulting his work rate on what became an infuriating afternoon. Expressed his disbelief at the heavy defeat following the final whistle on Twitter – and is likely to be sacrificed should Bryan Ruiz be fit to return against Newcastle. 6

Berbatov: Brilliant again against his former employers, but you have to wonder whether he’s becoming frustrated with those around him. Was Fulham’s creative hub in a fluent first half, playing two brilliant passes to send Sidwell and Dejagah surging forward, but his scornful look at the Iranian after he headed into the Hammersmith End in the second half said it all. Once again, Berbatov was forced to drop deeper to influence proceedings and found himself regularly running away from goal to retrieve the ball, thereby reducing the time he spent in space that could occupy Tottenham’s two centre halves. Looked horribly isolated without Bryan Ruiz creating space and pulling the strings behind him. 7

Substitutes

Kelly: Like Senderos against Sunderland, the Irish full-back’s been out of the first-team picture for so long it is harsh to judge his effectiveness on an unexpected early arrival caused by Riether’s injury. Did well to contain Gareth Bale – who would be far from your ideal opponent as a full-back looking to make an impression – but made the mistake of showing Sigurdssson inside a matter of minutes after he had replaced the Welsh winger. Five minutes later, he was caught horribly square by Dempsey’s through ball for Defoe as the England forward finished the contest clinically. 5

Duff: Kelly’s compatriot would have justified in his disappointment at being dropped after a diligent and effective display at Stamford Bridge, but being the consummate professional, Duff’s displeasure didn’t show. He made an immediate impact having been sent on for the fading Frei and was far more effective in running at Vertonghen than the teenager, although Defoe’s five-minute double rendered it all rather academic. For me, Jol got this selection wrong – and Duff will be desperate to start against his old club when Newcastle come to town. 6

Rodallega: The Colombian was offered ten minutes to pose a pacier problem for Tottenham’s back four than Fulham had managed previously, but the game was largely played in front of the visitors back four. 6

Sandro’s screamer sets up Spurs stroll

Only a few weeks ago, Mark Schwarzer was Fulham’s hero having produced a superlative injury-time penalty to preserve Fulham’s point in a pulsating London derby at Arsenal. The fickle world of modern football means you can go from the toast of the town to villain in an instant – as Clint Dempsey discovered on his return to Craven Cottage this afternoon – and the Australian goalkeeper will appreciate that more than most this evening as he reflects on his inability to keep out a speculative strike from Sandro: an error which turned another tight derby into a simple Saturday stroll for Spurs.

There hadn’t been a lot to choose between the two sides until ten minutes after the break when Fulham stood off Tottenham’s Brazilian defensive midfielder, inviting Sandro to shoot from fully forty yards out. The shot did swerve, but it was speculative at best, and Schwarzer should been able to save it down to his right. Instead, it squirmed through the 40 year-old’s clutches and cannoned in off his near post. The goal galvanised Tottenham and Fulham, who were far from fluent themselves, never recovered. Schwarzer did manage to repel a Gareth Bale effort at his near post just four minutes later but once the Welsh winger had limped off with a hamstring strain, Fulham were prized open by the silky skills of Gylfi Sigurdsson.

The Icelandic midfielder shone as Swansea run amock here in April and he wasted no time in picking up where he had left off. Sigurdsson skipped into the Fulham penalty area from the left flank, sauntering past Stephen Kelly and Philippe Senderos in the process, before squaring for Jerome Defoe to slot home from eight yards. Five minutes later, Defoe displayed the predatory instincts that make him Roy Hodgson’s strongest striking option when he sprinted onto an exquisite through ball from Dempsey and drove past stranded Schwarzer from twelve yards. While Andre Vilas-Boas celebrated a third consecutive commanding victory, the former Tottenham manager Martin Jol was left to reflect on how his current charges crumbled after Schwarzer’s error.

The game had been a sedate affair and, although Spurs started the stronger, their hosts were far from second best. The Hammersmith End enjoyed Dempsey’s failure to fire Tottenham into a second minute lead after the American, who claimed he left the Cottage in the summer as felt ‘underappreciated’ turned away from Aaron Hughes, only to drag his shot past the post with only Schwarzer to beat. In a first half of few chances, Dimitar Berbatov created Fulham’s clearest openings. A fabulous first touch followed by a raking pass released Steve Sidwell, but Spurs were able to snuff out the danger. An outrageous flick sent Ashkan Dejagah scurrying down the right and the Iranian’s low cross eventually came to Kerim Frei, only for the Turkish teenager to shoot wastefully over, and a delicious through ball sent Mladen Petric clear only for the Croatian to be halted in his tracks by a debatable offside flag.

Tottenham enjoyed plenty of possession but little of any note tested Schwarzer prior to Sandro’s strike. Bale, who was booked for diving for the second game in succession, sent a free-kick high into the stands before his afternoon was ended prematurely by that hamstring injury. Injuries had afflicted both sides pior to the Welshman’s exit. Vilas-Boas had to send on William Gallas for Michael Dawson as early as the seventeenth minute and Fulham were forced into a reorganisation at right back after Sascha Riether sustained a rib injury after clashing with Dempsey. Bale’s premature departure didn’t disrupt Tottenham, who never looked like relinquishing their lead, with Fulham’s only attempt at a flurry seeing Dejagah heading a Sascha Riether cross over the bar from five yards out. This wasn’t the reunion with Tottenham that Jol and Berbatov envisaged, although both Dempsey and Moussa Dembele, who was afforded a far more affection than his American team-mate, would have slipped away from south west London quietly content.

FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Riether (Kelly 29), Riise, Hughes, Senderos; Diarra, Sidwell; Dejagah, Frei (Duff 62), Petric (Rodallega 79); Berbatov. Subs (not used): Etheridge, Baird, Karagounis, Richardson.

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Naughton, Vertonghen, Caulker, Dawson (Gallas 17); Sandro, Dembele (Carroll 84); Lennon, Bale (Sigurdsson 62), Dempsey; Defoe. Subs (not used): Friedel, Walker, Livermore, Falque.

BOOKED: Bale, Gallas.

GOALS: Sandro (55), Defoe (72, 77).

REFEREE: Chris Foy (Hertfordshire).

ATTENDANCE: 25,426.