Sunday, September 02, 2007

Fulham 3 Tottenham Hotspurs 3

We were really awful today. Ripped to pieces by a decent Spurs side, and looking for all the world like prime relegation candidates ... and then, out of nothing, we sparked into life. We worked really hard to get back into a game that everyone could see was dead a buried, and then, somehow we did. A turning point maybe?

I was running a bit late and having found a good parking spot a bit of a walk from the ground, I stepped out of my car a step straight into a huge bit of poo. Great! Just what I need. My Dad went to find a ticket machine whilst I attempted to clean my shoe with a scrap of newspaper. We then realised we had no change between us, so a quick dash to the petrol station to buy a paper and we were cutting things a bit fine. As we crossed the Fulham Palace Road I realised we had 15 minutes to kick off. As we eventually reached the ground there was an unusually large number of people still outside, some even walking away from the ground. Turns out there had been some problem with fake tickets, so it took us some time to get through the turnstiles. Walking to our seats we saw Kamara have a good chance saved (though apparently he was offside anyway) and eventually sat down with the game about 5 minutes old. Niemi did not look that confident early on and, unsighted by the sun, flapped at a Robbie Keane corner. That was thankfully cleared, but the next thing we know he's failed to deal with the resulting near post corner and Kaboul (of all people) is walking the ball home.

Niemi continued to look shakey and Fulham seemed to be second to everything and a yard off the pace. By contrast Spurs were lively and sharp, combining crisp passing with some excellent movement to leave us struggling in their wake. Indeed one such passing move put Berbatov clean through, with Stefanovic unable to get hear him he fired home a rasping shot. This second goal was followed by two more glorious opportunities for Spurs to go further ahead. First Jenas and then Keane wanted too long on the ball, and the Fulham defence were given second chances to clear the danger. This was to prove costly for Spurs as a Fulham corner in the last few minutes of the half saw Dempsey climb well and place a well taken header past the left hand of Paul Robinson. We held on and all things considered were happy to be only 2-1 down at the turn.

The second half saw some improvement, but it was still Spurs finding the best chances. Berbatov shot from distance forcing Niemi to tip the ball onto his crossbar, Jenas also shot from a way out which Niemi again saved well, then Steed hammered a shot against the post. In between all this we were starting to look more promising, but that went up in smoke when Bale broke free down the left wing and finished well to make it 3-1. Game over. Dead and buried. No way back. I had thoughts of the 3-2 win over Spurs at Loftus Road and felt there was no way lightning could strike twice. Somehow it did.

We didn't give up, Smertin and Davis beginning to get more control in midfield and we almost scored when Dempsey back healed a Smertin cross towards goal, but he was judged offside and Robinson saved well anyway. Healy replaced Bouazza and Kamara moved to the left. Then it happened, Dempsey, who was lying on the ground managed to get the ball to Smertin who found a bit of space and fired in a decent shot towards goal. It would have been on target but would probably have been collected by Robinson but it took a huge deflection off a Spurs defender and looped high over the 'keeper's head and finish in the far corner. 2-3 and game on! Smertin was replaced by Collins John and we went 4-3-3, with Simon Davies moving to central midfield and Steven Davis moving out to the right. Later even Stefanovic joined the fray as we piled the pressure on Spurs. A big throw from Baird was flicked on by Dempsey and spectacularly Diomansy Kamara placed an overhead kick in the top corner. 3-3 and we all go nuts. A stunning goal, and a point nicked to leave us feeling a lot better about ourselves during the international break.

Dempsey was outstanding throughout and my man of the match. Playing as the target striker he won a lot in the air and held the ball up well. Even when things weren't going for us he kept on trying and I was impressed with his work rate before he scored the first goal. Smertin and Davis also did well, growing into the game the longer it went on. Smertin in particular seemed to be everywhere and was the driving force in pulling us back into contention. Baird had another torrid time, Bale being his chief tormentor. I'd liked Baird in the first few games but the last couple of matches have seen him struggle to deal with pacey wingers. Niemi's performance was also a worry, he made some could reactive saves but did not look confident with balls into the box.

Fulham lined up in a 4-4-2 formation as follows, switching to 4-3-3 and then 3-3-4 as the subs came on.
  • GK 29 A.Niemi
  • RB 34 C.Baird
  • CB 06 D.Stefanovic
  • CB 03 C.Bocanegra (c)
  • LB 04 P.Konchesky
  • RM 25 S.Davies
  • CM 10 S.Davis
  • CM 08 A.Smertin
  • LM 24 H.Bouazza
  • ST 23 C.Dempsey
  • ST 11 D.Kamara

Subs: 01 K.Keller, 02 M.Volz, 09 D.Healy (for 24 on 70), 15 C.John (for 08 on 79), 22 E.Omozusi


Brian said...

Nice report chopper. Not funny at the time but funny now reading about the poo. We've all had those days.

It was important for Dempsey to have a day like that. He's always known to be talented when he played back here in the states, but work ethic has always been an issue. It's good that he understands what kind of an impact he can have in a game if he works hard throughout. Hopefully he can just grow off that experience and continue to be a dominate player. Seems as his career is progressing, he is turning into more of a forward than a midfielder.

As I pointed out in my journal of the game yesterday, I thought it was huge tactical mistake playing Stefanovic. He's an experienced center back but there was no wonder that communication seemed to be nonexistent on the back line. The guy didn't hardly get a training session in before playing a game. Why would Sanchez do that?

Chopper said...

I think Stefanovic played because we needed a leader at the back. He's not that quick but clearly has a good football brain. I agree it was a huge gamble but (mainly down to Sanchez' own decisions re: Knight & Christanval) didn't have a lot of choice.