(Kaboul OG – 57)
(Bale – 10, Lennon – 45+1, Defoe – 90+4)
Brad Friedel was at his consistent best to hold off a spirited fight-back from Fulham as goals from Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Jermain Defoe cancelled out Younes Kaboul’s own goal at the other end.
The game would have done little to improve Harry Redknapp’s recent heart troubles as Kevin Bond and Joe Jordan once again found themselves in charge of first-team duties as the Spurs manager recovered from surgery back at home.
The duo made eleven changes from the side that succumbed to a mid-week 1-0 loss to Rubin Kazan but stuck with the same starting XI that defeated QPR 3-1 last weekend.
Meanwhile, Steven Pienaar and Vedran Corluka returned to Premier League action, albeit, from the bench after recovering from respective groin and foot problems.
And it was man-of-the-match Friedel that was called into action early on, clawing Steve Sidwell’s header off the line from a Damien Duff corner and, despite the home side’s appeals, replays proved conclusviely that the ball hadn’t crossed the line.
Benoit Assou-Ekotto then fizzed a dangerous looking ball across the face of the Fulham goal and it wasn’t long after the attack that Spurs took the lead.
Emmanuel Adebayor did well to pick out the maurading Kyle Walker who, after rampaging past John Arne-Riise, pulled back to Lennon. His cross was deflected into the path of Bale who, with the help of Chris Baird, powered the ball into the Fulham net.
The goal seemed to spurn Fulham into life and the West London side threatened after going a goal down, Riise’s cross-come-shot requiring a Friedel parry away from the ensuing Clint Dempsey before Sidwell sent the American through on goal but his shot failed to trouble his compatriot.
And while Martin Jol’s side threatened in the build-up to half-time, Spurs secured a smash-and-grab move that gifted them the initiative heading into the interval.
Lennon, finding himself on the left-wing, shared a superb one-two with Bale, reminiscent to the duo’s delightful inter-linking play last week for Bale’s second goal against QPR, and charged down on the Fulham goal 40-yards out.
Moments later, the pint-sized winger found himself in the opposition box and after sending Baird one way, then the other, the England man smashed home his effort off the post and past Mark Schwarzer, with many Spurs fans praising the fact that the former Leeds United trainee was showing his form of old.
The half stretched out until the 52nd minute after Zdenek Grygera twisted his knee awkwardly in the turf and would soon be replaced by former Spur Stephen Kelly at the break.
Spurs could have made it three goals to the good minutes after the restart, Bale and Adebayor both having good chances to extend the lead but after that, it was backs up against the wall stuff from the away team.
Duff saw an effort blocked well by Assou-Ekotto and from the resulting corner, Friedel had to be alert to tip Brede Hangeland’s goal-bound header over the bar.
And the Cottagers would back in the game after 57 minutes, Duff’s in-swinging corner fortuitously bouncing off Younes Kaboul and over the line after Ledley King attempted to head clear the danger.
Mousa Dembele twice tested Friedel in quick succession, but the 40-year-old was equal to his efforts and, fortunately for Spurs, got the better of Baird’s drilled free-kick, the Northern Ireland international fooling everyone but the American from 25-yards.
Friedel was beaten in the final quarter of an hour but after Dempsey rounded the former Aston Villa shotstopper, King was on hand to turn his goal-bound effort around the post.
Former Spur Bobby Zamora tested Friedel again as the 90 minutes ticked over but his effort wasn’t going to be the last of the action.
As Fulham pressed for an equaliser, a nerve wrecking goal-mouth scramble ensued, Friedel keeping out Dempsey before Walker, some believe with his hands, blocking both substitute Bryan Ruiz and Dempsey again and with Kelly lining up a shot on goal, Parker did well to get himself between the ball and the Spurs net.
The West London side kept up the pressure from the corner, Friedel struggling to hold Hangeland’s header before Luka Modric blocked Dempsey’s headed effort off the line.
Spurs finally managed to clear the danger and, with the clock ticking over the 94 minute mark, many wouldn’t have begrudged first Parker, and then Bale, to see out the remaining seconds.
However, with a throw-in from a dangerous position, Bale picked out Adebayor who pulled back Defoe and having come on in the 65th minute, settled a few nerves, burying a half-volley past Schwarzer from 12-yards to make it 3-1.
What Jordan said after the game
“We didn’t expect to get a third goal the way the game went in the second half. It was just a case of hanging in there,” the Scot said, again taking charge with Bond as Redknapp recovers.
“In the first half we played well and deserved to be in front, but the second half was entirely different. We showed spirit and had to be resilient.
“Never mind the goalmouth scramble, that last half-hour will have been a good test for Harry.
“If he passes that, which I’m sure he will, he may be back a little bit earlier.
“He’s got another two weeks during the international break to recover.”
Man of the match
Who else but Brad Friedel. Fulham had a total of 26 opportunities, 20 on target, to find a way past Spurs but the American was in superb form to repel every Cottager attempt on goal. Had no chance of keeping out Kaboul’s unfortunate own goal but was on hand from the first to the last minute to keep the likes of Zamora, Dempsey and Dembele at bay. His save from Sidwell’s ealy header set the tone for his performance and was fully alert to deny Baird’s thunderbolt free-kick.
Moment of the match
Spurs’ second goal was something special as both Lennon and Bale, two wingers on top form at the moment, linked-up brilliantly for the former’s goal of the day. The Welshman’s excellent flick in the one-two between the duo set Lennon on his way and after turning Baird inside-out, did brilliantly to find a way past Schwarzer, with the aid of the post. With the game quickly approaching the interval, the goal came at a perfect time for Spurs, who were on the back-foot for a majority of the half despite having taken the lead after 10 minutes.
Much has been made about Walker’s hand ball in the goal-mouth scramble late in the game. Having gone down in the box, it looked as though the England right-back may have handled in the area but with so many players involved in the fracas, Peter Walton failed to spot any infringment by the 21-year-old and let play continue as Fulham pressed for an equaliser in the dying embers of the fixture.