Against all the odds, Fulham picked up only their third Premier League away win of the season against Champions League chasing Tottenham and with the three points, rose into the top half of the table and all but secured their position in the league for another year.
Unsurprisingly, it was Dimitar Berbatov who gave the Cottagers victory against both his and his manager Martin Jol’s former club, sliding home from a teasing cross from the again excellent Sascha Riether.
The victory will certainly please Jol, who has never hidden his disdain for the way he was sacked by the Lilywhites in 2007 in favour of Juande Ramos. However, it is the performance that will please the Dutchman more. This was no smash and grab victory as Fulham successes on the road almost always are. This was a deserved victory that could and should have been by a greater margin.
Indeed, had Bryan Ruiz and Brede Hangeland tucked away their chances, this Fulham victory could have been talked about in the same breath as the Cottagers’ famous 3-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2003.
Perhaps what will delight the manager the most will be that while Fulham were sprightly in attack, which is what you would expect when you have Berbatov returning to his stomping ground flanked by Ruiz and the improving Ashkan Dejagah, the Cottagers were also defensively water-tight.
To repeat, this was no smash and grab. Fulham were in no way hanging on at any point as their backline restricted Tottenham chances to a premium. This is a Tottenham side that have torn the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Inter to ribbons this season, to name but three, and in Gareth Bale, have the man almost everyone has been talking about.
However, bar a Bale header that was cleared off the line by Riether and a quite marvellous save late on by Mark Schwarzer from Jermain Defoe, Fulham were relatively untroubled. In central defence, Philippe Senderos and Hangeland look to have re-found the form of last season that has eluded them all year long. The Norwegian in particular seems to be playing with real confidence at the moment. Could that be a sign that the club captain is about to commit his future to Craven Cottage, with his contract currently set to expire in the summer?
Schwarzer’s match-saving stop was also a pertinent answer to his critics that have stated that at the age of 40 and with his contract also expiring in the summer, it could be time for the Cottagers to let the Australian depart in favour of a younger replacement. The veteran clearly has not been at his best this season but if he can repeat the sort of saves that kept Defoe at bay on Sunday afternoon, then perhaps his best days are not behind him just yet.
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