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Holtby leaves it late to give Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 win against Fulham at Craven Cottage
Lewis Holtby’s late strike gave Spurs a tight 2-1 victory over a resurgent Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Both team’s went into the game desperate to get their seasons back on track, with Fulham’s unexpected relegation form claiming the scalp of manager Martin Jol last weekend, and Spurs looking to push on and cement a place in their targeted top four.
It was Fulham, under the stewardship of new coach Rene Muelensteen, who took the lead on 56 minutes through Ashkan Dejagah who rifled into the net as the home side took advantage of Michael Dawson’s sloppy pass out from the back.
But Spurs levelled through a peach of a half volley from Vlad Chiriches who chanced his arm and had a go from 30-yards out as he met Fulham’s clearance from a corner.
The ball fizzed along the deck through a mass of players and nestled into the bottom left corner, leaving the unsighted Maarten Stekelenburg motionless.
The game opened up and both sides could have taken the lead at 1-1 but it was Spurs’ Lewis Holtby who took the initiative when he cut inside and drove an unstoppable shot with his left foot into the top right corner on 82 minutes.
Spurs survived some late long-ball tactics from the home side, as well as a shot from Kasami that rattled the post in the dying seconds, to secure three points that lifts them to sixth place, within touching distance of the league’s leading pack.
The game, and in particular Tottenham, had taken some time to get going but it was Fulham that looked the better team for large passages.
Defoe forced an early save from Stekelenburg in the Fulham goal and Berbatov’s heavy touch took the ball away from him when he was played in at the other end.
It was Fulham who were asking the questions of Spurs in the opening exchanges and Berbatov forced a sharp save from Lloris as he spun and shot inside the box.
But Spurs should have taken the lead seconds later. Reither miscontrolled a long clearance from Dawson and Lennon played in Defoe who found Paulinho on the right.
The Brazilian nipped past two Fulham defenders with some neat trickery inside the box but, with the goal at his mercy as he cut inside, managed to blaze the ball over the bar.
Dejagah then headed over from close range as the game sprung to life.
Lamela, absent in the opening half hour on the right flank, switched wings with Lennon, who looked equally as isolated on the left.
The move almost immediately paid off when Lamela side-footed Defoe’s sharp low cross just wide of the left post and, with his new found freedom cutting in on his favoured left foot, Spurs’ record signing had a deflected long-range effort palmed away by Stekelenburg moments later.
The tactical switch from Villas-Boas also brought Lennon into the game, and the England winger was proving a menace down the right with his pace and trickery as Spurs began to dominate before half time.
Defoe’s enterprising back heel was blocked after the break, with Sandro’s blasted follow-up met by a walled Fulham defence.
Berbatov hit the side netting on the turn before Spurs conceded following a defensive horror show from Dawson.
The centre back’s heavy touch while running the ball out from the back forced him to slide and clear straight to a Fulham player who fed Berbatov and the striker picked out a pinpoint pass over the top into space to Dejagah.
The midfielder, all alone in on goal, had plenty to do but his first touch took the ball into his path and he rifled past Lloris into the bottom left corner.
Fulham were suddenly on top and Villas-Boas brought on Nacir Chadli in place of Sandro to inject some pace.
Tottenham, as for much of their stop-start season, began to retain possession but created little before Chriches’ crisp drive that owed as much to the defenders ambition as the quality of the strike.
The game opened right up as 75 minutes went by and Berbatov, at the centre of all of Fulham’s good work, poked narrowly wide from close range, before Holtby stunned the home side with his stinging shot past Stekelenburg.
Paulinho forced a fingertip save from the goalkeeper with a glancing header before Lloris had to palm away substitute Bryan Ruiz’s shot from inside the box at the other end.
Fulham turned to the long ball to salvage a point but Spurs held on for a well earned victory away from home.
Fulham: Stekelenburg, Riether, Hughes, Senderos, Riise, Karagounis, Parker (Ruiz, 86), Kasami, Dejagah, Kacaniklic, Berbatov. Subs: Sidwell, Stockdale, Duff, Taarabt, Zverotic, Boateng.
Spurs: Lloris, Walker, Chiriches, Dawson, Vertonghen, Capoue (Holtby, 45), Sandro (Chadli, 68), Lennon, Paulinho, Lamela (Townsend, 77), Defoe. Subs: Soldado, Naughton, Sigurdsson, Friedel.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
Bookings: Capoue, 12, Kasami, 31.
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