Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Bentley shines as Tottenham Hotspur beat Fulham

Tottenham 2 Fulham 0

David Bentley was the surprise name on the Tottenham teamsheet but the wantaway winger made a telling contribution against Fulham to keep his club in the Barclays Premier League top four.

Bentley is desperate to leave Spurs and his first start since the beginning of December could attract attention from other clubs - it was a determined performance, capped off by a free-kick that flew in off Bjorn Helge Riise.

Peter Crouch had opened the scoring at White Hart Lane after escaping the attention of Chris Smalling, who was playing at centre-back hours after it was announced Manchester United had agreed terms for the youngster to play at Old Trafford next season.

Aaron Hughes shifted to right-back, allowing Smalling to play in the centre of defence - and the England Under-21 international coped well with the height of Crouch in only the second Premier League start of his career.

He had plenty to deal with in the early stages. Tom Huddlestone had the first attempt on goal, fizzing a volley that Mark Schwarzer parried after Jermain Defoe's flick and Crouch's dummy.

Schwarzer's palms were stung by another Huddlestone drive and Crouch headed wide after Gareth Bale lofted a cross to the far post.

Fulham's threat came through former Spurs striker Bobby Zamora, back from a broken collarbone but lacking support in attack.

After Damien Duff crossed in the 13th minute, Zoltan Gera deftly cushioned a pass for Zamora but Heurelho Gomes rushed out to save the finish and needed treatment after the brave block. It was the closest they came all evening.

The deadlock was broken in the 27th minute thanks to Luka Modric's impish skill.

Most had expected Bentley's deep cross to drop for a goal-kick, including Riise, but Modric did not give up and managed flick the ball over the Norwegian. He then scissor-volleyed inside and Crouch escaped the attention of Smalling to tap home.

Crouch's 10th of the season was more about Modric's quick feet rather than Smalling losing his striker - and the youngster showed good composure in general, giving an example why United and Arsenal have been chasing him.

Modric almost doubled the lead in first-half stoppage time but it was nothing to do with Smalling's defending. The Croatian tricked his way past Hughes and curled a shot that kissed the crossbar.

Spurs fans have endured frustrating performances at home during the current campaign - and Fulham were still in the game while the hosts were just a goal ahead at the break.

Palacios had a chance when he headed over from Bentley's cross, then Duff illustrated Fulham's threat when he powerfully drove straight at Gomes from a promising position.

But the second goal arrived just before the hour mark after Bale was tripped on the edge of the area by Hughes. Bentley's free-kick took a wicked deflection off Riise, completing a wretched match for the midfielder, and totally wrongfooted Schwarzer.

The dubious-goals panel will decide on whether Bentley will be awarded the goal - but it did not matter to the midfielder as he wheeled away to celebrate his first goal in five months.

The 25-year-old has had his attitude questioned by Spurs boss Harry Redknapp and it is no secret he wants to leave the club - but it was a key moment and a rare golden moment for the winger, who left out of the matchday squad against Leeds at the weekend.

Michael Dawson headed over from a Bentley free-kick, with Spurs failing to add to their goals but holding out for victory.

It meant Spurs returned to winning ways after three matches without victory, while Fulham are still looking for their first away win in the league since the opening weekend of the season.

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