Belfast Telegraph

Fulham take advantage of Spurs' awful start

By Sam Wallace

Fulham 4 Tottenham Hotspur 0: If they had been playing Milan in the Champions League it would have been inexcusable but for Harry Redknapp to find his Tottenham team reduced to 10 men and three goals behind in the space of 23 minutes at Fulham was just plain embarrassing.

When thing go wrong for Spurs they do so in spectacular fashion and yesterday just about everything that could go wrong in the first half did go wrong. Defensive calamities, a red card for Michael Dawson, two penalties conceded and four goals conceded meant that Spurs were not so much eliminated from the FA Cup as frog-marched to the door and thrown out on their faces.

It was as poor a performance in the first half as you could imagine from the emergent team of the Premier League this season. In fact it was a throwback to their flakey days before the Redknapp revolution. But as bad as Spurs were, they were beautifully dispatched by a Fulham team who are starting to rediscover their form.

There was a vintage performance from Danny Murphy, who tucked away two penalties with the minimum of fuss in the space of three first-half minutes. Andy Johnson looked like the player he was before that cartilage injury last season. In Moussa Dembélé, Fulham have what might just be one of the signings of the season, as demonstrated by his confident fourth goal.

A fifth-round place at home to the winners of the replay between Wigan Athletic and Bolton Wanderers await for Mark Hughes' team and on this kind of form they look like a decent bet for the quarter-finals.

Spurs have had some comically bad starts to games this season but, even taking into consideration the early collapses in Milan and Berne in the Champions League, this one had to be the worst of the lot. Down to 10 men and three goals behind within 23 minutes, Richard Keys had more chance of a comeback.

Redknapp tried his hand at tinkering with the team and it backfired. He left Gareth Bale out of the squad, played Aaron Lennon on the left and picked Sandro in the centre of midfield. But it was defence where his problems really lay.

It started with the right-back Alan Hutton, who suffered one of those lapses of concentration that he has managed to keep to a minimum during his recent run in the team. After Dawson had given the ball away to Johnson, Hutton allowed Clint Dempsey to make a powerful run in the inside-left channel and with a clumsy lunge to get the ball brought him down for a penalty.

Dempsey, Johnson and Dembélé were excellent in those opening stages. But it was Murphy who put the finishing touch to that first penalty and then a second one within the first 13 minutes against his former club.

The second penalty was even more damaging for Spurs. Hutton had avoided a red card because Dempsey had been wide enough of the goal that the foul was not a denial of a goalscoring opportunity. But when Dawson lost the ball on the edge of his area and grabbed Dembélé's shirt, referee Phil Dowd sent him off.

Murphy dispatched the penalty and Spurs were all over the place. Redknapp replaced Sandro with William Gallas to try to shore up the defence but not before Fulham almost scored their third. On 23 minutes, they did. Johnson flicked on a corner and Brede Hangeland swept the ball in at the back post.

It was embarrassing for Spurs, who struggled to carve open a single decent chance in front of the Fulham goal. Redknapp's experiment was tanking badly and, with only 10 players on the pitch and no Bale on the bench, he was badly short of a convenient escape route.

By half-time Fulham had scored a fourth. The impressive Dembélé picked the ball up on the halfway line and, with few options open to him, turned and ran at Sébastien Bassong. Having left the Frenchman behind there were few takers when it came to making a tackle on Dembélé. He drilled his first goal of the game in from the edge of the area.

In the place of the ineffective Jermain Defoe, Redknapp sent on Peter Crouch who covered considerably more ground in the second half. His was a thankless task, offering the increasingly besieged Spurs midfield some sort of outlet. The away side created precious little.

In the closing stages of the game, as Spurs tired, Aaron Hughes hit the bar with a header and Hangeland had a shot cleared off the line. There was never any suggestion of a second-half rally from Spurs like those they managed against Internazionale and Young Boys. In fact, they looked like a team who were simply desperate to hear the final whistle and get out of the place.

Fulham (4-4-2): Stockdale; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Salcido; Duff, Sidwell, Murphy (Greening, 74), Dempsey; Johnson (Gera, 68), Dembélé (Davies, 80). Substitutes not used Etheridge (gk), Kelly, Kamara, Dikgacoi. Booked Duff.

Tottenham (4-1-4-1): Gomes; Hutton, Dawson, Bassong, Assou-Ekotto; Modric; Van der Vaart (Jenas, 66), Pienaar, Sandro (Gallas, 17), Lennon; Defoe (Crouch, ht). Substitutes not used Cudicini (gk), Pavlyuchenko, Kranjcar, Corluka.

Booked Van der Vaart. Sent off Dawson (13).

Possession Fulham 55% Tottenham 45%.

Shots on target Fulham 7 Tottenham 2.

Match rating 7/10. Man of the match Dembélé.

Referee P Dowd (Staffordshire). Att 21,829.

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