Kane-less Spurs see off Fulham thanks to another Harry
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Premier League: Fulham 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Tottenham Hotspur passed their first test without Harry Kane away to Fulham in the Premier League this afternoon, but only just following a dramatic 2-1 win!
Missing their star man, Spurs were pushed all the way by the struggling Cottagers and in the end, needed a stoppage time winner from another Harry to take the points.
Harry Winks, also an academy graduate, headed home late on to add to Dele Alli’s early second half equaliser and give Mauricio Pochettino a welcome boost after a frustrating week.
Spurs made four changes to the team which lost 1-0 at home to Manchester United last weekend.
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Kane and Moussa Sissoko missed out completely with ankle and groin injuries respectively and Heung-min Son was away on international duty with South Korea at the Asian Cup.
Ben Davies dropped to the bench and because of the number of absentees, manager Pochettino switched to three at the back.
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Defenders Davinson Sanchez and Danny Rose earned a recall while Erik Lamela and Fernando Llorente started in attack.
It was the first game Tottenham were going to play since Harry Kane suffered ankle ligament damage and it was another test of character for this squad.
Could they cope without their talisman and the player who always provides a goal in the moments they need it most?
Fulham, despite their struggles this season, would no doubt have fancied their chances of turning their difficult campaign around with a big performance in west London.
The Cottagers were already onto their second manager, but Claudio Ranieri had done little to thwart the threat of relegation so far.
Since an encouraging Christmas period, Fulham had lost 4-1 at home to Arsenal and 2-1 to Oldham in the FA Cup and also gone down at Burnley.
It was a crucial encounter for both teams and when the contest got underway with the sun almost set, it was all about who could bounce back to adversity best.
Tottenham had the better of the opening exchanges and Christian Eriksen was getting into some dangerous central positions.
He had two shots inside the opening 10 minutes, but was unable to test home stopper Sergio Rico with either.
Pochettino would have been fairly pleased with Spurs’ start, but Fulham came to life in the 12th minute.
Aleksandar Mitrovic flicked on a throw for Ryan Babel and he raced away from his marker Sanchez.
The new recruit held off the challenge of the Colombian, but with only Hugo Lloris to beat, the Frenchman stuck out a hand and brilliantly tipped wide for a corner.
It was a superb save, but the Whites continued to threaten and from the resulting set-piece Denis Odoi sliced wide.
Ranieri’s side were suddenly full of energy after a slightly inconspicuous start and the home fans were vocally getting behind the hosts.
Fulham attacked some more and forced another corner in the 17th minute and this one produced the opener.
Jean Michael Seri swung the corner in and at the near post Spurs’ Llorente was unable to move his legs in time and the ball bounced off his knee and nestled into the bottom corner.
Lloris was helpless and Tottenham were facing the prospect of back-to-back defeats in the Premier League.
The visitors immediately searched for a reply and perhaps should have got it in the 21st minute at Craven Cottage.
Alli did well to hold off a marker and played Lamela through on goal, but he chose to tee up Llorente instead of shooting and overhit his pass to see the chance go amiss.
In spite of the scoreline, the Lilywhites remained positive and almost levelled again in the 23rd minute.
Jan Vertonghen, who was looking solid on the left-side of a back three, delivered an excellent cross into the area, but Llorente could only head an effort onto his shoulder and it allowed Sergio Rico to make a decent save.
Spurs continued to huff and puff, but were failing to make the most of possession with Fulham defending impressively and ex-Arsenal youngster Calum Chambers and Seri working hard in midfield.
As the half drew to a close, the home team appeared to get a second wind and could have even doubled their advantage.
In the 40th minute Cyrus Christie’s cross found Babel, who got in between Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld, but the Netherlands attacker could only head over.
Less than 60 seconds later and the January signing did help his team find the back of the net, but it was ruled out for offside.
Babel ran at the Spurs back line and chipped into the unmarked Andre Schurrle and he produced a powerful volley towards goal.
Lloris managed to make an excellent save and although Mitrovic put in the rebound, the offside flag had been raised.
It was a huge let-off for Tottenham, who were fortunate Schurrle didn’t put his first effort in and there was still time for another Fulham chance.
From a corner, in the 44th minute, Chambers back heeled into the area and Babel was in, but Vertonghen slide in brilliantly to thwart the danger and ensure it was only 1-0 at half time.
Spurs were out early for the second period and it took them only four minutes to get back on level terms.
It came as a result of Tim Ream miscuing his clearance and giving the ball back to Eriksen just outside the area.
The Dane didn’t need an invitation to put the ball into the area and picked out Alli with a wonderful chipped cross and the playmaker powerfully headed home.
After 49 minutes, Tottenham were back on level terms thanks to Alli’s seventh goal of the season and they had virtually the whole of the second half to find a winner.
In the 53rd minute they had to be alert at the other end when Mitrovic looked to get onto a through ball, but Lloris came out quickly and got to the ball first to parry it away from the home forward.
Back down the other end, Spurs threatened again two minutes later and Maxime Le Marchand blocked impressively to deny Eriksen’s fierce effort.
Ranieri had seen enough and introduced Ryan Sessengon with 40 minutes to go for the lively Babel.
It was almost 2-1 to the north Londoners on the hour mark when the excellent Rose showed his quality again.
The left-back collected Lamela’s pass and cut inside, but saw his shot take a nick off Denis Odoi and deflect onto the crossbar.
Away from the contest at Craven Cottage, a backdrop to the main story was the battle between Mitrovic and Sanchez.
Both were going hammer and tong to win the duel and the Colombian was beginning to edge it as the match entered the final 20 minutes.
Sanchez and Mitrovic received a booking each for another incident in the 73rd minute as the desperation for three points increased.
It was still 1-1 in west London and this was not a result either side particularly wanted, especially Spurs.
Pochettino made his first change with 11 minutes left as the below-par Lamela made way for Eric Dier, who was on for his first Tottenham appearance since December 8.
Another wonderful opportunity was created by the visitors in the 82nd minute and it was the type of chance Llorente would have scored in his sleep at Swansea City.
Rose swung a free kick into the area and the unmarked Llorente had the simple task of heading home from four-yards, but he nodded wide and a great chance to atone his own-goal had been wasted.
Worst was to follow for Tottenham as moments later Alli chased after a loose ball and pulled up as he hit an advertising hoarding.
The England international was unable to continue and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou earned a rare opportunity.
As Alli walked slowly to the bench he looked dejected and it appeared to be another bad injury to add to Kane’s.
Three minutes of stoppage time was added on at the end of the 90 and Tottenham were heading for their first draw in the Premier League this season and then, almost with the last kick of the game, they found a winner.
Nkoudou, after ballooning a cross out of play minutes earlier, produced a wonderful ball into the area and at the back post was Winks to head home.
It sparked wild scenes in the away end and the Tottenham youngster had grabbed his second goal for the club at the perfect time.
The full time whistle followed moments later to hand Spurs a vital 2-1 victory in the battle for a top-four finish.
Pochettino’s men are four points ahead of Chelsea again and seven in front of both Arsenal and Manchester United with 15 fixtures left to play.
Up next, on Thursday, is the second leg of the League Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge and Tottenham will desperately hope Alli’s injury is nothing serious.
Fulham: Sergio Rico; Odoi, Le Marchand, Ream; Christie, Chambers, Serri (Cisse 81), Bryan; Schurrle (Kebano 72), Mitrovic ©, Babel (Sessegnon 55).
Unused substitutes: Bettinelli, Cairney Ayite, Vietto.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris (c); Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen; Trippier, Eriksen, Winks, Rose; Lamela (Dier 79), Alli (Nkoudou 86); Llorente.
Unused substitutes: Gazzaniga, Foyth, Davies, Skipp, Sterling.