This London derby was always going to hold a fair bit of interest. Tottenham Hotspur had not exactly set the world alight so far this season. Coming off an unconvincing draw at West Ham, fans had likely been expecting more, though enough mettle had been shown to secure much needed points off the back of mixed performances.
Fulham, on the other hand, had thus far exceeded expectations, with quality wins against Brighton and Brentford. They’d also managed to secure a point against Liverpool, and Mitrovic had been on a strong scoring streak.
Add in the #narrative around the Fulham signings of Spurs-linked Dan James and Tottenham alumnus Carlos Vinicius, and baby, you got a stew going! Anybody seen Carl Weathers hanging about Tottenham Hotspur Stadium?
Conte promised rotation in his prematch press conference, with a tricky Champions League tie against Marseille looming midweek and fixtures coming thick and fast. There were 5 changes from West Ham: Richarlison got a deserved start, in for Dejan Kulusevski, and Clement Lenglet got his first start of the campaign. Ryan Sessegnon rotated back in at left wingback and Rodrigo Bentancur and Cuti Romero returned from injury.
Spurs looked to take control of the match early. An early penalty shout, with Palhinha collecting Sessegnon in the box, came to nothing, and Harry Kane followed that up with a rifled effort from range. Richarlison then hit a close-range header over the bar off a set piece, before Son curled the ball into the net. Unfortunately, it was ruled out due to Kane being in an offside position in the path of the shot.
The pressure didn’t let up from there. Lenglet played a defense-splitting pass forward to Richarlison, who beat a defender and played in Son in the center of the box. Unfortunately, Sonny’s effort was blocked. Hojbjerg then chipped a great pass over the top to Richarlison in the box; the goalkeeper came, and a goalbox scramble ensued, before Fulham cleared their lines. Cuti then absolutely clattered a Fulham player as they looked to break forward, earning himself a yellow.
The closest Spurs came in this early flurry of chances was a gorgeous dinked ball from Kane to Son in the box. Son’s touch off his chest was a bit heavy, and he was only able to hit the crossbar, ensuring his search for a goal this season continued. Cuti then had a flicked-on header go wide from a corner.
Fulham seemed to know they were outmatched early on, and tried to wind down the clock, timewasting at every opportunity. Referee Stuart Atwell, to his credit, looked to combat this by awarding a yellow card partway through the first half to Kenny Tete.
Spurs made the breakthrough around the 40-minute mark. Some great pressing from Emerson Royal won the ball back high, before some interplay around the box resulted in Richarlison feeding the ball to Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. He slotted home with aplomb, and Tottenham went to the half 1-0 up.
The second half continued much in the same vein as the first. An early break from Spurs’ front 3 resulted in a chance for Kane, before Eric Dier hit a glorious chance over the bar from a Richarlison cross. Kane then played in Richarlison, but his scuffed shot was easily held by Leno.
Fulham looked to hit back, with a deflected Mitrovic strike resulting in a great save from Hugo Lloris, but normal service soon resumed. An extremely cynical foul by Decordova-Reid to stop a sweeping Tottenham break resulted in yet another yellow for Fulham before Sessegnon had a gilt-edged chance to score against his old club, with the ball coming to him in the box and his strike only saved due to intervention once more from Leno. Leno soon came to the fore once again, making yet another save as Son drove forward and shot at goal, with his strike taking a wicked deflection.
Spurs finally doubled their lead three-quarters of the way through the match through Harry Kane. Eric Dier found Ryan Sessegnon in acres of space down the left, who drove forward and looked to feed the attack in the box before the ball fell back to him after a deflected shot. Sess controlled the ball and fed in Harry Kane for a simple tap-in. There was a nervous wait while VAR cleared the onside, but Harry managed to stay narrowly behind the ball.
Tottenham looked to continue the pressure with Son breaking forward before Richarlison’s acrobatic volleyed effort hit the post. Fulham though looked to use Tottenham’s attacking intent to their advantage. They quickly broke forward and fed Mitrovic who stepped inside a tired Romero challenge and curled it far post to knock the lead back to one. Spurs then had a further scare as a looping Mitrovic deflection made its way towards the top corner of the Tottenham net, but Lloris was there once more to palm it wide.
From there, Richarlison looked to make the result safe, knocking it into the net after running on to a Hojbjerg throughball. He was booked for his extravagant celebrations (Richy gonna Richy), before the goal was hilariously chalked off by VAR for offside. Spurs comfortably saw out the remaining time, and the match finished at 2-1.
- That was probably Spurs’ best performance of the season, though it wasn’t quite reflected by the scoreline. Over 20 shots(!), and they really should have been out of sight. Unfortunately, Bernd Leno came to play and managed to keep Fulham in it.
- Hojbjerg was really good today, scoring and creating numerous chances. That said, Fulham gave our midfield acres of space to work with which was an odd choice seeing how well pressure had broken us up in the middle of the pitch in our last few outings.
- It just won’t quite work for Sonny, will it? He put in a much-improved performance today, good on the ball and connected well with his fellow forwards. Unfortunately, the ball just wouldn’t go in the net. I was expecting him to go full Happy Gilmore at one point and start screaming at the ball.
- Lenglet looked solid in his first start, and his passing out of the back was a breath of fresh air. He played a number of raking long passes directly in to our forward line, and it often resulted in good chances. Richarlison was fantastic as well, and was unlucky to not score a goal to cap off his performance.
- That was probably one of Sessegnon’s best performances for Spurs, solid defensively and heavily involved going forward. That tutelage and competion from Ivan Perisic is really paying off, huh?
- The end of the match was far more nervy than it should have been. Romero should have really done better on Mitrovic’s goal, and Dier was slow to react as well. Shout out to Hugo, who made a couple of great saves.
- Narrative thankfully didn’t come to play today. Dan James and Carlos Vinicius both saw the pitch but were unable to make an impact.
- 3 points! Bring on Marseille and THE CHAMPIOOOOOOOONNNNNNSSSSS