Monday, September 03, 2007

Fulham 3 Tottenham Hotspur 3

One thing I really enjoy about sport is when an individual or a team cut loose and freely expressing their talent, at the expense of less gifted opponents.

From my childhood I think of Viv Richards walking down the wicket while Bob Willis was running in to bowl at him, then flicking him into the Lords' executive boxes. Or the crowd shouting 'ole' as the great Brazilian teams play keep ball and deny the opposition a kick.

Sportsmen so in tune with their ability that they turn a high pressure professional encounter into an effortless stroll in the park.

Even when my team are on the receiving end I can't help admiring it.

Berbatov and Malbranque strolled round Craven Cottage on Saturday, coming off their markers, playing little angled passes. Revelling in the space they created for themselves.

It had started to go wrong when we gifted them an early goal. Spurs took control. Then Robbie Keane put Berbatov through one on one against Niemi. From where I sat it looked as though he had enough space to drive a bus between Niemi and the near post and that is were the ball went, at a rate of knots.

At 2-0 Spurs were cruising. All around me was silent, apart from the bloke behind me turning the air blue with his expasperation. Fulham have a new team, almost all the players have been brought in by Sanchez this summer. Not only does it take the players a while to get used to each other, it takes the fans a while to get used to the new team, to identify players who can lift the team, who can lift the crowd. We couldn't see where any inspiration could come to turn back the tide.

Andrew was fidgeting in his seat next to me. I tried to keep his mind on the game.
'We need a goal before half time'- I told him.
'We need a miracle' - said the man behind me.
We got a corner straight away and scored from it. 2-1.


I imagined Sanchez hyping the team up at half time and Fulham mounting a second half surge towards the home fans in the Hammersmith End. It didn't happen. You can't mount a surge if you haven't got the ball. Spurs played exhibition football. Keane played Gareth Bale in through on the left behind the defence. I could see space for another bus between Niemi and the near post, so could Bale. 3-1.

Fulham fans are quiet, hardly got the spirit to boo the returning Malbranque. He hit the post with Niemi beaten. Tottenham fans were serenading their team, enjoying an easy win. But the trouble with exhibition football is it needs to have a ruthless streak to it, a killer punch.

Spurs took off their captain Keane and replaced him with Defoe after 75 minutes. I told Andrew they were doing it because they know they have the game won and want to give Defoe some match practice. A sign of complacency

Fulham went for broke and put three central strikers on. Spurs got worried and took Malbranque off from the right side of midfielder, replacng him with a third central defender, Dawson. When he came on you could see the midfielders and attackers looking at Dawson, waiting for instructions, wondering where they were going to go. Their captain Keane wasn't on the pitch to sort it out.

If you are on top in a game and want to make sure you win it, you have two options, you can either bang away your chances on the break to kill of the other team, or you can play keep-ball to deny them any possession. Spurs had missed their chances, and once they had gone down to three in midfield they couldn't play possession football. Fulham could just pile on the pressure for the last ten minutes.

Fulham's second was a lucky deflection. The third goal was an unusual overhead kick/lob from Joe Kamara. Its funny how time stops when your team scores an important goal. When you come down from whatever height you have jumped up to, you find yourselve face to face with someone whose been just behind / beside/in front of you for ninety minutes, but whose existence you were never aware of. You forget all about the players and the pitch.

The spurs fans on the way home looked like they had lost a pound and found a redundancy notice with their name on it.

I hope Jol doesn't get the sack. I like watching his teams. They entertained us thoroughly and had the decency not to leave with all the points.

3 comments:

Rachel (Lucy's friend) said...

My husband is at his wits' end. Whenever Spurs are in the lead with 3 goals, they always give the match away. I don't know what to say any more. When I say I'm so sorry, or whatever, he says I can't possibly understand how it feels and he doesn't want my sympathy. When I say nothing I feel like an uncaring wife. Any advice?

James Lappin said...

Hi Rachel. When I was 16 my dad used to say that it wasn't worth talking to me for an hour after a Fulham defeat. So maybe leave it for a while before broaching the subject.

The game you have to watch out for is in a fortnight's time. They are playing Arsenal. If they lose they know they won't get into the champions league, and Jol will get the sack.

Rachel said...

Great response! Thank you. I'll be prepared. Forewarned is forearmed. Fantastic drawings, by the way.