Jermain Defoe scored twice as Tottenham Hotspur beat a poor Fulham side 3-0 at Craven Cottage in the Premier League.
An ordinary game came to life 10 minutes into the second half when Brazilian midfielder Sandro was allowed to net from distance thanks to poor goalkeeping by Mark Schwarzer.
With Fulham pushing for an equaliser, their defensive line pushed up high, exposing the poor Philippe Senderos as Defoe added two more at his expense.
The result means Fulham are now seven games without a win, sliding from the top six to the bottom half of the table.
Spurs go fourth, ahead of West Brom on goals scored after a third win on the trot, the North London club unbeaten in their last eight league matches against Fulham.
Fulham missed the defensive leadership of Brede Hangeland, serving the third and final match of his suspension, with replacement Senderos well below what is expected of an international centre-back.
They were decent going forward, thanks mostly to Dimitar Berbatov, but lacked a cutting edge and – crucially – composure at the back in the second half as Spurs picked them off on the break.
A strangely subdued first half was marked by injuries to key defenders on both sides, a frustrating display by Gareth Bale, a wonderful save by Hugo Lloris, and the outrageous skill of Berbatov.
There were no goals though, the closest moment when Lloris somehow kept out Mladen Petric’s first-time, point-blank finish after a fine low cross from John Arne Riise.
Otherwise it was all huff and puff and little end product, with Michael Dawson and Sascha Riether’s matches ended early through injury.
Spurs’ shooting boots were misaligned as Clint Dempsey sent a couple of finishes wide, while Bale – who was booked for diving in a generally poor half – blasted over from close range after good play from Aaron Lennon.
The hosts, meanwhile, offered occasions of brilliant build-up play – largely instigated by the magical touches of Berbatov – but aside from Lloris’s save, there was little to cheer the chilly home fans.
With Spurs underperforming and Fulham the home side, the onus was on the Whites to make a fist of the second half.
They started promisingly, Steve Sidwell firing wide after a cute through-ball from Petric, Berbatov showing more good touches as Spurs struggled to get out of their half.
The first time the visitors did foray forward in the second half resulted in a goal – but it was thanks to a howler from Schwarzer as Sandro’s daisy-cutter flew through the Australia keeper and inside his near post.
It was an uncharacteristic error, and the goal against the run of play. It boosted Spurs, Bale stinging the palms of Schwarzer with a bullet drive, although the Wales winger pulled his hamstring unleashing the drive and was taken off.
Another change saw Damien Duff replace the ineffectual Kerim Frei as Fulham looked to take the game to the visitors, but they spurned their best opportunity to level when Ashkan Dejagah headed over when found by a superb Duff cross.
Soon afterwards Spurs, who had offered close to nothing going forward, doubled their lead after a comedy of defensive errors from Kelly and the lumbering Senderos allowed Bale’s replacement Gylfi Sigurdsson to wriggle into the box and pick out Defoe, who completed one of his easier finishes this season.
Defoe soon added his second and Spurs’ third, drilling a sweet first-time finish past Schwarzer after a fine through-ball from Dempsey, although Senderos’s attempt to play offside again was embarrassing.
Thirteen inconsequential minutes followed, with the greatest cheer among the away support coming as news filtered through of Swansea’s winning antics at Arsenal.
Fulham must now lick their wounds ahead of a home clash with struggling Newcastle United, while Tottenham have a big European game at Panathinaikos to test their squad, and a tricky trip to Everton next weekend.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jermain Defoe, Tottenham - Two real chances, two goals as the in-form England striker punished Fulham’s poor defence and Philippe Senderos in particular.
FULHAM: Schwarzer 5, Riether 6, Hughes 6, Senderos 4, Riise 6, Dejagah 6, Sidwell 6, Diarra 6, Frei 5, Berbatov 7, Petric 6; Subs: Kelly 5, Duff 6, Rodallega 6
TOTTENHAM: Lloris 8, Naughton 7, Dawson 6, Caulker 7, Vertonghen 7, Sandro 7, Dembele 7, Lennon 7, Bale 5, Dempsey 7, Defoe 9; Subs: Gallas 6, Carroll N/A, Sigurdsson 7
- Sports & Recreation
- Jermain Defoe
- Philippe Senderos
- Mark Schwarzer