Just when you thought Fulham would snatch a famous victory and the most needed points this season, Harry Winks broke every home supporter’s hearts with ten seconds remaining. But it was not without the good guys playing some inspired football for the first time in quite a while.
Ryan Babel played for the first time in Fulham colors and more than impressed on his debut. He challenged Tottenham’s back three all evening with his runs to the penalty area and providing support for teammates when Tottenham were in the middle of pressing. It should suprise absolutely no one that he ended up leading all Fulham players in shots, expected goals and xG Chain today with three shots, 0.54, and 0.57 respectively. Babel’s run past Davinson Sanchez and timely save by Hugo Lloris was the highlight of the bunch.
Next, Fulham were pulverizing Tottenham on corner kicks. The first should have led to a penalty after Jan Vertonghen took down Aleksander Mitrovic but referee Craig Pawson had a bad vantage point to see the tugging of the latter’s shirt. But Fulham was soon rewarded after a Jean Michael Seri ball hit Fernando Llorente’s right leg while flat footed and went in on goal. Yes, my friends. Fulham had a lead against a big six side!
And despite Tottenham constantly putting pressure in Fulham’s penalty area the rest of the way, but only for the back three to constantly clear it out before a clean shot was toward’s target. Besides a header by Llorente that went straight towards Sergio Rico, Tottenham only threatened with just 0.20 expected goals and four shots and 68.6% possession in the first half. But as half always been the case for Fulham, they could never stay consistent between one half to the next.
First, Tim Ream, being his usual self all season, swung and missed on a clearing attempt and Christian Eriksen was there to take advantage of it. From there, he found a streaking Dele Alli from point blank range to head it home and tie the contest up. Until Alfie Mawson comes back from injury, Fulham supporters will have to deal with Ream time and again making mistakes that make him never good enough to play Premier League football ever again. Consider him an MLS player in a month’s time! Then, for no reason at all, Babel came off in place of Ryan Sessegnon.
I refuse to be talked out of the fact that our newest arrival was by far our best player and had no business playing anything less than the full 90 minutes. You are on the verge of relegation. Desperation has to be more valuable than managing minutes and fitness. It is downright unforgivable that a Sessegnon-Mitrovic-Babel front three wasn’t given a go for a good chunk of time. If for anything else, there would have been more pace to the side and would have been perfect compliments to the rest of the team that were just getting constantly pressured on the other side of the pitch.
For those that even want to argue about fitness, Ryan Babel has played well over 2,000 league minutes in the past three seasons. André Schürrle has last done that back in 2012/13.
Anywho, Tottenham got back on the front foot some more, but it didn’t look like they were able to break the deadlock. That especially looked like the case when Llorente had his own penalty shout committed by Maxime Le Marchand only for Dawson to wave it off. Also, Alli had to be substituted within the latter stages of the game due to a hamstring injury. However, Llorente had one header that really should have given Spurs the lead but missed it from point blank range. Fortunately for them, Winks took advantage of a Georges-Kevin Nkoudou cross and also punished Rico for staying stuck on his goal line instead of coming out and claiming a slow enough cross into the six yard box.
That’s just the never ending story for Fulham. Even when they try their best, there’s just so many basic mistakes any squad can commit before they get punished so hard that they get played off the park. In this instance, the mistakes weren’t there too much, but they were enough to suffer a defeat they never should have had. And there goes another opportunity to get closer to Premier League safety. Now Brighton & Hove Albion is a must win. But we knew that already and time is running out for this football club before you know it.