Harry Winks heads home at the last for Spurs to break Fulham hearts

Harry Winks headed in a winning goal deep into injury-time to give Spurs a 2-1 win at relegation-haunted Fulham

Who needs Harry Kane when they have Harry Winks? The start of Tottenham’s period without their talismanic centre-forward and, indeed, Son Heung-min, too, looked set to end in frustration as Fernando Llorente – the player entrusted with the main striking role – endured a nightmarish afternoon.

Llorente scored an own goal at one end and missed two good chances at the other as Spurs laboured to find their attacking groove. Dele Alli had equalised for them early in the second half but he would be forced off with a hamstring injury in the 86th minute – compounding the sense that this would not be Spurs’s day.

Enter the unlikely saviour – actually, enter two of them. Winks had not scored since November 2016 against West Ham United while the transfer-listed Georges-Kévin Nkoudou had only played once all season – as a 64th-minute substitute against the Hammers in the Carabao Cup. On as the replacement for Alli, Nkoudou sent over an excellent cross with only 15 seconds of stoppage-time left and, suddenly, there was Winks, stealing in to head home and break Fulham’s hearts.

It was a bitter pill for Claudio Ranieri and his players because they had been the better team in the first half, when Hugo Lloris made two fine saves, and they were not overly stretched in the second period.

Ranieri complained that Aleksandar Mitrovic ought to have had a penalty after being pulled at a corner by Jan Vertonghen with Fulham leading, which was debatable, but everybody could agree that his players showed their inexperience and defensive frailty at the end, when they failed to close out what would have been a morale-boosting draw. Fulham remain seven points adrift of fourth-from-bottom Newcastle, with comfortably the worst defensive record in the division.

With Arsenal and Manchester United closing up on them after wins on Saturday, dropped points in the battle to make sure of a Champions League finish were not a part of Spurs’s thinking. Thanks to Winks, they found a way to record their 11th away win in 13 Premier League matches this season and, according to Pochettino, it was a tribute to the collective belief.

Missing Kane to ankle ligament damage and Son to Asian Cup duty, the manager was also without Lucas Moura because of knee trouble. Pochettino gave Llorente a second league start in 18 months as a Spurs player, mindful that in the first – at Swansea last January – the Spaniard had scored in a 2-0 win.

Llorente was on the mark again in the opening stages here – just not in the manner he would have wanted. When Jean Michaël Seri’s 17th-minute corner reached him, the clearance looked routine but, with his feet set poorly, he jabbed at the ball and diverted it the wrong way past Lloris.

Fulham might have taken the lead even earlier, having started with the bit between their teeth. Ranieri played Ryan Babel, who arrived last Tuesday from Besitkas on a six-month deal, as the left-sided forward in his 3-4-3 system and the Netherlands international used his power and movement to good effect – starting in the 12th minute. Babel outmuscled Davinson Sánchez and, when he got into the area, he shot for the near corner. Lloris reacted superbly to tip the ball behind.

Spurs lacked ideas in the first half as Fulham kept men behind the ball and compressed the space, although Llorente ought to have equalised on 23 minutes following Vertonghen’s cross. He had the position on Tim Ream, who had his hands on him, but mistimed the header. The ball flew goalwards off his shoulder and Sergio Rico made an important save.

Fulham played some quick and direct stuff in the first-half and they might have scored again before the break. Babel headed high from Cyrus Christie’s cross while Lloris kept out André Schürrle’s volley with a brilliant reflex save. Mitrovic headed home the rebound but he was offside. Babel was also put off by a Vertonghen challenge after Calum Chambers’s backheel.

Spurs had enjoyed their first clear midweek since the November international break which meant more time to dwell on last Sunday’s 1-0 loss to United at Wembley, which Pochettino described as “unfair.” Another reverse was unthinkable. It was imperative they roused themselves in the second-half.

The equaliser originated from a Ream air-kick as he attempted to clear and when Christian Eriksen dropped a cross into the area, Alli had melted into space behind the flat-footed Denis Odoi. He was never going to miss the close-range header.

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It was easy to feel that Alli’s goal would be the prompt for Spurs to lay siege to the Fulham goal, particularly when Maxime Le Marchand had to throw himself into a block to keep out an Eriksen shot and Danny Rose, who would later be harshly booked for diving, watched an effort flick off Odoi and hit the crossbar.

It did not materialise. Spurs struggled to create clear-cut chances and, when Llorente did not get enough on an 82nd-minute header from Rose’s free-kick, they looked set for the draw. Winks had other ideas.


David Hytner at Craven Cottage

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