Spurs load big guns and find firepower to get the better of Fulham | Nick Ames

Tottenham’s manager, Mauricio Pochettino, picked his biggest attacking threats and watched them beat Fulham 3-0 at Craven Cottage in the FA Cup fifth round

At the most disarming of venues Tottenham Hotspur found their way through by dispatching the heavy artillery. Four days ago Mauricio Pochettino might not have imagined letting Harry Kane stretch out from the start against Fulham, much less if he had known a knock to his knee would render him a slight doubt; sometimes, though, a job needs doing properly and, if the purpose here was to blow the cobwebs of a sterile February away, then it was served conclusively.

Supporters foraging their way to Craven Cottage through the artisan food market in Bishops Park might have expected something closer-run. The six years since Fulham defeated Tottenham 4-0 here in the FA Cup fourth round feel like a lifetime for both clubs – the only remaining player of the 36 selected this time was Mousa Dembélé, who has switched sides – but it had been a weekend of old-fashioned footballing romance and this, still London’s most elegantly appointed arena, seemed the place for it.

There was to be no messing about by the river. Pochettino’s team selection had seemed one part pragmatism induced by fear of a replay, another part rebuke to a set of players whose bearings had been hopelessly awry during a defeat in Gent three days previously. Tottenham’s intensity had dropped badly in their previous four games; the thinking seemed to be that it would be too high-risk a strategy to muddle along without Kane, Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and company. A further stutter might have been excusable in their absence but at what price to the team’s already failing momentum?

It was, in any case, an occasion for seriousness. Slavisa Jokanovic is not the kind of man who would laugh politely at a joke to make the teller feel better but his Fulham team has had its share of fun in this season’s Championship. Crisp, fluent and mobile when at their best, they have been outscored by only three of their second-tier peers and may yet enter the play-off reckoning. In putting four past Hull City in the previous round of the Cup, they had performed with the buoyancy of a team capable of exposing sluggishness in feted opponents.

Here, though, they came across a Tottenham side at its most purposeful. Kane, pulling Fulham’s centre-backs around, had the demeanour of a man affronted by his recent dry spell – five games without a goal in open play – while the midfield quickly imposed itself against opposition who too often found themselves ahead of the ball.

That was the inconvenience suffered by Scott Malone, given a chastening afternoon at left-back by Eriksen and Kieran Trippier, whose poor positioning at a throw-in allowed the delivery for Kane’s first goal and who would also see the second come from his side. Tottenham were too sharp, too dismissive of Fulham’s ponderous attempts to play themselves back into contention; at times it resembled an exercise in chance creation, a drill of particular use in recent context.

If this was, against expectation, Harry’s game, then that went for more than one of the Tottenham side. Harry Winks, benefiting from the buffer of Victor Wanyama alongside him, was a vibrant presence throughout and thrived in the space he was allowed. It was Winks whose switch to Trippier set in train the move that doubled the lead; later he was joined briefly on the pitch by Scott Parker, whom he counted as a mentor during the 36-year-old Fulham player’s time at Tottenham. Parker can be pleased with how Winks, visibly more confident and front-footed as the season progresses, has kicked on; Fulham might reflect that the veteran’s presence could have been useful sooner in anchoring a side that struggled for any measure of control.

As the minutes ticked down, a concession to levity crept in. Alli, whose first-time pass to create Kane’s hat-trick characterised a perceptive afternoon’s work, unsuccessfully dummied a chest-high ball down the left flank and raised a chuckle in response, partly indulging his own impudence and partly apologising to the nearby Son Heung-min. Tottenham had left Gent with frowns on their faces and a rebuke from Dembélé, who said the game had “opened our eyes”, ringing in their ears; if Pochettino had gambled on his most creative forces bringing the joy back, he had by now been repaid.

It was job done but it does not answer everything. There remains the impression that Pochettino has a blind spot where Tottenham’s ancillary attacking options are concerned. Vincent Janssen, recalled to the bench after watching from the stands in Gent, remained there and there was no place in the matchday squad for Georges-Kévin Nkoudou. It said little for the manager’s trust in them that the bigger guns had to haul themselves out for another turn here; in practice Kane and company need more reliable support and that means better summer recruitment. “It was a great opportunity today to show that we are alive,” Pochettino said afterwards, but some of the squad players he might like to rely on appear dead men walking.

They are certainly unlikely to have been rested in preparation for what the manager terms a “final” against Gent at Wembley. Kane and company will be needed to fire Tottenham through that one too. They have, at least, set them back on course.


Nick Ames at Craven Cottage

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur: match preview
Tottenham, after a disappointing defeat in the Europa Legaue on Thursday, will likely rest some name players, giving Fulham extra incentive to pile more misery on Mauricio Pochettino’s side

18, Feb, 2017 @9:00 AM

Article image
FA Cup fourth round: 10 talking points from the weekend’s action
Liverpool’s defence needs to find cohesion fast, Lincoln felt the force with Alan Power and Bastian Schweinsteiger is welcomed back by José Mourinho

Guardian sport

30, Jan, 2017 @9:23 AM

Article image
FA Cup: talking points from the fifth round matches
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was Manchester United’s match-winner again, Burnley were tormented by Lincoln City and themselves and Arsenal must be prepared to pitch in at Sutton

Guardian sport

20, Feb, 2017 @8:21 AM

Article image
Harry Kane hat-trick eases Tottenham past Fulham and into FA Cup’s last eight
Harry Kane scored a hat-trick to reward a dominant Tottenham performance that brought a 3-0 FA Cup win at Fulham

Dominic Fifield at Craven Cottage

19, Feb, 2017 @4:10 PM

Squad sheets: Fulham v Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham fans will demand victory over Fulham at Craven Cottage but Mark Hughes's side have raised their game in recent weeks

28, Jan, 2011 @8:35 PM

Article image
Benítez’s idling at Newcastle exposed by Mitrovic’s flying start for Fulham | Paul Wilson
Rafael Benítez’s ‘you can only drive the car you have’ jibe begs the question of whether he could be pushing his Newcastle United side a little closer to the speed limit

Paul Wilson

29, Aug, 2018 @12:04 PM

Article image
Ryan Sessegnon wants Spurs move and tells Fulham he will not renew contract
The 19-year-old winger told Fulham he will not sign a new contract and has set his heart on a move to Tottenham

David Hytner

07, Jun, 2019 @12:49 PM

Article image
Marek Rodak and Kenny Tete see off Spurs in shootout win for Fulham
Fulham advanced into the third round of the Carabao Cup after beating Tottenham 5-3 on penalties at Craven Cottage

Jacob Steinberg at Craven Cottage

29, Aug, 2023 @9:13 PM

Article image
Harry Kane equals Spurs’ all-time scoring record in win at Fulham
Harry Kane scored a club record-equalling 266th goal for Spurs, and his 199th Premier League strike, in a 1-0 victory against Fulham

Jacob Steinberg at Craven Cottage

23, Jan, 2023 @10:26 PM

Article image
Fulham 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur | FA Cup sixth round match report

A goalless draw at Craven Cottage added to the two sides' fixture congestion with a replay needed to settle the FA Cup semi-final place

David Lacey at Craven Cottage

08, Mar, 2010 @8:00 AM