Tottenham Hotspur strengthened their position in the top-four Premier League by booking fresh three points taken against Fulham at Craven Cottage, courtesy of a solitary strike by Harry Kane in the final seconds of the first half.
Kane the Inevitable
That winning goal was the 266th Kane scored for Spurs, equaling the club’s all-time record set by the legendary Jimmy Greaves between 1961 and 1970. It really did seem inevitable for the 29-year-old to make history at the North London club, even though he’s yet to win a single trophy. The 266 goals, along with 62 assists, have come from 415 matches in all competitions.
Kane’s brilliance has often been enough to drag Spurs on and bring vital points, even in games when they arguably didn’t deserve any. This goal was very typical for him, as he received the ball just outside the box, sprang away from Tim Ream and whacked a powerful shot into the bottom corner from around 18 yards, leaving Bernd Leno in the Fulham goal powerless to save it.
Prior to that moment, he barely got to touch the ball as the Fulham defenders did their job very well. But as is the case will all great attacking players, one moment, one flash of inspiration or a split-second away from his marker, and he’ll settle the game as he did this time.
Speaking after the match, Spurs head coach Antonio Conte said he would like to help Kane fulfill his potential at the club, and finally lift some silverware to crown an otherwise illustrious career.
After he reportedly sought to leave Spurs for Manchester City in 2021, the England captain has been linked with the likes of Bayern Munich and Manchester United, but he has confirmed that there are talks about a new Spurs contract scheduled to take place next month. It’s the news every Spurs fan will have been hoping for.
Fulham the real deal
It’s been a very long time since Fulham had a Premier League season like this, and despite the defeat, the game showed beyond any doubt that none of it is accidental.
Marco Silva’s men opened the game well, pushing the visitors back and controlling possession, and posing a serious threat for Hugo Lloris’ goal. For around half an hour they were clearly the better team, with Andreas Pereira mostly directing the play, Willian bringing danger from the left, Bobby De Cordova-Reid from the right, and there’s no real need to discuss what having Aleksandar Mitrovic in the box means for the opposition defence.
In the end, the home crowd will have been disappointed by the result, as narrow as it was, but certainly not the performance of their team, and the prospect of seeing them play in a European competition next term hasn’t lost any of its feeling of reality.
The Conte way
The Spurs boss is known for having his team grind out results in difficult games, which is what this contest certainly was. His team had the ball for 47% of the time, and took fewer shots on target, just three compared to Fulham’s five, though the total reads 10 for each.
Defensively disciplined, Spurs mostly defended deep and hit quickly, particularly in the early stage of the game when Fulham were still flying. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentacur played a huge role in the middle of the park, providing grit and either winning the ball, or at least forcing the opposition to slow down. Out wide, Emerson Royal and Ivan Perisic showed just as much spirit and contributed equally at both ends of the pitch. Dejan Kulusevski and Son Heung-min were very industrious in supporting Kane upfront, though both showed signs of struggling to get their form back on track. The work-rate was there, and so was eventually the result.
This team obviously isn’t strong enough to keep stronger opposition at bay like that – the way they were beaten by Manchester City at the Etihad recently, conceding four after being two goals up, proved that beyond doubt. But, the defending champions and league leaders Arsenal aside, a team that aspires to finish in one of the remaining Champions League spots has to be able to win against any other team in the league in any way possible.
Spurs are certainly capable of that.
There’s obviously a lot of work to be done between now and the end of the season for both Fulham and Spurs in order for the latter to finish inside top four and the former to book a place in one of the remaining two European competitions. At the moment, Spurs are in fifth place with 36 points, three less than Manchester United in fourth as well as Newcastle in third, but they’ve played one game more than the two rivals.
As for Fulham, a lot of clubs will be scrambling for the same goals as them. They’re seventh with 31 points, the same tally as Brighton and Hove Albion in sixth, but they’ve played two more games than the Seagulls, one game more than Brentford in eight place with 30, two more than Liverpool in ninth with 29, and one more than Chelsea in 10th place, also with 29 points.
After facing Preston North End away in the fourth round of the FA Cup next, Spurs will face Manchester City again in the league on February 5th, this time at home. Fulham play away to Chelsea next, and then they host Nottinghem Forest.
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