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Jermain Defoe scored twice to sink Fulham and move Tottenham Hotspur in to fourth place in the Barclays Premier League. The London derby had been billed as a chance for Dimitar Berbatov to shine against his former club, but it was Defoe who stole the show by bagging his 11th and 12th goals of the campaign.
The England striker this week spoke about how working under Andre Villas-Boas had breathed life into his flagging career, and the 30-year-old delivered once again for his manager by killing off the game with Tottenham's final two goals. Berbatov showed flashes of brilliance in a good first half for Martin Jol's men, but Sandro put Spurs ahead after the break with a 35-yard drive - his second goal for the club. Defoe then stepped up to the plate to seal the match, converting Gylfi Sigurdsson's pass to make it 2-0 before adding a second five minutes later from Clint Dempsey's pass.
The win - Tottenham's third in a row, means Villas-Boas' team are level with third-place Chelsea in the table. The only worry for Villas-Boas is that Gareth Bale and Michael Dawson both hobbled off with injuries.
Berbatov looked determined to make an impression from the start and it took little time for him to show his class. The Bulgarian, who enjoyed two prolific seasons at Spurs before leaving for Manchester United, produced a deft touch to skip past Dawson and carve open the Spurs defence, but Hugo Lloris charged off his lane to collect the ball before Steve Sidwell had a chance to shoot.
At the other end Dempsey showed a moment of brilliance to turn Aaron Hughes and glide past Philippe Senderos but he shot well wide. Berbatov released Ashkan Dejagah with a sublime backheel but Kerim Frei could only put the winger's deflected cross over the bar.
Villas-Boas was forced into an early change when Dawson suffered an injury while clearing a cross in the 15th minute. William Gallas came on in his place.
The game slowed down from its frenetic opening. Dempsey and Malden Petric both had half-chances and Mark Schwarzer sprinted off his line to deny Defoe. Berbatov nutmegged Aaron Lennon, but the England winger soon collected the ball and found Bale, but he skied his finish.
Petric muscled Sandro off the ball and found Sidwell as Fulham pushed for an opener just after the break, but he dragged his shot wide. Berbatov prowled on the edge of the box, probing at the Spurs defence, but he could not find a way through.
The away side then took the lead out of nowhere. Sandro picked up Mousa Dembele's pass five yards inside the Fulham half and carried the ball forward before unleashing a powerful drive that flew in off a post past Schwarzer. Spurs looked to kill the game off moments later through Bale, who galloped down the left after picking up Defoe's pass, but Schwarzer saved well.
That proved to be Bale's last contribution to the game as he hobbled off with what looked like a hamstring problem. Fulham struggled to get back on the ball and Defoe took full advantage of Spurs' dominance. The striker broke down the middle to meet the pass of Sigurdsson, who had turned Senderos, and he made no mistake from close range.
Five minutes later and it was game over. Dempsey threaded a perfect through-ball past Senderos, Defoe raced through and slotted beyond Schwarzer. Spurs took their foot off the accelerator and eased to a morale-boosting victory.
Fulham manager Martin Jol: "It was a bad result. It was a tight game but the likes of Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon, Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe ... we kept them pretty quiet. It was very disappointing to concede three goals out of nothing.
Tottenham Hotspur head coach Andre Villas-Boas: "Sometimes strikers look distant from the game but when the team sets them up it's important that they have that clinical touch and [Defoe] just has it. He is having an amazing season with us. He is playing lots of games and is extremely motivated.
“Both Bale and Dawson have suffered hamstring muscle injuries. One looks more serious than the other although both are controllable. With muscle injuries it's very difficult but it might keep [Bale] out for one two to weeks. Dawson a little bit less."
|10 Dec 2012||v Newcastle (H)|
|15 Dec 2012||v QPR (A)|
|22 Dec 2012||v Liverpool (A)|
|26 Dec 2012||v Southampton (H)|
|29 Dec 2012||v Swansea (H)|
|01 Jan 2013||v West Brom (A)|