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Dimitar Berbatov came back to haunt his former club as Tottenham's chances of UEFA Champions League qualification suffered a blow with a shock home defeat by Fulham.
Having scored three goals in his last four matches, Berbatov was always going to be Fulham's main goal threat, but even he could not have imagined how easy it would be to score his first goal at White Hart Lane since leaving Spurs in 2008.
The Bulgarian, who scored 46 goals in two seasons at Tottenham, spun off his marker and his mis-timed shot flew past Hugo Lloris to give the Cottagers their first win at White Hart Lane in 10 years and his manager Martin Jol his first taste of victory at Spurs since being dismissed by the club in 2007 after two top-five finishes.
The hosts looked jaded after their 120-minute run out in Milan in midweek and creativity and guile was found wanting despite the return of Gareth Bale. Indeed Andre Villas-Boas' side have now lost three successive games for the first time under his stewardship and sit four points above Arsenal having played one more game.
Given that they have games against Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City to play, many Spurs fans will be wondering whether this is the start of a similar slip to the one that cost the club Champions League football last term.
Tottenham missed Bale greatly in the 4-1 defeat at Inter Milan in midweek and they benefited from his return during the opening stages. Gylfi Sigurdsson robbed John Arne Riise of the ball and whipped a dangerous ball towards the Welshman, but he was forced wide by Brede Hangeland.
Sigurdsson found Bale again moments later from a corner, but luckily for Fulham Sascha Riether cleared the forward's goal-bound header off the line.
Villas-Boas introduced Clint Dempsey at half-time and re-jigged his back four and it was a ply which, initially, appeared to work. Tottenham had much more energy about them at the start of the second period and Bale drew Mark Schwarzer in to his first save of the game.
Fulham then stunned the home crowd by taking the lead through Berbatov. The Bulgarian lost his marker to meet Ashkan Dejagah's cross and bundle the ball past Lloris.
The visitors almost almost doubled their lead moments later when he Hangeland met Karagounis' corner at the back post only for his effort to fly just wide, while at the other end Jermain Defoe came close to levelling after his introduction, firing a low shot which Schwarzer saved well after some good work by Steven Caulker down the right.
Fulham were still in control of the game, however. Steve Sidwell and Giorgos Karagounis bossed the midfield while Tottenham looked tired after their midweek exertions.
Kyle Naughton offered some hope by whipping in a brilliant long cross but Emmanuel Adebayor headed wide after out-jumping his marker.
Fulham might have killed the game off with five minutes left when Bryan Ruiz slipped in to the area and crossed for Dejagah, but the winger was unable to test Lloris.
Tottenham head coach Andre Villas-Boas: "It was nothing to do with the players today. The effort and commitment were there. Probably the organisation wasn't, and it is down to us to get to business and correct that."
"You can't hide from what has happened in the past with Spurs. You just have to make sure that we are able to fight against it. It has been difficult month for us. If we are able to find our form or confidence and win then we can end that cycle that Spurs normally have. We just have to work hard."
Fulham manager Martin Jol: "Before the game you hope for a point but Berbatov came to me and promised me. He said: “You have to trust me”. I thought he was joking, but he said it before the match against Stoke [where he scored the winner] and he is a wonderful player. It was one of the best wins ever."
"He's a remarkable boy. He's a different personality, but he's said it twice now. Against Stoke before the match and he said it again today. The only thing he wants is a day off if he scores. I promised him a day off and he scores. He looks like he's sulking and sometimes his body language is not great, but you know that he can be a winner, and he can decide games for you."
"It's nice that [the win] was here only because White Hart Lane is such a difficult place to go to."
|19 May 2013||v Sunderland (H)|
|08 May 2013||v Chelsea (A)|
|27 Apr 2013||v Wigan (A)|
|30 Mar 2013||v Swansea (A)|
|07 Apr 2013||v Everton (H)|
|12 May 2013||v Stoke (A)|