Rats. We can talk about not having expected anything but in our position we need unexpected points. We are only going to survive on unexpected points.
So when, at 3-1 down, a penalty went our way, it seemed that a redemptive Eastlands moment had arisen. But Sidwell’s hit and hope penalty was beaten out and with it probably our chances of staying up. I’m not saying that’s it - there’s an awful lot of football still to be played and anything could happen – but that was a big moment and we blew it.
Fulham did so much right but were undone by two extraordinary free-kicks from Christian Eriksen (I don’t care who turned them in, they were his goals) and a piece of dire defending on the left flank.
1-1 at half time had looked entirely fair and the team should have been optimistic about its chances. But then Aaron Lennon was given acres by Dejagah (with Riise behind him – what, were they that scared of his pace?) and his cross was headed home. It was an awful goal with no redeeming features.
The team put in a fine effort to keep its winning run going but ran in to a better team. Spurs scored first via the first Eriksen free-kick, a laser beam that landed in our six yard box unmolested, for Paulinho to shin home from a yard out. Marking? Well, maybe, but that was a world class cross. Fulham came back with a fine Steve Sidwell goal – all charge and fury – and you could almost imagine the team puffing out its collective chest at half-time, ready to take the second half. But then that soft, soft, goal, and Fulham didn’t really recover.
What did we learn?
Stockdale did well again. The left flank looked like it might be dangerous defensively and proved to be. Parker, Sidwell and Kvist was a solid three but probably ties up a player that we could use elsewhere. Two really good players in synch ought to be able to do the same job, it feels, and while it’s lovely that Felix isn’t getting lulled into doing the Sidwell/Parker duo thing, the midfield we did put out was really limited in possession. Kvist I like as a player but he seems to have little range on the ball, a sort of slightly different Etuhu with a good selfless game but not much capability offensively. Parker was terrific for a bit but again lacks a bit of guile attacking: Spurs seemed to give him room in their half but he didn’t have the wit or the options to really make the most of it.
Sidwell we know: he did what he does, scoring that wonder goal, missing that vital penalty. It’s his season in microcosm, more good bits than anyone else has come up with but perhaps with a slight sting in the tail lest we get too carried away with his overall contribution. I always feel terribly harsh being anything but positive about a player who clearly shows a lot of balls and is a team leader and an admirable pro, but as the Times noted today in its analytics column, we have the worst squad in the league on this year’s performance: being the best player for Fulham in 2013/14 isn’t all that.
Rodallega continued to be a revelation up front. I don’t mind him not scoring, he got into positions, did all he could to make things happen and if he sometimes makes bad choices he more than makes up for it with an energy and quality that was basically not there in our team until Magath took over. There is quality in Rodallega, a reminder that under Jol our chaotic attacking play did nobody any favours.
Kacaniklic tried hard but is still probably a season away from regular quality contributions, Dejagah’s contribution reminded us why some players are better as substitutes (and as soon as football realises that this is a legitimate ‘role’ rather than an afterthought the better: Dejagah coming on breathing fire is a dangerous thing. Going through the motions as a starter is no use, and while he’s better than he showed today, he has been devilishly effective as a second half shock sub. Why change that?).
So, yeah. Hope for the future, doom and gloom for the present. Spurs were there to be taken but it needed a lot to go right, everything to go right, but as we know, this season has no remaining margin for error, and Fulham were not without error.