Tottenham 0 Fulham 1
Dimitar Berbatov came back to haunt his former club as Tottenham’s chances of Champions League qualification took a huge blow with a shock defeat against Fulham this afternoon.
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, easily 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.
Although Berbatov refused to celebrate, it must have been pleasing for the 32-year-old to show Spurs what they are missing – the London club having turned down the opportunity to sign the player last summer when he left Manchester United.
The win must have proved even more sweet for Martin Jol, who tasted victory at Spurs for the first time since he was harshly sacked in 2007 after two top-five finishes.
Andre Villas-Boas, on the other hand, will not sleep easily tonight.
Spurs looked jaded after their 120-minute run out in Milan in midweek and they lacked creativity and guile despite the return of Gareth Bale.
Villas-Boas’ side have now lost three successive games for the first time under his stewardship and they sit four points above Arsenal having played one more game.
Given that they have games against Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City to play, most Spurs fans will be wondering if this is the start of a similar slip to the one that cost the club Champions League football last term.
Villas-Boas certainly did himself no favours with his left-field team selection, which saw Benoit Assou-Ekotto start on the wing and Jan Vertonghen at left-back.
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.
Thereafter Tottenham started to let their standards drop as the first half became a drab affair.
Spurs’ inability to complete even the simplest of passes annoyed the home support, while Fulham’s play also lacked quality.
Sigurdsson spooned a volley well over the bar and Scott Parker shot just over from 25 yards as Spurs were restricted to long shots.
Even Bale and Berbatov were off colour, both players mis-placing easy passes on more than one occasion.
The only other event of note in the first period was that Bale needed treatment on an ankle injury after being clipped by Giorgos Karagounis.
A few Spurs fans booed their team off at the break and Villas-Boas responded by throwing on Clint Dempsey at half-time and re-jigging his back four.
The move seemed to work initially. Tottenham had much more energy about them 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.
Hangeland almost doubled Fulham’s lead moments later when he met Karagounis’ corner at the back post, but his effort flew just wide.
Jermain Defoe almost levelled 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 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 Adebayor headed wide after out-jumping his marker.
Fulham almost killed the game off with five minutes left when Bryan Ruiz slipped in to the box and crossed for Dejagah but the winger did not test Lloris.
Schwarzer pulled off a brilliant save to deny Defoe in the final minute and Fulham held on in the four minutes of added time as Spurs left the field to a loud chorus of boos from their support.