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Stuttering Spurs slip up at home

WINNING GOAL: Dimitar Berbatov

MAYBE IT was down to fatigue, maybe it was the pressure creeping in, but Tottenham Hotspur were far from inspiring in front of an expectant home crowd as they lost 1-0 to Fulham.

Dimitar Berbatov’s solitary goal from close range on 52 minutes proved decisive as Fulham recorded only their third win on their travels this season and dent Spurs' top four aspirations in the process.

Whisper it at your peril but there are signs of nerves coming out of this corner of the capital.

Defeat at Liverpool last Sunday brought an end to Spurs' impressive 12-game unbeaten run. While their bid for European silverware remains intact, their main focus of a top-four finish in the Premier League did not go quite to plan this afternoon.

Tottenham boss Andre Villas Boas made five changes to his side from Spurs’ San Siro experience against Inter Milan on Thursday evening.

Talisman Gareth Bale returned to the fold after missing the midweek trip to Italy through suspension. The Welshman provided the game’s first chance inside five minutes but his header was cleared off the line by defender Sascha Riether.

A lingering hangover became apparent from their Europa League exertions as the home side failed to cause any real danger to the Fulham defence in the first half. Scott Parker’s ambitious effort from long range told the tale with the opposition happy to keep them at bay.

Two former favourites were at the heart of Fulham's efforts to ensure a stern afternoon. Martin Jol received a warm welcome on his return to N17, the same could not be said of the in-form Berbatov.

The Bulgarian, who left Spurs for Manchester United five years ago, added to his season's tally when he slotted in Riether’s cross as Fulham broke swiftly on the counter.
Fulham nearly added a second minutes later but Brede Hangeland’s header went inches wide.

Jermain Defoe was then introduced as Villas-Boas - judging by his animations on the touchline - prayed for an equaliser.

Defoe made a telling impact and was unlucky not to bring Spurs back into the game, largely down to the heroics of Fulham 'keeper Mark Schwarzer.

The Australian stopper was at his best to save from Defoe’s first-time shot and again pulled off a spectacular reaction save to deny the England international.

The victory was Fulham's first in 10 years at White Hart Lane. No doubt the result will raise fears among Spurs fans who will be desperate to avoid a collapse in form at such a pivotal stage of the season, similar to the last campaign which cost them a place in the UEFA Champions League.

Spurs now lead north London neighbours Arsenal by just four points. What a difference a few results in the Premier League can make. Joyous scenes of their recent derby win have now been traded for nail baiting moments on the terraces.

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