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Jose Mourinho and Tottenham pay for familiar failings late on as Fulham exploit Spurs’ lack of killer instinct

Dan Kilpatrick
·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Tottenham were made to pay for familiar failings as Fulham came from behind to earn a precious 1-1 draw in an entertaining London derby.

Just as in the frustrating 1-1 draws at Crystal Palace and Wolves last month, Spurs failed to build on and ultimately protect a first-half lead, which will inevitably raise further questions about Jose Mourinho's approach.

In fairness to their manager, the hosts were also wasteful in front of goal again, squandering chances to put daylight between themselves and Fulham before and after Harry Kane opened the scoring with a textbook diving header.

In an all-too-familiar fashion, Spurs stood off the visitors and dropped deeper and deeper after the interval, so it was no great surprise when Ivan Cavaleiro rose above Eric Dier to equaliser with a firm header. It came after substitute Ademola Lookman had turned Davinson Sanchez inside out to cross.

Mourinho and his players will be left looking back on another match when they had ample opportunities to secure three points, as they missed the chance to move back into the top three.

The performance adds to the feeling that Spurs are too reliant on Kane and Heung-min Son for goals, with the South Korean suffering an off-day in the final third, hitting the post with a scuffed shot moments before Fulham's equaliser.

In the 3-0 win over Leeds in their last Premier League outing, Spurs built on an early lead to run out convincing winners, suggesting a change in Mourinho's safety-first, contain-and-counter approach after their form had stagnated in December.

But Spurs showed few signs of going for the jugular against an undercooked Fulham side and their performance suggested the Leeds game was somewhat anomalous.

As Spurs reverted to type, Mourinho was left with familiar problems to solve and familiar questions to answer. They have now won just one in six League games and pressure is mounting on the manager.

Fulham benefit from break

Fulham, meanwhile, continued their impressive form and showed no ill-effects from the outbreak of coronavirus which decimated Scott Parker's squad and led to the postponement of two League matches, including the original meeting with Spurs on December 30.

During a passionate pre-match press conference, a furious Parker accused the Premier League of putting his players at risk of injury by rescheduling the game at 48 hours' notice – but if anything, Fulham got better as the match progressed.

They looked the likelier winners after Cavaleiro's header, with the superb Ruben Loftus-Cheek forcing Hugo Lloris to rush off his line and save – although Sergio Reguilon, whose excellent cross set up Kane, had a goal disallowed for offside soon after.

As predicted by the Spurs boss, Parker named a strong XI, with just one change from their last League outing, against Southampton on Boxing Day.

Nonetheless, it was easy to understand why he felt the scales were tipped firmly in Tottenham's direction, as Mourinho made 10 changes from Sunday's win at eighth-tier Marine, with only Moussa Sissoko, who played 45 minutes on Merseyside, keeping his place.

Only five of Parker's XI had started the extra-time win over QPR on Saturday and his actually team looked rejuvenated after a such a long break from Premier League action, rather than drained by a stint of isolation.

You always wonder if they were galvanised by the perceived injustice expressed by their manager on the eve of the contest, which assumed proportions of a grudge match.

Parker and his squad can take enormous encouragement from the result, which followed a similar draw against champions Liverpool last month.

But the question now is how they convert one point into three after a fifth consecutive stalemate.

Aurier and Reguilon offer twin threat

Sergio Reguilon's left peg is gradually becoming one of Tottenham's biggest weapons.

After an assist for Sissoko here against Brentford last week, Reguilon put in an even better cross for Kane's goal, whipping a bouncing ball behind the Cottagers' back four.

It was his third assist in the Premier League this season – impressive numbers given no-one else aside from Kane and Son has managed more than one.

On the other side, Serge Aurier was also menacing Fulham's back three with runs into the channel. The Ivorian's crossing – often erratic – was on point and he created first-half chances for Reguilon, Kane and Son with ferocious balls into box. The misses proved costly.

Even as Spurs sat back after the interval, Reguilon continued to fly forward and the defender thought he had scored a late winner from Son's cross, only to be flagged offside.

It has been some time since both Tottenham's full-backs have offered such a twin threat and their first-half display made it all the more frustrating that Spurs seemed to sit back after the interval.

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