It is unclear if the acronym BASK will catch on. But the night that José Mourinho first put Gareth Bale, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min and Harry Kane in Tottenham colors, the club secured the desired return.
It was Alli’s first outing in the Premier League since the opening day of the season and he made the decisive contribution in the 19th minute, with a pass from a Son cross that entered Tosin Adarabioyo at an own goal.
During the first half, when the Spurs were aggressive and cohesive in terms of attack, it was possible to feel optimistic about their prospects for the final weeks of the season. However, in the end they had a moment of good luck to be thankful for a victory that ignited their hopes of finishing in the top four.
There was a big change in the second half, and a newly dominant Fulham thought they had scored a well-deserved draw just after the time when Josh Maja, the winter window loan, fired a low shot on Hugo Lloris. To the horror of the hosts, the VAR saw that the ball had dropped after Davinson Sánchez’s pirated punt returned from Mario Lemina’s arm. Lemina didn’t know anything about it.
For Fulham, this was the chance to climb over Newcastle and break out of the bottom three. Although they lost for only the fifth time in 18 league games, there were positives for them.
It was the first of six games in 18 days for the Spurs, although the truth is that they have been dealing with extreme congestion in games for most of the season. Mourinho’s selection was influenced by the need to rotate, to manage tired bodies and minds, but he said the tactic was not behind the composition of the four forwards.
The manager said “for Dele, it’s more than a rotation,” while Bale had made an irresistible case for inclusion in the previous five games.
Mourinho had made it sound Wednesday that he could use Bale as a substitute, amid the need to be careful with him, but said the player would have a say in the decision.
Bale was involved in the opening goal, but not as prominently as Alli. The Welshman drove a pass towards his teammate and as Alli swerved it left towards Son, Fulham could hear the alarm bells. Son taunted Ola Aina before crossing low and hard and Alli, who had timed his run, dove into the far corner, the ball going into the unfortunate Adarabioyo, who might have been aware that Kane was lurking behind him.
It was a quick response from the Spurs to the frustration of wasting a golden opportunity moments before. Kane, of all the players, was the culprit. Son hit him with a glorious cross off the boot and Kane had a clean look at the free header, located in the center, just outside the six-yard box. The effort was weak and direct on Alphonse Areola.
Fulham wanted to make inroads down the left flank, where Antonee Robinson pushed from the side and Ruben Loftus-Cheek swerved to create overloads. They tried early on, but had to wait until injury time to get their first clear shot, and what a chance it was. Robinson’s impressive surge carried him past four opponents and his cut was suspended by Maja only for Lemina to soar wasted.
The Spurs were strongest at one-on-one in the first half, especially in midfield, and dangerous when they won the ball up high. With Alli having fun with the ball, always a bad sign for the opposition, the Spurs could have had more before the break. Kane wanted a penalty after a challenge from Aina, there was not enough contact, while Son tamed meekly after Alli dropped a cross to the back post.
Fulham’s games won’t be any easier from here on, they still have to play the other five members of the so-called big six, and the second half felt very important to them. They started with intention, pressing the front foot, bringing a tempo to worry the Spurs and the VAR’s intervention was a heartbreaker.
Lloris had done well to save Lemina after cutting Ivan
Cavaleiro, but when Fulham pushed again, a poor punt by Sánchez broke Lemina for Maja, who crashed low in the bottom corner. It was a lovely ending but to no avail.
Joachim Anderson had extended Lloris with a header early in the second half while Adarabioyo hit the goalkeeper with another but Fulham was unable to react to the blow from the disallowed goal.
Mourinho hooked Alli and Bale, introducing Moussa Sissoko and Lucas Moura for more solidity while his other change deliocaba more of the same; Érik Lamela for Tanguy Ndombele. One goal was enough for him, although Kane nearly got a second, Areola bravely blocked it after a pass from Lamela.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism