Ivan Cavaleiro's header earns Fulham deserved point at Tottenham

'Not good enough': José Mourinho on Tottenham's draw against Fulham – video

Tottenham refuse to learn their lesson. Once again they allowed a game to slip from their control, failing to build on Harry Kane’s early goal and falling into defensive mode. It has become a recurring theme and Spurs ended up paying the price for José Mourinho’s conservatism when Fulham, inspired by a thrilling cameo from Ademola Lookman, punished their negative opponents with a deserved equaliser.

Mourinho could not complain about bad luck, even though his side missed a series of outstanding opportunities and had a winner from Sergio Reguilón disallowed for offside. To focus on misfortune and missed chances would be a distraction when the reality is that Spurs, who have won two of their past eight league games, have made a habit of conceding costly late goals.

It happened when they drew with Crystal Palace and Wolves last month, it happened when they lost against Liverpool at Anfield, and it happened again when Ivan Cavaleiro leapt in the 74th minute to haul Fulham level. Spurs had contrived to squander yet another commanding position and although they were top of the league midway through December, they now are six points behind Manchester United in first place.

Although the reliance on Kane and Son Heung-min is a hindrance, the overall mentality is an issue. Spurs did not approach the second half like title contenders. They were quick to retreat and, although Fulham rode their luck at times, Scott Parker’s side merited a draw that lifts them two points below Brighton in 17th place.

Fulham, who have two games in hand on Brighton, ran their hearts out and almost snatched a priceless win when Hugo Lloris denied Ruben Loftus‑Cheek. Although they arrived in a funk, seething at being given only two days to prepare after a Covid-19 outbreak forced Aston Villa to postpone their game against Spurs, they responded magnificently.

Parker had called the scheduling scandalous, arguing that Fulham needed more notice from the Premier League. This fixture had originally been postponed on 30 December after Fulham, who also had to call off their trip to Burnley on 3 January, recorded a number of positive coronavirus tests.

Parker had not banked on it being rearranged so quickly; otherwise he would not have played so many of his regulars when his side returned to action against Queens Park Rangers in the third round of the FA Cup last weekend.

Yet perfection is impossible given the sport is playing by the pandemic’s rules and Fulham had no choice but to get on with it. Mourinho, who expected Fulham to field a strong side, had dismissed Parker’s complaints and Spurs were determined to make their guests suffer during the first half.

Harry Kane heads Tottenham in front.
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Harry Kane heads Tottenham in front. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/EPA

Spurs sought to expose Fulham’s rustiness, threatening whenever they raised the tempo. Mourinho wanted his full-backs high and wide, attacking the space behind Parker’s wing-backs, and whipping in crosses for Kane and Son. The tactic was effective throughout the opening period and it should have led to a goal in the sixth minute, Serge Aurier’s cutback reaching Reguilón, who fired over from close range.

Spurs kept cutting through Parker’s cautious 3-5-2 system. Alphonse Areola had to be in inspired form in Fulham’s goal, twice denying Son. Tosin Adarabioyo was forced into last-ditch action, sliding in to rob Kane, and it was not a surprise when Fulham cracked. Reguilón raided from left-back and delivered a peach of a cross for Kane to head home.

Yet Fulham, who had not played a league game since Boxing Day, refused to lie down. They have developed a solid work ethic under Parker and were diligent in their approach, with Harrison Reed fighting in midfield.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa offered a languid quality on the ball, showing quick feet before testing Lloris. Loftus-Cheek almost equalised and the longer it stayed 1-0, the bolder Fulham became.

Parker saw that Spurs had lost their fluency in midfield. He gambled, introducing Lookman, a livewire on the left. Spurs dropped deeper, relying on counterattacks, their nerves growing when Son hit a post at the end of a swift break.

Fulham saw their chance. Spurs could not contain Lookman, who turned Aurier inside out before crossing for Cavaleiro to score. Fulham, who host Chelsea on Saturday, ended up enjoying their last‑minute invitation to north London.

“People need to understand the predicament we were in,” Parker said afterwards. “We are not making it up. We have been very open and had worries for the safety of others too … we don’t need to apologise for anything. I thought we were immense tonight. I was very proud because of what we faced.”

Mourinho, meanwhile, was left frustrated by his team’s inability to take their chances. “This is the same story basically since the beginning of the season,” he added. “Today was a clear situation where we could and should have killed the game in the first half but then you go back to the goals that we concede.

“There are some things [that] have to do with organisation of the team, but other things they have to do with individual skills, individual ability, and it’s as simple as that.”