Harry Winks and Spurs break Fulham hearts
Tottenham Hotspur midfielder swoops to score 93rd minute winner at Craven Cottage
Harry Winks scores Tottenham’s winner against Fulham. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
Fulham 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2
Who needs Harry Kane when you have got Harry Winks? The start of Tottenham’s period with their talismanic centre-forward and, indeed, Son Heung-min, too, looked set to end in tears as Fernando Llorente – the player given the nod at the sharp end of the formation – endured a nightmarish afternoon.
Llorente scored an own goal at one end and missed two clear chances at the other. Dele Alli had equalised for Spurs at the start of the second half but he would be forced off with what looked like a hamstring injury towards the end, as Mauricio Pochettino’s options were further limited.
Enter the unlikely saviour. Actually two of them. Winks had not scored since November 2016 while the transfer-listed Georges-Kévin Nkoudou had only played once all season – as a 64th-minute substitute at West Ham in the Carabao Cup. But on for Alli, Nkoudou dug out an excellent cross in the last minute of stoppage-time and, suddenly, there was Winks, stealing in to head home and break Fulham’s hearts.
It was a bitter pill for Claudio Ranieri and his players. They were the better team in the first half, when they led through Llorente’s own goal, and they were not overly stretched in the second period. But they could not hold onto what would have been a morale-boosting point and they remain seven points off fourth-from-bottom Newcastle.
Tottenham had seen Arsenal and Manchester United close up on them with wins on Saturday and dropped points were not a part of their thinking. Thanks to Winks, they were able to record an 11th away Premier League win in 13 matches this season.
This was Llorente’s second league start in 18 months as a Spurs player. In the first one, at Swansea last January, he had scored early in a 2-0 win and he was on the mark again in the opening stages here – just not in the manner that he would have wanted. Llorente was all alone inside the Spurs penalty area when Jean Michael Seri’s corner reached him and the clearance looked routine. Yet he did not react quickly enough and, with his feet set incorrectly, he jabbed at the ball and, to his horror, diverted it the wrong way past Hugo Lloris.
Fulham’s home form has not been too bad – it is on the road where they have flopped – and they might have taken the lead even earlier, having begun with the bit between their teeth. Ranieri played Ryan Babel, who arrived on Tuesday from Besitkas on a six-month deal, as the left-sided forward in his 3-4-3 system and the Netherlands international used his power and movement to good effect – starting in the 12th minute.
Babel outmuscled Davinson Sánchez as he chased Aleksandar Mitrovic’s flicked header, which is no mean feat and, when he got his body in front of the Spurs centre-back inside the area, he shot for the near corner. Lloris reacted superbly to tip the ball behind.
Spurs were one-paced and lacking in ideas in the first half, as Fulham kept men behind the ball and compressed the space, although Llorente ought to have equalised on 23 minutes following Jan Vertonghen’s cross. He had the position on Tim Ream but he mistimed his header, the ball flying goalwards off his shoulder. Sergio Rico made an important save.
Fulham were impressive before the interval, playing some quick and direct stuff and they might have scored again. Babel rose to meet Cyrus Christie’s cross only to head high while Mitrovic had the ball in the net after Lloris had kept out André Schürrle’s brilliant volley – he was correctly pulled back for offside. Babel was also put off by a last-ditch Vertonghen challenge after Calum Chambers’s marvellous backheel.
Spurs had enjoyed their first clear midweek since the November international break and it also meant more time to dwell on last Sunday’s 1-0 loss to United at Wembley. Another reverse was unthinkable so it was imperative that they roused themselves in the second half.
The equaliser came in the 52nd minute and it originated from a dreadful Ream air-kick as he attempted to clear. Christian Eriksen seized on the loose ball and when he crossed, Alli melted into space behind the flat-footed Denis Odoi. He was never going to miss the close-range header.
It was easy to feel that Alli’s goal would be the prompt for Spurs to lay siege to the Fulham goal, particularly when Maxime Le Marchand had to throw himself into a block to keep out an Eriksen shot and Danny Rose, who would later be harshly booked for diving, watched an effort flick off Odoi and hit the crossbar.
But it did not materialise. Spurs struggled to create clear-cut chances and when Llorente did not get enough on an 82nd-minute header from Rose’s free-kick – another gilt-edged miss – they looked set for a damaging draw. Winks had other ideas.