Spurs equal best Premier League finish but miss out on third
16:58 13 May 2012
Tottenham secured their second fourth-placed finish in three seasons with a home win over Fulham in a riveting climax to the Premier League season.
However, Spurs missed out on third place – which would have been their highest ever Premier League finish – by one point as Arsenal came from behind to grab a 3-2 win at West Bromwich Albion.
Needing to overcome Fulham at White Hart Lane, and hope that the Gunners failed to do so at The Hawthorns, Spurs were on course for third place midway through the first half.
Having taken an early lead through Emmanuel Adebayor, news filtered through that Arsene Wenger’s side were 2-1 down in the Midlands.
At that stage, Spurs were heading for automatic Champions League qualification – and their highest finish since 1990.
However, Arsenal fought back to triumph 3-2, rendering Jermain Defoe’s 62nd-minute strike and the Lilywhites’ 2-0 victory meaningless as they were forced to settle for fourth
The result is that Redknapp’s side now face an anxious for the Champions League final next Saturday, to see if Chelsea will win the trophy and steal the fourth qualification spot from their grasp.
There was one change from the Spurs side that had been held to a 1-1 draw by Aston Villa, with Jake Livermore replacing Danny Rose, who was sent off at Villa Park.
With Benoit Assou-Ekotto also out of action, Redknapp moved Gareth Bale to left-back and switched Luka Modric to the left of midfield in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
Meanwhile, Fulham were missing the injured Clint Dempsey, so Kerim Frei came into the starting XI in his place in a fluid 4-1-4-1 system.
The teams emerged to a deafening reception, and Tottenham made the perfect start, taking a vital lead inside two minutes as Emmanuel Adebayor exchanged passes with Rafael van der Vaart and slotted past Mark Schwarzer.
Pressing energetically all over the pitch, Spurs fought to limit Fulham’s threat – and successfully so.
Instead, the fans’ attention switched to the news from the rollercoaster clash at The Hawthorns, as Arsenal took an early lead at West Brom, conceded twice to go behind and then fought back to level at 2-2 inside the opening half an hour.
Back at the Lane, neither goalkeeper was being troubled – until the 34th minute, when Aaron Lennon crossed for Adebayor, who teed up Van der Vaart, and the Dutchman sent an awkward volley inches wide.
Fulham grew into the game though and John Arne Riise ran through from inside his own half to the edge of the Spurs box before unleashing a powerful shot which forced Brad Friedel into his first save.
The American was tested again moments later as Mousa Dembele cut onto his left foot and fired at goal, and William Gallas had to be alert to beat the lurking Pavel Pogrebnyak to the loose ball.
At the other end, Bale shot at Schwarzer from 25 yards and got a second bite at the cherry as Lennon gathered the rebound and teed him up again, but the Welshman skied his shot into the stands.
Spurs were hampered by the loss of Walker, who sustained an ankle injury at the end of the first half and attempted to solider on after the restart but quickly limped off.
Ryan Nelsen came into the rearguard, with Gallas moving to right-back, and there were few ill effects as Spurs pressed for a second goal.
Lennon reached the by-line and hung a cross up for Sandro, who got his header on target but failed to get enough power behind it.
Tottenham endured a brief scare as Mousa Dembele fired narrowly wide of goal from 20 yards, and the tension rose as news filtered through that Arsenal had taken a 3-2 lead in the Midlands.
However, Redknapp introduced Defoe on the hour-mark – and the change immediately paid off as the England striker doubled Spurs’ lead.
Lennon’s shot was blocked and fell kindly for Defoe, who made no mistake from 10 yards, leaving all eyes on The Hawthorns.
There was another moment to cheer as Adam Smith came on for his Spurs debut, replacing the injured Younes Kaboul and giving Spurs their third different rearguard of the day.
Fulham nearly hit back as Friedel saved from Damien Duff and then Dembele, but Tottenham finished their campaign with a clean sheet – and now an anxious wait to see whether fourth place will be enough.
Tottenham: Friedel, Walker (Nelsen 48), Kaboul (Smith 76), Gallas, Bale, Livermore, Sandro, Van der Vaart (Defoe 6), Modric, Lennon, Adebayor.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Kelly, Hughes, Hangeland, Riise, Murphy (Kasami 66), Duff, Diarra, Dembele, Frei, Pogrebnyak.