Ange Postecoglou dreams big but Tottenham must face reality after Fulham thumping

Rodrigo Muniz of Fulham celebrate his second goal of the match
Muniz, right, has been growing into today's performance for some weeks - Offside/Jacques Feeney

In recent weeks, Ange Postecoglou has been unwilling to engage with the idea that Tottenham Hotspur are simply in a battle for Champions League places. Instead, he has dreamed a little bigger. “I don’t see the sense in trying to aim for something other than No 1,” he said earlier this month.

Spurs fans, no doubt, will understand that argument. But there is a problem here, which is that the thought of Spurs being in the title race is no longer based on reality. It may not be a truth that Postecoglou wishes to confront, but it is the truth nonetheless that his players are indeed locked in a tussle for the Champions League places, rather than anything more.

On that front, with Aston Villa and Manchester United watching closely, this was a deeply damaging night. Spurs were not just beaten by Fulham, but thumped. Three goals in less than 20 minutes brought a much-deserved victory for Marco Silva’s aggressive and imaginative side, who were led by the excellent Rodrigo Muniz.

Spurs lost the physical and tactical battle, and failed to score in a league game for the first time this season.

In the aftermath, Postecoglou did not back down from his assertions that he is not personally concerned by the scrap for Champions League qualification. “I don’t see fourth as the prize,” he said. “Fourth is not my end goal. I don’t want to finish fourth if we haven’t grown as a team. If nobody believes me, that’s fine.

“Fourth would be great if I feel like we are creating something that is going to bring us success next year. But fourth is not our goal. It is not my goal. If we finish fifth and if I think we’ve got a team to challenge next year then I won’t be disappointed.”

The Spurs supporters, executives and players might not necessarily agree, as there is a reason why the Champions League is regarded as the promised land. Naturally, the money it brings in would help to accelerate Postecoglou’s squad-building efforts.

Ange Postecoglou
Postecoglou must ponder how a team that thrashed Aston Villa 4-0 can be beaten 3-0 by Fulham the following week - Getty Images/HENRY NICHOLLS

For much of this season, Spurs have played like a Champions League team-in-waiting. But not on this trip to Fulham, where they were undone by the excellence of Muniz and a team that knew where to find the weak points of their opponents.

Muniz has been a Fulham player since August 2021 but, until these last few games, he has never looked capable of leading the line. Last season he went on loan to Middlesbrough in the Championship and scored just two goals.

The careers of strikers can change in an instant, though, and Muniz is suddenly an entirely different threat. In his last seven games, he has scored seven times. No player in the Premier League can match his tally since the start of February. His tireless running was one of many, many issues for Spurs on the night.

“What a performance, again,” said Silva. “He never gave up, even in moments when he was not even involved in the squad. When the chance came, he stepped in. He deserves all the credit.”

The remarkable form of Muniz has not been good news for Armando Broja, who joined Fulham on loan from Chelsea in January but has barely featured since. The deal for Broja is thought to include a clause which requires Fulham to pay £4 million if he did not play 60 per cent of their matches. This clause will now be triggered.

Clearly, this is not a move that has gone to plan, although Fulham will rightly argue that Muniz has earned the right to spearhead Silva’s attack. The 22-year-old caused all sorts of problems for the Spurs defence, where new signing Radu Dragusin was making his first start since his £25 million switch from Genoa, and raced behind them to score Fulham’s first.

Dragusin did not look like a defender worth £25m, albeit he has not played much recently - Getty Images/Mike Hewitt

Throughout the game, Fulham continually found space behind the Spurs full-backs. It was from this position that Antonee Robinson found Muniz, and from which Timothy Castagne assisted Sasa Lukic for the second goal. The third came as Calvin Bassey’s shot hit the post and trickled across the six-yard box. Muniz, so sharp, got there first.

For Spurs there were chances created, but none converted as Brennan Johnson and Timo Werner both fired wide. Last week, they won 4-0 at Aston Villa. This week, they were thrashed. Whether you see this as a race for top four or otherwise, such fluctuations in form are not conducive to a team hitting its targets.

Fulham beat Tottenham, as it happened, below

08:34 PM GMT

Marco Silva all smiles

Marco Silva claims his sides first half showing against Tottenham was their ‘best of season so far’. The Portuguese manager also had high praise for goalscorer Rodrigo Muniz, saying ‘there’s much more to come from him’.

08:28 PM GMT

Better than R9? Looks like Fulham think pretty highly of their Brazilian striker

08:20 PM GMT

An emotional Heung-Min Son reacts

Clearly emotional after a disappointing loss, Spurs captain Heung-Min Son says his team have taken ‘two steps backward’ after such a positive result last week against Villa.

08:07 PM GMT

Ange speaks post-game

Ange Postecoglou doesn’t believe the shock 3-0 defeat to Fulham has dented their top four ambitions

“Disappointing obviously. Once they got the second goal we couldn’t really get a grip on the game and it got away from us.

“We were a little bit careless with the ball, sloppy passing, lacked conviction going forward.

“We didn’t have the expected level of intensity in our play especially in the second half.

Ange joked “It’s all over, we’ll just go for sixth” when asked if the defeat was a serious check on their momentum.

“There’s ten games left. plenty of football to play.

“If we get top four great, but its more about how we play”

08:00 PM GMT

Redknapp roasts lacklustre Spurs

Former Tottenham midfielder Jamie Redknapp on Sky: “I am looking for excuses, ok Micky Van de Ven was missing, but they’ve been without him before. There was a lethargy about their play today. I thought these types of performances were a thing of the past. I can’t fathom what I’ve seen in terms of their energy.

“After the way they played against Villa I thought they’d be firing. There was almost an arrogance, like we will turn up and win comfortably. That was so uncharacteristic of what we’ve seen this season.”

07:49 PM GMT

Palhinha talks to Sky Sports after the game

Palhinha tells Sky it’s one of their best displays of the season: “It’s an amazing night.”

On Muniz he says: “He is a striker with a great future. Not just with goals but what he offers generally. Fantastic to see him scoring a lot of goals.”

07:40 PM GMT

...But setback for Spurs

07:39 PM GMT

A big win for Fulham

07:35 PM GMT

FULL-TIME: Fulham 3 Tottenham 0

A handsome win for Marco Silva’s side, his first against Spurs and Fulham’s first at home to Spurs in 16 years. The Fulham fans chant to ‘I Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’ in the stands. This is the first time Spurs have failed to score in the Premier League this season. It’s a blow to the solar plexus for Ange Postecoglou and Tottenham who were well off it today. It has made the race for Champions League places very interesting indeed.

Andreas Pereira (left) and Rodrigo Muniz applaud the fans after the game
Andreas Pereira (left) and Rodrigo Muniz applaud the fans after the game - Getty Images/Henry Nicholls

07:23 PM GMT

90+2 mins: Fulham 3 Tottenham 0

Seven added minutes. Fulham just seeing it out now. Muniz unsurprisingly gets Sky Sports player of the match. Quick, direct, powerful and brave, the young Brazilian is sure to attract quite a few covetous glances if he continues this goalscoring form. The 22 year old has now scored seven goals in his last seven appearances in the Premier League. The most of any player in the competition since the start of February.

07:20 PM GMT

89 mins: Fulham 3 Tottenham 0

Richarlison has had two huge chances in the past five minutes. It’s not as if Spurs haven’t had them today, they’ve been well off the boil. Harry Wilson has a half chance down the other end after a lovely through ball from Jimenez but Vicario, outstretched, keeps it out.

07:17 PM GMT

86 mins: Fulham 3 Tottenham 0

It isn’t just Fulham fans who are enjoying this treat by the Thames. Suddenly Man Utd will be energised by the fact that they are still only six points behind Spurs in the chase for fifth in what could be a Champions League space come the end of the season. In April the north Londoners face Newcastle (a), Man City (h), Arsenal (h) and Liverpool (a) in successive games!

07:13 PM GMT

83 mins: Fulham 3 Tottenham 0

Richarlison weaves his way past a couple of players in the box but his effort is blocked. The linesman puts the flag up for offside anyway.

07:06 PM GMT

77 mins: Fulham 3 Tottenham 0

The dust has settled now at Craven Cottage. The fight seems to have left Spurs. Fulham looking comfortable. Not many chances to speak of since that Werner miss. Son and Palhinha clash again. Brennan Johnson booked for dissent then subbed for Richarlison. Fulham preparing triple substitution.

07:02 PM GMT

Muniz at the double

07:00 PM GMT

71 mins: Fulham 3 Tottenham 0

Andreas Pereira, who has been moving rather gingerly since that knock, is subbed off for Harry Wilson.

06:58 PM GMT

67 mins: Fulham 3 Tottenham 0

Timo Werner with one of the misses of the season! It’s all going wrong for Spurs here who have looked more threatening since the third goal. But is it too little too late now?

06:56 PM GMT

64 mins: Fulham 3 Tottenham 0

What is going on here? Could have been a fourth for Fulham but Palhinha’s strike is ruled out with substitute Raul Jimenez blocking Vicario’s eyeline.

06:53 PM GMT

GOAL! 61 mins: Fulham 3 (Muniz) Tottenham 0

And another! They’ve been by far the better team in this second half and now they have three goals to show for it. Bassey’s close range effort hits the post but, with a bit of luck, bounces out to the brilliant Brazilian Muniz who slots home for his second. A real poacher’s goal. This is threatening to unravel for Spurs.

Muniz scores his second of the evening
Muniz scores his second of the evening - Reuters/Dylan Martinez

06:44 PM GMT

Lukic the Londoner

06:43 PM GMT

53 mins: Fulham 2 Tottenham 0

Andreas Pereira goes down injured after clashing with Destiny Udogie. He will be assessed but he looks in some pain.

06:39 PM GMT

GOAL! 49 mins: Fulham 2 (Lukic) Tottenham 0

“Taken like a top striker” according to Alan Smith. Sasa Lukic scores his first goal for Fulham and doubles their lead! Cross from Castagne is met by the big Serb’s knee and it flies past Vicario to increase the deficit.

Sasa Lukic scores for Fulham
Sasa Lukic scores for Fulham - Getty Images/Mike Hewitt

06:35 PM GMT

46 mins: Fulham 1 Tottenham 0

Second half under way and Fulham are out of the blocks fast. Pereira in space down the right hand side plays a ball across the box but Vicario is on his toes and gets his hands to it

06:32 PM GMT

And here’s the goal

06:20 PM GMT

HALF-TIME: Fulham 1 Tottenham 0

It looked for all the world there like Spurs were moments away from scoring but Fulham held strong and find themselves ahead at the break. The goal has checked Spurs momentum and leaves Postecoglou with plenty to think about. When scoring first this season Fulham have won nine and drawn their other two home games. Sign of things to come?

06:14 PM GMT

GOAL! 42 mins: Fulham 1 (Muniz) Tottenham 0

Antonee Robinson’s beautiful cross finds Muniz who manages to stay on side and slot the ball past Vicario in the Spurs net. Perfect way to end the half for the hosts!

Rodrigo Muniz scores against Tottenham
Rodrigo Muniz scores against Tottenham - PA/Adam Davy

06:11 PM GMT

39 mins: Fulham 0 Tottenham 0

Son and Palhinha clash knees in the middle of the park. Both on their feet soon after. Kulusevski cuts in on his favoured left from just outside the area but it is blocked by Bassey. Fulham looking slightly more settled again.

06:08 PM GMT

More on Broja

06:03 PM GMT

30 mins: Fulham 0 Tottenham 0

Udogie plays it to Maddison on the edge of the D but his effort slips agonisingly wide. Spurs smell blood. They have had 67 per cent of the possession in the last 10 mins.

06:02 PM GMT

28 mins: Fulham 0 Tottenham 0

Feeling that there’s an opener on the way here. Dragusin pulls it back across the six-yard box but nobody there to take advantage for Spurs. Visiting fans make their voices heard for first time.

05:59 PM GMT

27 mins: Fulham 0 Tottenham 0

Spurs growing into the game now, finding gaps in the Fulham midfield and defence. Found in space out wide left, Brennan Johnson tries a first time effort but hits it straight at Leno.

05:57 PM GMT

24 mins: Fulham 0 Tottenham 0

From one end to the other. Fulham chance goes a begging when Willain’s ball across the area is nearly flicked in by Muniz. Looks like Udogie may have gotten a touch to keep it from the Brazialian striker. Then, moments later, Son has an equally gilt edged chance dowmn the other end. With time and space in the box he curls it high and wide.

05:54 PM GMT

23 mins: Fulham 0 Tottenham 0

Alan Smith: “Fulham’s passing has been so much sharper and more accurate than Spurs in this first half”

A beautiful first time pass by Lukic on the  to Muniz nearly leads to a counter attack but Dragusin intercepts.

05:48 PM GMT

16 mins: Fulham 0 Tottenham 0

A few stray passes indicating Spurs haven’t found their mojo quite yet. Early doors though.

05:44 PM GMT

11 mins: Fulham 0 Tottenham 0

Lukic wins a 50-50 and plays it out to Iwobi whose cross is palmed away by Vicario but only as far as Pereira whose close-range attempt is blocked (again). Seconds later the ball reaches Lukic who has space in the area but Vicario does his job once more, getting down low to deny the Serbian. Bright start by the hosts!

05:36 PM GMT

4 mins: Fulham 0 Tottenham 0

Pereira with another chance. Alex Iwobi’s beautifully weighted through ball finds Pereira free in the box but the Brazilian balloons it over the bar. In fact, the attempt was so poor the ball doesn’t even go out of play!

05:34 PM GMT

2 mins: Fulham 0 Tottenham 0

First big chance goes the way of Fulham. Rodrigo Muniz’s attempt is blocked by Romero but comes out to Andreas Pereira whose shot from outside the area is deflected just wide of the post by debutant Dragusin

05:30 PM GMT

Kick-off. Here we go! Fulham 0 Tottenham 0

The teams get under way

05:22 PM GMT

Marco Silva explains decision to leave Armando Broja out of matchday squad

05:20 PM GMT

Jamie Redknapp on Rodrigo Muniz

“I can’t put my finger on how or why he has been so good because his stats don’t show it. But,  he has been a revelation”

Rodrigo Muniz celebrates another goal
Rodrigo Muniz has scored five and assisted one in his last six games for Fulham - Getty Images/David Horton

04:57 PM GMT

Dragusin makes first start for Spurs

The absence of Micky Van De Ven has made way for new signing Radu Dragusin to make his first start for Tottenham

Radu Dragusin warms up before his first start for Spurs at Craven Cottage
Radu Dragusin warms up before his first start for Spurs at Craven Cottage - Reuters/Dylan Martinez

04:54 PM GMT

Palhinha and Willian return to Fulham starting XI

Whatever chance Fulham have of beating Spurs today will certainly be improved by the inclusion of their Portuguese midfield maestro and tricky Brazilian winger – who has had his fair share of experience when it comes to London derbies.

Joao Palhinha
Joao Palhinha - Getty Images/Andrew Redington

04:47 PM GMT

Here are the matchday squads

Fulham: Leno, Castagne, Tosin, Bassey, Robinson, Palhinha, Lukic, Iwobi, Pereira, Willian, Muniz. Subs: Rodak, Tete, Ream, Reed, Cairney, Wilson, Traore, De Cordova-Reid, Jimenez.

Tottenham: Vicario, Porro, Romero, Dragusin, Udogie, Sarr, Bissouma, Maddison, Kulusevski, Son, Johnson. Subs: Austin, Royal, Davies, Hojbjerg, Skipp, Bentancur, Lo Celso, Werner, Richarlison.

Referee: Robert Jones

04:32 PM GMT

Tottenham team just in

04:31 PM GMT

Fulham team has just been released

04:26 PM GMT

Remember this Fulham fans? A late Carlos Bocanegra header to beat Spurs in 2006

04:20 PM GMT

For anyone travelling to Craven Cottage today...

04:16 PM GMT

It’s west versus north in the Saturday evening London Derby!

Good evening all and welcome to another live Premier League blog brought to you by the Telegraph. Today, west London clashes with the north as Fulham take on an in form Spurs side at Craven Cottage.

A win today for Tottenham will move them a point ahead of Aston Villa into fourth place. Meanwhile Fulham, who sit in 12th, can move one step closer to their London rivals Chelsea with a win.

Marco Silva admitted mid-week that it is unlikely his side will make the European places with so much competition but that won’t stop them from giving it a right go.

In terms of the fixture at hand, Fulham fans look away now. They have lost 14 of their past 16 Premier League games against Spurs and are winless in nine top-flight meetings since a 1-0 victory at White Hart Lane in 2013.

As for Marco Silva, it doesn’t look a a whole lot better. Having drawn three and lost five, the Portuguese is winless as a manager against Spurs. Can today be the day where he finally breaks the blush-inducing duck?

Fulham, however, can take some optimism from the fact that they are on track for three top-flight home wins on the trot in London derbies for the first time in their history after they beat both Arsenal and West Ham at Craven Cottage in December.

Fulham’s record against teams in the top half this season has also been quite impressive. They have won three out of five Premier League home games against teams currently sitting in the top half of the table. Not a bad return!

There will be an air of confidence for Spurs going into the fixture having dispatched of their biggest top four rivals Aston Villa with relative ease last week in a 4-0 trashing.

They are aiming for back-to-back away wins in the league for the first time since October. Additionally, a win would mean eight consecutive league victories away for the first time in their history!

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