Jack and Loz at the Cottage When Fulham Won a Penalty Shootout - Blog 255

Date: 29th August 2023

Opposition: Tottenham Hotspur

Competition: Carabao Cup - 2nd Round

Score: 1-1; Fulham win 5-3 on penalties

Fulham goal scorer: Tom Cairney in everything but name

Fulham penalty scorers: Andreas, Raùl, Wilson, Palhinha, 👑

Fulham penalty shootout legend: Marek Rodak

Weather: chilly and drizzly - perfect football weather….in August….

Atmosphere: cuptastic

MOTM: at about 85 minutes we started discussing who the penalty takers might be. Raùl and the Twins were dead certs; João was bound to step up, but who would be the 5th? Would Captain Tim feel honour bound to take one? Is Luke Harris the best kept secret in spot kicks? But no. With the shootout poised so that a Fulham penalty would win the match, an unlikely hero walked forward. Kenny Tete had already proved himself indispensable - Spurs could only score during his absence from the pitch and the fiasco of breaking his boot and having to race to fetch a replacement himself would be enough drama for most full-backs. But King Kenny turned out to be the coolest head in a crisis, and the slickest penalty taker in town. Against some very tough competition.

Pre-match: Pret

On Tuesday night there was pearlescent glow around the Craven Cottage floodlights and a sense of possibility in the cool, damp air as autumn came early to SW6.

Marco Silva named the most Carabao Cup side ever with a solid defence, mix-and-match midfield and team pet Rodrigo Muniz unexpectedly upfront. But unexpected is the name of the game at Fulham these days - following the calamitous collapse to Brentford, who would have predicted ten-man Fulham would steal a point at the Emirates?

Our opponents under the lights were that other northern team, Spurs. They are now managed by Ange who has gone downhill a bit since Eastenders and didn’t seem to realise that Fulham finished two places below Spurs last season so treating us with some respect might have been a good idea. But never mind misjudging their line-up, Spurs’ main problem was their kit which got dropped in a muddy puddle on the way to the Cottage so it went a disgusting brown colour and all the numbers washed off.

Fulham were the better side throughout the match but particularly in the first half. João must have been giving lessons in how to win the ball back because everyone was at it - Harrison and Tom in particular. Once we had the ball we looked good with it in midfield but clumsy in the final third. Adama is going to be a supersonic weapon but his teammates aren’t used to him yet and whilst Muniz duelled combatively with the Spurs centre backs, he lacks a finishing touch.

The goal came from Tom Cairney becoming part tank/part ballet dancer and gracefully laying waste to the Spurs defence. Harrison Reed was in the right place at the right time to combine with a confused defender and ensure the ball crossed the line. It could have been more - Bobby had a shot well saved after Muniz’s efforts but Fulham finished the first half deservedly in the lead.

Of course, often when we write “Fulham were the better side throughout the match” this doesn’t mean we go on to win it. Spurs had some big names on the bench - if not on the backs of their shirts - and Ange brought them all on. Meanwhile, we became very wasteful in front of goal - Bobby went wide, Harry shot straight at the goalie, Raùl headed over. The evening could have turned very Fulhamish - go a goal up, concede an equaliser in bizarre circumstances, fail to deal with ever increasing pressure, waste myriad chances - but this Fulham team, these Fulham players have a different mind set to their predecessors.

They forgot they were underdogs, they ignored the troubled transfer window, they didn’t take the easy path of likeable losers. They gave as good as they got, held out, held on as time raced past and suddenly we were where we didn’t really want to be.

As a harvest moon crept shyly out from behind the clouds and glowed amber above the Putney End, Fulham found themselves in a penalty shootout.

This was uncharted territory for us, something we never even imagined we see. But luckily, the players were better prepared than us.

We could see the toin coss take place but Tim gave no sign he’d won it as the players huddled and the coaches…..coached. Then Spurs’ goalie began to drift uncertainly towards us and then we knew - the shootout would be taking place in front of the Hammersmith End and it was Fulham’s to lose.

The penalties went thus: -

1. Andreas - game face on. His careless confidence set the tone

2. Raùl - deceptively nonchalant. Comfort zone and new home

3. Harry - bloody hell! Hit every part of the woodwork and nearly broke the net

4. João - unstoppable penalty, unmatchable passion

5. Kenny - hop, skip and winning kick. King.

And in between them, Marek Rodak saving a Spurs strike. When we say Bernd Leno could not have played better all match we mean it as the ultimate compliment.

This was a match full of drama, a real cup tie. As well as Marek and the incredible Kenny, João showed his strength and skill, and Tom his vintage quality. While Spurs brought their internationals off the bench, we brought on Luke Harris and Tyrese Francois who were every bit as good. We would have won the match in normal time if it weren’t for the boot fiasco. We were the better team in every area of the pitch including, to our surprise, the penalty spot.

Random musings: -

- A medium size bag can’t get into the Hammy End but Spurs fans can….

- Rodak removed his gloves and shirt but not his vest

- Marco Silva has more bookings than Eurostar during an air traffic control crisis and had to watch the match from the Riverside gods. Again.

- Speaking of cards, no one got a red one for a change!

- Also speaking of cards, the ref could have started showing them to the Spurs players sooner than he did. There were a lot of niggly challenges, cheating at free kicks etc and then when one of them did get a card they all surrounded the ref!

- Manor Solomon didn’t do much. And he probably won’t do much for Spurs at all now they’re out of the Cup!

- James Maddison tried sledging Kenny. It didn’t work

- Why oh why was Mitro allowed to miss penalties left, right and centre (literally) for so long when half his former teammates are amazing at them?

- The man behind us genuinely mistook Harry for Andreas when the former was coming on. They are literally identical

- We still can’t get over boot-gate. Why don’t they have spare boots pitch side? Why did Kenny have to go all the way back to the changing room himself to get a new one? As he said post-match, he’s faster than the kitman but wasn’t Traore on the bench at that point???

It’s easy to read a lot into the last two results - that, despite our setbacks, this season is full of promise, that Mitro’s untimely departure might be a blessing in disguise but it’s better to see the Spurs match for what it really was - an entertaining cup tie which the better side fought hard to win.

Until the transfer window rattles as its slammed shut on Friday night our squad, our season and our emotions hang in the balance.