A battling Fulham fell to a 1-2 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday afternoon at Craven Cottage.
A first half own goal from Fernando Llorente saw the Whites take a slender lead into the break before Dele Alli levelled things up just after half-time. However, with 20 seconds left in stoppage time Fulham were punished by Harry Winks as he headed home from close range.
Claudio Ranieri made one change from the side that slipped to defeat against Burnley last weekend. Ryan Babel, who was signed from Beşiktaş on Tuesday was inserted straight into the starting XI, replacing Ryan Sessegnon on the left wing.
It was a beautiful but bitterly cold afternoon by the Thames as the referee got the match under way. A packed house at Craven Cottage for a London derby, the atmosphere from the get go was electric.
It was a tentative opening ten minutes for the Whites but in the 12th minute Babel showed strength, power and tenacity to shrug off a challenge from Davidson Sanchez and break. The forward surged into the Spurs box and the Cottage crowd waited with baited breath. After fending off the advances of another Spurs defender the Dutch international went for the near post. However, Hugo Lloris was equal to the effort and produced a fine save to parry it behind for a corner. Close to a dream debut for Babel and a positive start for the Whites.
In the 18th minute Jean Michaël Seri swung in a lovely corner from the right. The ball narrowly evaded Tim Ream at the near post cannoned off the outstretched leg of Llorente and flew into the back of the net. Just rewards for a set piece that was earned by a strong run and cross down the right from Cyrus Christie.
With the Whites contented to sit back and look to hold on to a one goal lead, Tottenham began to enjoy extended periods of play in comfortable possession and under very little pressure. Spurs poured forward at every opportunity and it took shape and concentration to repel the waves.
After weathering the storm in the 40th minute Babel had another chance to open his account for Fulham. Christie powered down the right wing and picked out the run of the Dutchman with a pinpoint cross. Having stolen a march on the flatfooted Tottenham back line he looked to power one in but his effort flew over the bar.
Moments later he was involved yet again, but this time turned creator. After gliding down the left wing and cutting in the mercurial attacker placed a cross field ball onto the foot of André Schürrle unmarked in the area.
Similar to last week the German killed the ball dead with one touch and lashed an effort on target. Lloris stood tall and parried the effort straight into the path of Mitrović at the back post. To the delight of the Cottage crowd the Serbian nodded home but ecstasy turned to despair as the linesman raised his flag for offside.
As the referee got the second half up and running the sun had set behind the Riverside Stand and the temperate plummeted. It was more backs against the wall stuff for Fulham as they sat back. And to the despair of the home fans the visitors pulled level in the 51st minute.
After failing to clear Fulham lines Christian Ericksen swung in an excellent cross onto the head of Alli who had the simple task of diverting it home from point black range.
The momentum changed with the goal and Tottenham grew in confidence. Enjoying almost all the ball and patiently looking to find a gap in the Whites defensive ranks it became a nerve jangling experience for the Fulham faithful. With the minutes ticking by neither side was able to carve out an opening.
A scrappy final ten minutes ensued with Fulham demonstrating resilience and grit to withstand heavy pressure. A rear-guard and defensive collective which deserved a point from a scrappy clash.
However, with the last kick of the game Fulham hearts were broken. A deep cross from the left wing was met by Winks at the back post and he made no mistake from one yard out for Tottenham .
Fulham (4-3-3): Rico, Odoi, Le Marchand, Ream, Christie, Chambers, Seri (Cisse 80), Bryan, Schurrle (Kebano 72), Mitrovic (c), Babel (R Sessegnon 55). Substitutes (not used): Bettinelli, Cairney, Ayite, Vietto.
Spurs (3-4-2-1): Lloris (c), Alderweireld, Sanchez, Vertonghen, Trippier, Winks, Eriksen, Rose, Dele (Nkoudou 86), Lamela (Dier 78), Llorente. Substitutes (not used): Gazzaniga, Foyth, Davies, Skipp, Sterling.
Goals: Fulham – Llorente (OG) 17; Spurs – Dele 52, Winks 90+3.
Yellow cards: Fulham – Mitrovic 74, Seri 75; Spurs – Sanchez 74, Rose 79, Alderweireld 90+4.
Referee: Craig Pawson.