As Marco Silva turned away from his technical area and sat back down with just over ten minutes left at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, you wondered how long ago the Fulham manager had given up all hope.
Soon enough, Silva was back up on his feet, applauding Antonee Robinson and Sasa Lukic. But here was the blunt truth: encouraging his players was good for very little now that one of them had almost singlehandedly consigned his side to defeat.
Injury to Issa Diop meant he joined Tosin Adarabioyo on the sidelines ahead of this game, leaving Silva without a right-sided centre-back and forcing him into starting summer signing Calvin Bassey for just the second time in the league.
The former Ajax man grasped his opportunity with some shrewd defending… but only for the first 15 minutes.
After that, he delivered Fulham’s worst individual display since last season’s 3-0 home defeat to Arsenal in March, when Robinson was at fault for two goals and was only spared from scoring an own goal by VAR.
Bassey’s lax pass out from the back led Micky van de Ven and Richarlison to combine with Heung-min Son on 36 minutes. The South Korean superstar turned Bassey and Ream into Laurel and Hardy, spinning past them, causing them to bump into one another, before arrowing past Bernd Leno. Goal one. Bassey’s fault.
WHAT A FINISH FROM SON! 🤩 pic.twitter.com/riPZNwGX6U
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 23, 2023
In the second half, under pressure from the Spurs press, Bassey played a risky ball down the line which immediately led to Son finding James Maddison, who tucked past Leno to double the home side’s advantage. Goal two. Bassey’s fault.
And then not ten minutes later, Bassey was caught doing what defenders must never do — dawdling in the box — and was pinched of the ball by Maddison. For the good of Fulham’s away fans and the sanity of Silva, it is just as well that Son got in Maddison’s way. So nearly goal three. It would have been Bassey’s fault.
The visitors huffed and puffed and did have chances through Joao Palhinha’s early header and Raul Jimenez’s late shot on the break, but in Guglielmo Vicario they came up against one of the league’s most in-form goalkeepers.
Fulham came into this fixture as the only side to have beaten Ange Postecoglou’s Spurs this season — knocking them out of the Carabao Cup on penalties back in August. But this was a full-stretch Tottenham side looking to go two points clear at the top of the table. They have been thriving of late and didn’t need any assistance. Yet Bassey gift-wrapped their three points here.
There is a capable Premier League player there, for sure. Just not here. Not on this night.