By Callum McCarthy
Fulham’s unbeaten record was laid to rest on Saturday after the most debated decision of the new season didn’t go their way.
The new offside rule states that as long as a player is not interfering with play, he cannot be in an offside position. With so much left to interpretation, individual linesmen and referees each have their own opinions on what constitutes interference. The level of impact a player is allowed whilst behind enemy lines is always disputed, but it is often felt that as long as a player doesn’t touch the ball, he’s kosher.
Tottenham’s winner came with half an hour remaining, but it was Fulham who took the lead on the half-hour thanks to Clint Dempsey’s intelligent play. Holding off two Spurs defenders, Dempsey made the opening and slid the ball to Diomansy Kamara who tapped in from close range.
Spurs replied immediately however. A Rafael Van Der Vaart chip struck the Fulham crossbar and fell into the lap of Roman Pavyluchenko, whose goal tally looks surprisingly healthy this season — 6 goals in 10 games — despite his average play.
Diomansy Kamara was later booked for whispering “sweet nothings” into various Spurs players’ ears.
Spurs’ winner would come after the break. After Spurs corner was spat out by the Fulham defence, Tom Huddlestone was like a dog on raw meat at the edge of the area. From 25 yards out, his shot went hard and low through a crowd of bodies and beat Schwarzer at his left-hand post. It was a truly stunning goal, but the positioning of William Gallas in an offside position had the linesman’s flag up immediately.
After much discussion, Mike Dean allowed the goal, presumably on the grounds that Gallas was not “interfering with play”.
Even after a plethora of replays, it was a call that looked almost impossible to get 100% correct. Even though Gallas was not blocking Fulham ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer’s view of the ball, his mere presence was interfering with Schwarzer’s train of thought. Fulham manager Mark Hughes looked to plug this theory in his post-match interview.
“Mark Schwarzer has to hold his position until the ball actually reaches where Gallas is,” Hughes said, “because he is thinking that at some point Gallas may stick out a toe and deflect it. To say he is not interfering and not in the goalkeeper’s eyeline is completely at odds with the truth.”
Interference or no interference, the goal stood, and Tottenham now move on to the San Siro, where their crucial Champions League game with Internazionale on Wednesday will be played.