If they had been playing Milan in the Champions League it would have been inexcusable but for Harry Redknapp to find his Tottenham team reduced to 10 men and three goals behind in the space of 23 minutes at Fulham was just plain embarrassing.
When thing go wrong for Spurs they do so in spectacular fashion and yesterday just about everything that could go wrong in the first half did go wrong. Defensive calamities, a red card for Michael Dawson, two penalties and four goals conceded meant that Spurs were not so much eliminated from the FA Cup as frog-marched to the door and thrown out on their faces.
It was as poor a performance in the first half as you could imagine from the emergent team of the Premier League this season. In fact, it was a throwback to their flaky days before the Redknapp revolution. But as bad as Spurs were, they were beautifully dispatched by a Fulham team who are starting to rediscover their form.
There was a vintage performance from Danny Murphy (pictured), who tucked away two penalties with the minimum of fuss in the space of three minutes. Andy Johnson looked like the player he was before that cartilage injury last season. In Moussa Dembele, Fulham have what might just be one of the signings of the season, as demonstrated by his confident fourth goal.
Spurs have had some comically bad starts to games this season but, even taking into consideration the early collapses in Milan and Berne in the Champions League, this one had to be the worst of the lot. Down to 10 men and three goals behind within 23 minutes, Richard Keys had more chance of a comeback. Redknapp tried his hand at tinkering with the team and it backfired. He left Gareth Bale out of the squad, played Aaron Lennon on the left and picked Sandro in the centre of midfield. But it was defence where his problems really lay.
After Dawson had given the ball away to Johnson, right-back Alan Hutton allowed Clint Dempsey to make a powerful run in the inside-left channel and with a clumsy lunge for the ball brought him down for a penalty.
Dempsey, Johnson and Dembele were excellent in those opening stages. But it was Murphy who put the finishing touch to that first penalty and then a second one within the first 13 minutes against his former club.
The second was even more damaging for Spurs. Hutton had avoided a red card because Dempsey had been wide enough of the goal that the foul was not a denial of a goalscoring opportunity. But when Dawson lost the ball on the edge of his area and grabbed Dembele's shirt, referee Phil Dowd sent him off.
Murphy dispatched the penalty and Spurs were all over the place. Redknapp replaced Sandro with William Gallas to try to shore up the defence but not before Fulham almost scored their third. On 23 minutes, they did. Johnson flicked on a corner and Brede Hangeland swept the ball in at the back post.
It was embarrassing for Spurs, who struggled to carve open a single decent chance. Redknapp's experiment was tanking badly and he was badly short of a convenient escape route.
By half-time Fulham had scored a fourth as the impressive Dembele picked the ball up on the halfway line and drilled in from the edge of the area.
In the second half, the away side created precious little but Fulham could have extended their lead as Aaron Hughes hit the bar with a header and Hangeland had a shot cleared off the line. There was never any suggestion of a second-half rally from Spurs like those they managed against Internazionale and Young Boys. In fact, they looked like a team who were simply desperate to hear the final whistle and get out of the place. (© Independent News Service)