By Neil Robinson
LONDON (Reuters) – Tottenham Hotspur suffered a setback in their final game of the year, conceding three goals in 18 second-half minutes to lose 3-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers and blow the chance to put pressure on Liverpool at the top of the Premier League.
With the leaders playing later on Saturday, second-placed Spurs hoped to cut the gap to three points but were hit by strikes from Wily Boly, Raul Jimenez and Helder Costa as Wembley was silenced, along with talk of Tottenham’s title challenge.
Struggling Cardiff City and Fulham bolstered their survival chances with added-time goals in 1-0 wins at Leicester City and home to Huddersfield Town respectively.
Brighton & Hove Albion beat Everton by the same score and Watford equalised late to draw 1-1 with Newcastle United.
The day could hardly have started better for Spurs with England’s Harry Kane marking his award of an MBE for services to sport in the New Year Honours list with a stunning left-foot strike that looked likely to kick off another goalfest.
But the inconsistent visitors from the Midlands refused to roll over and always looked a danger before Boly began the comeback with a powerful header after 72 minutes.
“We have achieved something very special in getting to the Premier League and it has been a very special year,” said delighted Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo.
“We had a lot of belief after the equaliser, I would have said a draw was a good result, but I cannot control the emotions of the boys if they see space in front of them.”
The drama came even later at Fulham where Aleksandar Mitrovic scored the winner in injury time to frustrate their relegation rivals Huddersfield.
Fulham’s joy was all the greater because they had earlier missed a penalty amid extraordinary scenes after their players tried to take the ball off Aboubakar Kamara as he stepped up to take the spot kick.
His team mates wanted Mitrovic to take the penalty but Kamara refused, disobeying the orders of Fulham manager Claudio Ranieri, only to look deeply embarrassed seconds later when his effort was saved by Jonas Lossl.
Ranieri was not amused. “I said to Aboubakar Kamara to leave the ball to Aleksandar Mitrovic, he is the man who shoots the penalties. It is unbelievable, he did not respect me, the club, the team and crowd. I spoke with him, it is not right.
“I want to kill him, that is normal when one man takes a ball, only because he scored the last penalty (against Manchester United). It should be Mitrovic, that is it.”
At Leicester, Cardiff’s Neil Etheridge saved James Maddison’s 75th minute penalty to set up a victory secured by Victor Camarasa’s stunning injury-time strike for the Welsh side, who are now four points above the drop zone.
Brighton finish the year comfortably in mid-table after Jurgen Locadia’s second-half goal was enough to see off Everton.
At Vicarage Road, the sought-after substitute Abdoulaye Doucoure scored Watford’s equaliser before then wasting a late chance as the home side almost secured a comeback win.
The Frenchman, who has been widely tipped to secure a move in the January transfer window, had come off the bench in the second half after Salomon Rondon had given Newcastle the lead with his fifth goal in eight league games.
(Reporting by Neil Robinson; Editing by Ken Ferris)