Stoke 0 Fulham 2
Fulham surprised the critics with a 2-0 win at the Britannia Stadium this afternoon with the goals coming from a very unlikely source.
Mark Hughes, after the disappointment of the Boxing Day defeat to West Ham United, shuffled his starting eleven for the trip to the Britannia Stadium. In came Baird and Duff with Salcido and Gera dropping to the bench. For Stoke City, both Etherington and Walters shrugged off knocks to make the Stoke starting eleven.
Fulham got off to a fantastic start and through the most unusual of sources. With Aaron Hughes scoring his first goal in six years, Chris Baird stepped up to the plate to score as early as the 4th minute. The goal coming from a splendid twenty yard, right-footed, strike that went in off the post leaving Begovic with no chance.
Johnson`s good work almost doubled the lead but Begovic saved before Fulham did increase the lead and it was that man Baird again. With ten minutes of the half completed Fulham won a free kick twenty yards out which Murphy slid to Baird who hit a low drive past Begovic.
Stoke had a lot of the ball creating chances for Huth and Jones but Fulham were weathering the storm quite well. In fact, to be honest, since Begovic picked the ball out of the net for the second time the home keeper had barely touched the ball since.
Hughes and Hangeland were providing a display of excellent defending and also dealing with Delaps` long throws. As half time approached Johnson almost widened the gap nut a good intervention from Shawcross saved the home side. Murphy was on hand to rescue Schwarzer when the keeper couldn`t deal with a cross in, knocking it away from on the line with his head to foil a towering header from Shawcross.
Half Time - Stoke 0 Fulham 2
A Pennant free-kick got deflected by Murphy but the deflection, luckily for Fulham, took the ball the wrong side of the post. Stoke continued with the aerial approach, specifically from the hands of Delap, but despite the Stoke pressure Schwarzer, Hangeland and Hughes resilience was shining through.
As the hour mark approached, Pulis made his first change taking off Walters and bringing on Ricardo Fuller. Fourteen minutes later, with Stoke no nearer getting back into the game, Pulis withdrew Etherington to stick on Sanli.
Schwarzer then produced a great save from a hard hit Huth shot before climbing off the turf to claim the rebound. Fuller then escaped the clutches of the Fulham defence but couldn`t finish. Another Delap long throw fell to Pennant but Hangeland was on hand to thwart the former Liverpool and Arsenal player.
Still the defence kept out the Stoke onslaught and as the clock ticked down, those last few minutes seemed an eternity but Fulham had the three points and had ended that awful run whereby we hadn`t won away since the opening day of last season on the road!
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