Writer: Andrew Joyce
Date:Saturday February 23 2013
A goal in first half stoppage time was enough to give Fulham a much needed win.
After a two week break, courtesy of last weekend being a cup weekend, Martin Jol made a few changes to the eleven that started against Norwich City last time out. Sascha Riether, fit again after an illness, returned to the defence, whilst Karagounis and Dejagah started in midfield.
Fulham got off to a bright start although Riise`s long range shot brought one move to an abrupt end when his shot sailed high over the bar. Stoke retaliated, through Walters, with the striker attempting a far-corner effort when team-mates were probably better placed.
Riether, marauding forward down the right flank, saw his cross hit Berbatov but the Bulgarian recovered to see his volley flash wide of the post. Ruiz thought he`d scored the opener but the goal was, quite rightly, ruled out as the Costa Rican had handled during the build-up, a misdemeanour he was shown the yellow card for.
Still enjoying the lions` share of possession, Duff saw an effort hit a Stoke defender before Riise, again, tried unsuccessfully from distance. Karagounis, from a free-kick, forced Begovic into the save of the match so far.
Begovic did well to clear a cross from Riether with Ruiz poised to pounce. Riise, meeting a cross with a volley, saw his effort blocked by Shawcross. As half time approached Sidwell, after interchanging passes, saw his shot from the edge of the area drift wide. A ball from Berbatov, from inside his own half, released Dejagah but his effort to lob the keeper missed the goal.
Just as you thought the half would end without a goal Berbatov produced stunning volley to put Fulham 1-0 up after yet another move down the right flank had created half a chance. It was almost the last kick of the half and a fitting way for the Bulgarian to mark his 200th Premier League appearance.
Half Time - Fulham 1 Stoke 0
Fulham got the second half underway. Early in the half Karagounis saw a shot blocked by Shawcross. An error from Senderos, trying to shepherd the ball back to Schwarzer, almost saw Crouch nip in but Schwarzer produced a decent block.
Tony Pulis made an early change, introducing Cameron Jerome. Karagounis fouled Whelan right on the edge of the area but Whelan`s free kick was straight at the wall. From the resulting free kick, Dejagah was adjudged to have handled the ball and Stoke were awarded a penalty kick. Walters stepped up and Schwarzer dived to his right to save.
Berbatov, conjuring up a chance with some individual skills, saw Begovic save his volley low down whilst Crouch, as Stoke pressed for an equalizer, saw his weak header go wide. Brek Shea, on as a first half substitute for Etherington, saw his shot flash across the goal and go just wide. Riise, after an exchange with Berbatov, saw a shot with the outside of his foot narrowly miss the target.
Pulis made his last change taking of Crouch and bringing on Kenwyne Jones, in the 70th minute. Karagounis, after Dejagah had earned a corner, saw his drive just go over the bar. With eleven minutes to go Fulham, despite the narrow score-line, were looking comfortable.
Sidwell, picking up a ball from Karagounis, shot wide and the Greek international was then withdrawn with Chris Baird being introduced to the fray. Hangeland conceded a corner but Huth was penalised for handball and the danger had passed. Still pushing forward, Schwarzer had to react quickly to smother the ball as Jerome burst though.
A quick Fulham counter-attack saw Riether burst forward but the subsequent shot from Ruiz went wide. Jol stiffened up his midfield, withdrawing Duff and bringing on Emanuelson. Four minutes of added time were announced and Jol ate into that by taking Berbatov off and bringing on Mladen Petric.
One last chance saw Petric fire over and Fulham, as the final whistle sounded, had the three points they craved.
Date:Saturday February 23 2013
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