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Fulham mugged by Stoke and the Ref

last updated Thursday 06th May 2010, 8:35 AM
Fulham winger Damien Duff
Fulham winger
Damien Duff
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Fulham (0) 0 Stoke (0) 1

A late strike from Matthew Etherington gave Stoke a shock win over Europa League finalists Fulham at Craven Cottage.

The Stoke winger latched on to Ricardo Fuller's cross to smash his drive past Mark Schwarzer to inflict Fulham's fifth home defeat of the season and move Tony Pulis' side up to 10th in the table.

Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic had to react quickly to deny Clint Dempsey in the second half but Fulham otherwise lacked any killer instinct in what was largely a dull match.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson recalled Brede Hangeland, Zoltan Gera, Danny Murphy, Damien Duff, Aaron Hughes and Dickson Etuhu to a strong side for the Cottagers' final home game of the season.

Pulis opted to stick with the same team that drew 0-0 with Everton on Sunday.

Match Stats Fulham Stoke
Goals 0 1
Possession 63% 37%
Goal attempts 13 7
On Target 3 2
Passing Success 80.4% 69.5%
Tackles 16 15
Tackles Success 81.2% 80.0%
Corners 8 3
Off-sides 1 5
Saves 1 3
Fouls 7 6
Yellows 1 3s
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet
With the Europa League final just seven days away, many had predicted that Hodgson would put out a second string for the club's 61st game of a long season.

But aside from the injured Bobby Zamora, the side which Hodgson selected was so strong that he may well field the same team against Atletico Madrid next week.

Mark Schwarzer came out to punch Rory Delap's first trademark long throw in the fifth minute before Etuhu needed two minutes to recover after being hacked down by a mis-timed sliding tackle from Mamady Sidibe.

Wasteful passing from Fulham and resolute defending from Hangeland ensured neither goalkeeper was tested in the first 15 minutes.

Duff then found Gera in space in the 19th minute but he scooped his shot over from 10 yards.

Hangeland was barged into the advertising boards by Fuller as he shepherded the ball out but referee Peter Walton waved play on.

As a dull game limped past the half hour, the Stoke fans vented their frustration by deciding to embark upon a conga around the Putney end stand.

Both sides failed to create chances before the game was given a little life when referee Walton had to stop play to talk to Dempsey, who argued with Ryan Shawcross after the American's path was blocked by the defender.

The first shot on target of the game came seven minutes from the break when Dempsey slipped in Gera who shot straight at Stoke stopper Begovic.

Fuller ranted at Walton after he failed to give a foul when Etuhu pulled him back just before the break.

Robert Huth then entered the book for arguing with the referee before Glenn Whelan fired harmlessly wide on the stroke of half-time.

Duff, who finished the first half clutching his leg, failed to emerge after the break and was substituted by Erik Nevland, who was making his last home appearance for the club before moving to Viking Stavanger.

Fuller beat his marker to send a glancing header wide from a Delap throw as Stoke looked for a quick goal after the break.

Hodgson came out of his dugout to vent his frustration at his side, who were struggling to get into their rhythm.

Shawcross was booked for a blatant tug of Dempsey's shirt eight minutes into the second half. Etherington beat John Pantsil for pace down the left but his teasing cross flew across the box without a vital tap-in.

Etuhu's 15-yard header flew over just after the hour but Stoke continued to control most of the play.

Fulham hit back though through Gera, who picked out Dempsey at the back post but the striker's shot inside the six-yard box was tipped wide by Begovic.

Pulis looked for inspiration from Tuncay, who came on for Sidibe with 20 minutes left. Etuhu climbed well to beat Delap from a Murphy corner but Begovic was equal to the midfielder's header.

Pantsil's ambitious 30-yard drive cleared Begovic's bar with just over 10 minutes left as Fulham regained control of the game.

But with little over seven minutes left the Potters took the lead when Fuller's cross skimmed off Tuncay's back to fall to Etherington who smashed his finish home off the Fulham woodwork.

Hodgson replaced Pantsil with striker Stefano Okaka as he looked to find a leveller while Etherington left the field for Salif Diao for Stoke.

A late challenge on Tuncay earned Aaron Hughes a booking towards the death as Stoke continued to frustrate the hosts in their search for an equaliser.

The home fans urged their team on but they could not find their way through a solid Stoke back line.

The Cottagers' attentions now turn to Arsenal before next week's Europa League final in Hamburg, where they will have to improve dramatically if they are to pick up their first major trophy in their 131-year history.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson is facing a potential injury crisis for next week's Europa League final against Atletico Madrid after Damien Duff hobbled off during tonight's defeat to Stoke.

The Cottagers will monitor the influential winger over the next few days while Hodgson revealed Bobby Zamora, who was left out of tonight's squad due to an Achilles injury, is "touch and go'' to make the final in Hamburg.

"Duff was taken off at half time because he took a kick a while ago and we think one of his muscles was cramping up,'' said Hodgson. "That was a blow of course. We hope it's not too serious.

"I hope he'll be fit for the final. There's a week to go now. The medical staff don't think it's a muscle tear or anything like that. They think that it's something to do with a kick he took a while ago which is switching off the muscle.

"Bobby stands a chance of making it but he's not making vast amounts of progress on a daily basis so it could be touch and go.''

Hodgson criticised referee Peter Walton after he allowed Etherington's goal to stand despite replays showing the cross flicked off Tuncay's arm. "It's very disappointing to lose, especially seeing as the evidence showed it was handball which deflected the ball over for the goal,'' he continued.

"When you consider the few chances we conceded it was very harsh to lose 1-0. It was an easy night for the referee. He didn't have much to do but it's the big decisions that count.

"We'll have to accept it though, that's the way things go. I'm sure it was a genuine error. The Stoke player admitted to Aaron Hughes it was handball apparently but we'll pick ourselves up for next week now.''

Hodgson admitted next week's tie, the club's biggest in their 131-year history, could have affected his side's below-par performance in what was their last home game of the season.

"We haven't changed anything in terms of preparation but that's not to say that it won't be in their minds,'' Hodgson continued. I'm sure with some of the challenges that were flying around that they might be thinking about injuries.''

The win capped an eventful fortnight for Tony Pulis, who has seen his side bounce back from a 7-0 hammering at Chelsea with a draw at Everton and this win.

"Roy picked his best side tonight but we showed great resilience and spirit,'' said the Stoke boss. "I think it's been a great response from the players.

"We got beaten 7-0 at Chelsea two games ago and we have played a top team in Everton midweek and we have won here tonight. We have had two clean sheets now so that shows our spirit of togetherness.''

The win puts the Potters on 47 points ahead of their final game of the season against Manchester United. The points total is two more than they achieved in the whole of last season, which was their first in the Premier League.

"We're only the second club to have beaten their points tally in their second season so so much for second-season syndrome,'' said Pulis. "That's a fantastic achievement for everyone at the club.''

Fulham Schwarzer, Pantsil (Okaka 86), Hughes, Hangeland,Konchesky, Duff (Nevland 46), Murphy, Etuhu, Davies, Dempsey,Gera.
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Baird, Riise, Smalling, Dikgacoi.

Booked: Hughes (90,f).

Stoke Begovic, Wilkinson, Huth, Shawcross, Higginbotham,Delap, Whelan, Whitehead, Etherington (Diao 88),Fuller (Lawrence 90), Sidibe (Sanli 71).
Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Pugh, Collins, Moult.

Booked: Huth, Shawcross, Fuller.

Goals: Etherington 83.

Att: 20,831

Ref: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire).

Source Soccernet
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