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Fulham 0-1 Stoke LgC Rnd 03 1516 - Stoke Sentinel

last updated Wednesday 23rd September 2015, 2:13 PM

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Pete Smith at Stoke Sentinel

Fulham (0) 0-1 (1) Stoke

Bojan's star rose, was blown off course for eight months and has started to rise again in the time since Peter Odemwingie made his last start for Stoke.

It was 13 months in all since Odemwingie, who was recalled for Stoke's Capital One Cup clash at Fulham tonight, lined up in a 3-0 win over Portsmouth in the same competition.

He had recently become the first player to score at a World Cup finals while on the club's books and hopes were high he could pick up where he left on in his first half-season at the Brit.

Rarely has one player made so big an impact in so short a time as Odemwingie did when he swapped places with Kenwyne Jones and gave Mark Hughes the talisman for the pace, composure and enthusiasm upon which he wanted to build his new era.

But then disaster struck in a sub appearance at Manchester City, a day when the speed the manager had added helped Stoke pull off a famous counter-attacking victory.

It is hard enough for a young player to overcome the scale of injury Odemwingie suffered inside his left knee, rupturing the cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus. But the forward was 33, now 34. It's no surprise there were times when he was exasperated.

A premature return to the subs' bench at the back end of last season gave his recovery a fillip and he looked much sharper in pre-season before being sidelined with a hamstring problem.

There was a quiet cameo against Leicester at the weekend and now here he was at Craven Cottage, handed a shirt and a start and a long-awaited chance.

Like Bojan, who had made his first start since knee ligament damage in the previous round at Luton, it looked like he had really missed the ball. He was ostensibly on the right wing but popped up everywhere from central midfield to sweeper.

That made him as lively as we remember, only in different areas - and it's hard to be clinical when you're 60 yards from goal.

To be fair, his natural counter-attacking game wasn't helped by Fulham sitting as deep as you'd expect in the first half for a team from a lower division. There wasn't too much space to exploit or just show he still had that sprinter's turn.

But his quickness of thought did provide the opportunity for Stoke to break through the banks of four in the 33rd minute; a deft little touch to complete a one-two with Peter Crouch, who coolly gave Stoke the lead.

He could have made it a far more memorable evening if he had kept his shot under the bar after superb work from Marko Arnautovic gifted him with a one-on-one in the 80th minute.

His recovery has the makings of a wonderful story if he can nail the ending.

It was Crouch's first goal since he set a new Premier League record for headers in the Liverpool rout back in May but it was only his second start since March, the other side of a groin operation.

It wasn't a typical Crouch build-up but Stoke needed his composure when they did get a rare sniff at goal.

The opening came only after Ibrahim Afellay displayed rather more mettle than he had done since his last action in a Stoke shirt. His thundering tackle in his own half set up a quick turnaround in play.

Afellay should have been in the stand, serving the final match of a suspension that was decreased upon appeal. A mid-week League Cup third round tie was his first chance to offer a riposte to anyone questioning his suitability for the English game after picking up that ban for a petulant slap at Craig Gardner.

He is not going to turn into the Dutch Mick Kennedy but it was nice to see he can handle the cut and thrust. For the rest of the game he was gave glimpses of his magic clogs as he enjoyed dribbling at defenders.

Perhaps he isn't jet-heeled like Ossie Assaidi, the winger who gave Fulham's Dan Burn such a torrid time in the last time these two sides met, or like last season's left wing incumbent Victor Moses.

But neither was that previous master from the Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra and it didn't do him any harm.

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