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Fulham 1-0 Stoke: Cottagers head to Europe

last updated Saturday 25th April 2009, 10:59 PM


Fulham supersub Erik Nevland
Fulham supersub
Erik Nevland
Fulham's dream of European football moved a step closer thanks to a first-half matchwinner from substitute Erik Nevland in a 1-0 victory over Stoke.

Nevland, on for the injured Bobby Zamora, scored the decisive goal in the 29th minute when he collected a return pass from Andrew Johnson to fire home from eight yards.

The win pushed Fulham into seventh position and ahead of West Ham in the race to qualify for the UEFA Europa League next season.

Fulham were marginally the better side in a dour contest that lacked urgency and quality for much of the 90 minutes.

Stoke, with their Premier League future almost assured for another season, only began to play with any confidence and potency in the second period.

The first half was a largely forgettable affair, brightened only by Nevland's strike.

Stoke initially had the lion's share of possession but they did little with it.

Long-throw expert Rory Delap should have done better when he sent an angled drive high over the crossbar in the 10th minute.

The reverse fixture earlier this season failed to produce a goal and there was precious little to enthuse in terms of clear-cut chances in the first 15 minutes.

In the 17th minute, the hosts had a lucky escape when goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer made a hash of collecting a corner by Liam Lawrence. Fortunately for the home side, Ricardo Fuller was unable to seize the chance to put away the loose ball.

Fulham were forced to make a change in the 20th minute when striker Bobby Zamora went off injured to make way for Nevland.

There was little cohesion about Fulham's play and that was further underlined by a wayward pass from Danny Murphy that wasted a chance to put Dempsey free on the left-flank.

Match Stats Fulham Stoke
Goals 1 0
Possession 68% 32%
Goal attempts 12 12
On Target 2 0
Corners 5 7
Off-sides 1 1
Saves 0 1
Fouls 9 14
Yellows 1 2
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet
Their best effort was a 20-yard drive from Dempsey that flew wide of the upright in the 24th minute.

But, in the only memorable event of the first period, Fulham broke the deadlock in the 29th minute with a goal of elegant simplicity.

Nevland raced clear of Glenn Whelan on the half-way line before passing the ball to Johnson on the right flank.

The England international delivered a low cross back into the penalty area where Nevland supplied the finish.

But four minutes later there was more concern for Fulham when Johnson required lengthy treatment to a leg injury and he was replaced by Diomansy Kamara.

It was Fulham's second enforced change to their attack and while they struggled to re-adapt, Lawrence sent a 25-yard angled drive just beyond Schwarzer's right-hand upright.

Fulham should have made it two in the 39th minute when Murphy and Paul Konchesky engineered an opening with a well-worked free-kick.

But Dickson Etuhu somehow put Konchesky's cross over the bar from point-blank range.

Two minutes before the break Dempsey and Konchesky combined superbly down the left but the latter's cross was headed over at the near post by Nevland.

Fulham continued their dominance after the re-start and a cross from Murphy was perfectly plucked from the air by Sorensen with Kamara lurking close by.

Kamara was looking increasingly dangerous and he deserved better after a mazy run into the penalty area was thwarted by one defender too many.

But Stoke managed to resist the pressure and enjoy a mini resurgence that saw a Lawrence effort well held by Schwarzer in the 60th minute.

Some sloppy defending by Etuhu gave Stoke a corner in the 62nd minute but Dempsey leapt high clear the danger.

The visitors had more urgency than the home side as they searched for an equaliser but they lacked the cutting edge to make the most of their possession.

The home side had resorted to hitting long balls in the direction of Nevland and Kamara and there was growing frustration among the Craven Cottage faithful.

Ryan Shawcross almost levelled for Stoke when he rose to meet a corner from Lawrence but saw his effort bounce over the crossbar in the 68th minute.

Ricardo Fuller then squandered another chance by blasting his angled drive high over the crossbar.

The Stoke should have done better with a close-range header in the 83rd minute but he could only direct it wide of the target.

Stoke continued to push for an equaliser but they ran out of ideas and time as Fulham held on to move into seventh place.

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson:
"There's no guarantee we'll be in the top seven in four games time, a lot can happen before then.

"It would be an honour and a tribute to the work the players have put in if we could sneak seventh place.

"But four other teams, plus ourselves can take it and it depends on who can keep their season going to the death and get the right results."

Stoke boss Tony Pulis:
"I don't think either team created a lot of chances, we certainly didn't.

"Ryan Shawcross and Ricardo Fuller had the best of ours but we didn't hit the target.

"We're desperate to get to 40 points, we had a go but Fulham have a very good record at home."

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky (Baird 82), Dempsey, Murphy, Etuhu, Gera, Zamora (Nevland 20), Johnson (Kamara 34).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Dacourt, Gray, Stoor.

Booked: Nevland.

Goals: Nevland 29.

Stoke: Sorensen, Kelly (Sonko 83), Shawcross, Abdoulaye Faye, Pugh (Dickinson 87), Lawrence, Whelan, Delap, Etherington, Fuller, Cresswell (Camara 83).
Subs Not Used: Simonsen, Olofinjana, Cort, Tonge.

Booked: Lawrence, Shawcross.

Att: 25,069

Ref: Lee Mason (Lancashire).

 









































































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