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Stoke 4-1 Fulham Prem 37 1314 Daily Mail

last updated Tuesday 06th May 2014, 11:00 AM
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Sam Cunningham at Daily Mail

Stoke (1) 4-1 (0) Fulham

There were tears from the players in the changing room after the final whistle.

The manager, Felix Magath, was close, too, in his post-match press conference, 15 minutes after Fulham dropped limply and lamely out of the Barclays Premier League to end 13 consecutive years in the top flight without a fight.

'In Germany we would say it was a blackout,' Magath admitted. 'We had no chance from the beginning. We were not in the game.

'The team felt too much pressure so we couldn't run, we couldn't pass, we couldn't play. We were never in the game.'

Fulham's former owner Mohamed Al-Fayed promised to bring the club Premier League football within five years when he bought them for £6.25million in 1997. He did not disappoint.

They have been an ever-present in England's elite league since their whirlwind run from the Third Division, with three promotions in five season from 1997 to 2001.

Since then there has been a run to the 2010 Europa League final, including a glorious 4-1 victory against Juventus at home in the semi-final. They have had a league-high finish of seventh, in 2009.

A statue of Michael Jackson outside Craven Cottage has been and gone. Those heady days seemed a world away as they were taken apart at the Britannia.

At times it felt like Stoke were playing a training game and Mark Hughes had drafted in a group of youth team and reserve players to test out passing moves with his senior side.

Stoke calmly caressed and cajoled the ball around on the edge of Fulham's penalty area as their opponent's hared around diving and blocking.

Finally, on 39 minutes, the pressure produced a goal, despite the visitors' continued desperate efforts to keep the ball out.

Marko Arnautovic took his time inside the box on the right before cutting the ball back to Stephen Ireland.

The midfielder struck a first-time shot which was sailing past David Stockdale, only for John Heitinga to leap in the way.

The ball ballooned up into the air, Heitinga dived back into his goal to get in the way again but the ball clipped the underside of the crossbar and into the path of Peter Odemwingie to tap in from a yard out.

Fulham were nervous, and nerves bring mistakes.

They were lucky not to go behind in the 24th minute when Mahamadou Diarra passed straight to Ireland on the edge of his own penalty area.

Ireland had options but went for goal himself, forcing Stockdale to leap acrobatically to his left to push the ball wide.

Magath made some odd decisions tactically. After 34 minutes he pulled the ineffective Lewis Holtby, so often in recent months the catalyst for everything good in Fulham's play, and brought on Ashkan Dejagah.

'He is very skilful but he didn't get any of the ball, I saw nothing from him,' Magath explained.

Clearly seeing something that the rest of us did not, he then made no substitutions at the break despite his side failing to register a single shot on target.

He played full back Heitinga in the centre of defence and the towering Dan Burn on the right.

Oussama Assaidi had a field day, beating Burn for fun and causing havoc in Fulham's already nervy back line with low balls into the box.

The punishment dished out must have shattered 21-year-old Burn's confidence, and the second goal came from his flank.

Assaidi fed Odemwingie in behind Burn who played a low ball into Arnautovic, completely free running in from the opposite flank, who made no mistake firing in from seven yards.

Burn was finally hooked on 58 minutes, replaced by striker Kostas Mitroglou with Magath left with no choice but to go for it.

But it just got worse. 'That's why we're going down,' the 3,000 travelling Fulham fans chanted as Kieran Richardson shot woefully over from the edge of the box with 20 minutes to play.

'I say sorry to the fans that we had such a bad performance. It was not right fighting against relegation like that,' Magath added.

Many of those players had already had enough and left when Assaidi made it three in the 73rd minute with a goal his performance deserved.

Steven Nzonzi carried the ball from just outside his own box as the home side broke quickly. He fed Arnautovic on the right and his low cross was tapped in by Assaidi.

Kieran Richardson's drive into the bottom left corner looked to have salvaged a scrap of dignity for the away side with 10 minutes to play, but that was extinguished two minutes later when substitute Jonathan Walters beat the offside trap to slot in a fourth.

Stoke (4-4-1-1): Begovic 6.5; Pieters 6.5, Muniesa 6.5, Wilson 6, Cameron 6; Arnautovic 7.5, Nzonzi 7, Whelan 7, Assaidi 8 (Etherington 75 6); Ireland 7 (Adam 70); Odemwingie 7.5 (Walters 78).
Subs not used: Palacios, Crouch, Wilkinson, Sorensen.

Scorers: Odemwingie 39, Arnautovic 54, Assaidi 73, Walters 82.

Fulham (4-5-1): Stockdale 4; Burn 2 (Mitroglou 58, 3), Heitinga 4, Hangeland 4, Riise 4, Parker 4, Diarra 3.5 (Kasami 73, 4), Sidwell 4, Holtby 3.5 (Dejagah 34, 4), Bent 3, Richardson 5.
Subs not used: Woodrow, Riether, Amorebieta, Joronen.

Scorers: Richardson 80.

Booked: Parker, Dejagah

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside)

Attendance: 27,429

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