After capitulating the last time they played in West London, Stoke City did a smash and grab raid at Craven Cottage last night taking all three points with a narrow 1-0 win.
(Sir) Roy Hodgson surprised the majority of the home support by selecting, apart from Bobby Zamora, the starting eleven which many suspect he`ll field in the forthcoming Europa League Final.
As for our visitors, Tony Pulis selected the same starting eleven that he selected last time out as well as the seven identical substitutes, consistency or what!
The first half, possibly with Fulham having one eye on Hamburg, was nothing to write home about. Chances were few and far between and when one fell to Damien Duff he didn`t cover himself in glory but shot well wide.
As the half progressed, Zoltan Gera went closer with a shot that flew just over the bar. Gera was to go closer when exchanging a one-two with Clint Dempsey but again fired straight at Asmir Begovic in the Stoke goal.
Half time came and Damien Duff, struggling with a calf injury he`d picked up, was replaced by Erik Nevland, playing his last game for Fulham before returning to his native Norway.
Stoke carved out the first chance of the half but Ricardo Fuller sliced his effort horribly wide. Fuller went a little closer a moment later when he got his head to one of Rory Delap`s infamous throws; thankfully his effort went just wide.
Dempsey then tested Begovic, after picking up a great ball from Gera, but his volley was acrobatically saved at close range by the keeper.
Just as you thought it was going to end 0-0, Stoke scored. With seven minutes left on the clock, Fuller skipped past Konchesky and his cross found Etherington at the far post, the ex-West Ham player made no mistake although there was a suspicion of handball as the ball was fed through WITH Roy Hodgson commenting,
“The evidence shows it was handball that deflected the ball past Aaron Hughes and John Pantsil.”
“The Stoke players admitted to Hughes that it was handball. But there you go.”
Stoke took all three points but Fulham may well have had their eyes on the greater prize – The Europa League Final next Wednesday!
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