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5 October 2013
• Craven Cottage, London
Referee: R. East
• Attendance: 24634
D. Bent 83'
Anyway, that'll be all from me, Sam Wells, today. I hope you enjoyed today's game and I look forward to the next! Until next time, farewell.
Stoke, meanwhile, will be dismayed with how that game went. Though their performance was by no means exemplary, they deserved more than a defeat, particularly after the penalty shout from Ireland that was inexplicably turned away in the first half. Still, they didn't manage to capitalise on the opportunities afforded them by Fulham's lax defending of set pieces, and they ended up paying the price. What's even more worrying for Mark Hughes is that this defeat makes it one point in four games for the Potters - a truly dismal record that means that he may take the unwanted mantle of most under-pressure manager from his counterpart today.
Fulham will be thanking their lucky stars after that one; they didn't play particularly well and, if anything, were the weaker of the two sides in today's clash. However, that will cause little concern for Martin Jol as, in all honesty, today was all about the three points. After surviving some strong penalty calls and a seemingly endless slew of Robert Huth headers, a Bent goal befitting of his poacher tag ended up providing Jol with a much-needed three points. That should, at the very least, alleviate some of the pressure on the Dutchman, in spite of the uninspiring performance!
90' + 4'
After Fulham withstand some Stoke pressure and see out the time effectively, the referee blows the final whistle! A truly scrappy contest won by a smart finish from substitute Darren Bent - it finishes, much to Martin Jol's apparent delight, 1-0 to Fulham!
90' + 3'
Yellow Card Philippe Senderos
90' + 3'
Kasami does really well down the left as Fulham attempt to launch a counter, finding Bent with a lovely cross. The Englishman tries a similar thing to that which provided a goal ten minutes earlier but he can't get his shot away this time, allowing Stoke one last chance to come at Fulham.
90' + 2'
Stoke have, understandably, reverted to type for these final few minutes, as Huth and Crouch spearhead an attack. However, they aren't really getting the crosses in, Arnautovic instead choosing to shoot from distance. The striker gets his effort all wrong though, dragging well wide of the post.
90' + 1'
Senderos indulges in an uncomprising hoof up the pitch, giving Bent something to chase. Stoke eventually claim the ball but Arnautovic's cross is just too strong for Huth and it's a Fulham goal kick.
As four minutes of injury time are called, Ruiz plays a short corner to Sidwell, who plays off Huth for another corner. This could be a long four minutes for Fulham.
Assaidi attempts to put an end to that spell with a cross but Stockdale is equal to it, meeting the cross with ample confidence. Just a minute of normal time remains and Stoke have yet to really trouble Fulham since that goal as Damien Duff earns his side a corner.
The aftermath of the opening goal shows just what a goal can do to a game. Whereas Stoke looked the more confident before the goal, Fulham are now looking in control, playing possibly the best football they've played all game!
The onslaught has yet to really materialise for the Potters as Fulham have broken up their opposition's attempted attacks adeptly. Still, it's difficult to envisage Stoke not having a couple of opportunities before the final whistle.
The referee does Shawcross a big favour by giving the centre back a free kick as the Englishman goes down very easily under pressure from Kasami, clearly not wanting to give away a corner in the final few minutes.
They didn't really deserve that goal, in all honesty, but Jol's side will most certainly take it! They can expect an onslaught from the Potters now, however, as the questionable centre back partnership of Senderos and Amorebieta will be put under considerable duress in the final six minutes.
Goal Darren Bent
GOAL! And who else to get it but Darren Bent?! A scrappy goal befitting of a ridiculously scrappy game as Kasami's shot is deflected off Shawcross, falling into the substitute's path. Bent shows ingenuity to fake a shot, instead turning inside to beat both Huth and the advancing Begovic, before hitting into an empty net. He took that really well and Fulham have a much-needed goal!
Riether does really well to intercept a poor Stoke pass and sprint down the other end of the pitch, ball in tow. After running all of 80 yards, he takes a pop at goal, and Begovic gets down well to turn behind. Really sterling work from the Cottagers' right back there.
It's yet another corner for Stoke and, yet again, it's Huth who wins the delivery. He heads goalwards but it's Riether, as with in the first half, who clears off the line and denies the German once more!
Given the all-too apparent susceptibility of Fulham's backline, it speaks volumes about Stoke's attacking prowess (or lack thereof) that they have proved incapable of breaking their opposition down.
Richardson, who has just been booked, goes in rashly on the same man he was booked for tangling with. It wasn't worthy of another booking but the Fulham substitute is playing a dangerous game, putting in challenges like that.
Sidwell attempts a shot and, after getting a deflection, it loops goalwards. It falls just wide of the goal - that would've been fortuituous and, perhaps, fortune is just what one of these sides needs.
Yet another penalty claim, though that seemed to be more in hope than in expectation from the Fulham players and support as they appeal for handball as the ball cannons around the Stoke area.
This really hasn't been much of a contest but it, nevertheless, remains on a knife-edge as we enter the final fifteen minutes. Can either side provide a touch of class and break the deadlock?
Yellow Card Jonathan Walters
Yellow Card Kieran Richardson
Richardson and Walters' tempers simmer as they push one another off the ball. They earn a booking for their troubles.
Fulham almost receive a stroke of fortune as Shawcross somehow manages to divert the ball over the head of his own goalkeeper after a hoofed clearance from Amorebieta! Begovic gets back to claim it but his heart must have been in his mouth there.
Assaidi, who has looked dangerous since his introduction, puts another cross into the area. Boateng gets up well though, heading away and preventing Arnautovic from getting anywhere near it.
The Stoke centre back is okay to continue, however, and Stoke immediately resume their period of pressure, forcing Fulham further and further down the pitch by virtue of their relentless harrying and pressing.
Stoke are definitely enjoying the better of the action as we enter the latter stages of this contest. Hangeland's absence is beginning to tell as every set piece appears to be troubling Fulham. The Cottagers are afforded some respite, however, as Shawcross goes down with an injury.
Assaidi does well down the left wing, beating his man before clipping the ball back to Ireland on the edge of the area. The former Villa man gets it all wrong, however, shinning the ball wide of the far post.
Geoff Cameron, coming forward from right back once more, shoots from distance and, after his goalbound effort is deflected behind, Stoke have yet another corner. Huth, for the umpteenth time in this game, wins the aerial battle once again as Stockdale comes and gets nowhere near it. The centre back can only head over the bar but that was close!
Arnautovic, who has, unlike most of the players out here today, looked a threat in this encounter, plays a nice one-two with Ireland but can't quite work himself a shooting opportunity. He plays it right but Cameron's cross is poor and any potential chance goes begging.
Berbatov, finally, limps off the pitch as Bent comes onto replace him. That's a major blow but the former Villa man is a more than capable replacement - can he make the difference in the last 25 minutes of this contest?
Quite odd scenes here as Berbatov keeps glancing towards the bench, clearly needing to coming off but receiving no word from Martin Jol. He continues limping around the pitch as substitute Oussama Assaidi strikes goalwards, though Stockdale proves equal to it in the Fulham goal.
Berbatov is close to opening the scoring! Fulham work the ball really well out to the right wing, allowing Riether to drive a first-time cross into the area. The Bulgarian attempts to meet it but Begovic intervenes in timely fashion, though it appears as though the striker was offside anyway. Incidentally, the Fulham talisman appears to be suffering from an injury after that poor challenge from Whelan.
Arnautovic attempts a speculative strike from distance but he doesn't quite catch the effort right; the ball flies over the bar, going behind for a goal kick.
Yellow Card Glenn Whelan
Both managers make a change as they look to rejuvenate their sides, both looking devoid of any invention or creativity. Whelan replaces Wilson, characteristically earning a booking within minutes of coming on, while Boateng replaces Karagounis.
Arnautovic's ingenuity creates an opportunity for Ireland after a nice turn inside allows the striker to play his teammate through on goal. Amorebieta does well to intervene, however, blocking his path to goal and allowing Stockdale to claim the ball.
Stoke are enjoying the better of the game now, though they haven't forged any opportunities of note in this second period, that Huth header aside.
N'Zonzi, less than a minute after his impressive intervention, floors Ruiz with a strong challenge. That was lightweight from the Fulham forward - it wouldn't be a surprise to see him making way for Bent some time soon.
Huth, in similar fashion to Berbatov's penalty claim minutes beforehand, brings down the Bulgarian on the edge of the area. This time, however, a free kick is given. Karagounis strikes one goalwards but N'Zonzi gets his head on it, averting the ball away from goal.
This half has continued much in the same vein as the first; it's scrappy and lacking in real quality, aside from flashes from the frontmen of either side in Arnautovic and Berbatov. Perhaps it will take something from one of them to break this deadlock.
Another penalty claim, this time from Berbatov, and once again, still no penalty given! After Huth, wrapped his arms around the Bulgarian, the striker, perhaps too willingly, went down, claiming a tug. That would've been soft but the Stoke centre back was definitely taking a risk there.
Quite lovely from Arnautovic! He receives a ball down the left and rabona passes the ball into Ireland's path. Amorebieta intervenes, however, putting it behind for a corner, from which Huth heads over. He's winning everything at the set pieces but he has yet to do anything with the opportunities.
Ireland gets forward, working his way into the Fulham box before trying to find Etherington. The pass goes awry though and any potential danger is averted.
Begovic claims the corner but his throw-out after catching it is, frankly, quite awful. He throws it to Cameron but appears to hold onto the ball slightly too long before releasing it, launching it high into the area. The Stoke right back deals with it though, clearing after some consternation. That was quite bizarre!
Fulham begin the half on the front foot at Kasami gets forward down the right, running at Huth before crossing the ball. The big centre back stands in his way though, deflecting behind for a corner.
Fulham get proceedings underway in this second period! Richardson has come on at left back as Amorebieta moves into Hangeland's centre-half berth - surely that's an injury?
Both teams are back out on the pitch now, we're minutes away from the second half at Craven Cottage as Kieran Richardson appears ready to come on for Brede Hangeland.
Mark Hughes, meanwhile, will be enduring similar emotions to his Dutch counterpart. His side, despite a relatively bright opening, tailed off quite badly as the half wore on. Still, there is probably more cause for optimism for the away side as they have not only had two decent penalty shouts turned down, but also had perhaps the best chance of the first half in the form of Robert Huth's header. However, Riether cleared and the Potters failed to push on; Hughes, like Jol, will want more from his half in the second period.
Martin Jol, while not being overly pleased with that performance, will be buoyed by the way in which his team managed to get forward a little bit more towards the end of that half. Still, for a side that possesses such talent as Dimitar Berbatov and Bryan Ruiz, the football that they played was nowhere near good enough. He will be looking for a marked improvement in the second period as, that late Ruiz penalty shout aside, the Cottagers have no real cause for believing that they deserve to be ahead after that first half.
45' + 2'
A rare touch of class in this scrappy half as Berbatov plucks a ball beautifully out of the air. He puts Ruiz through and, as with Ireland and Walters before him, the Fulham man goes down claiming a penalty from Wilson's challenge. Nothing doing though and, with that action, the referee calls time on a fairly uninspiring first half. It's 0-0 at the break.
As the fourth official signals two minutes added time, Karagounis contests a decision as, quite curiously, an offside is given against the midfielder despite him not touching the ball.
Arnautovic almost steals in behind the, once again, defensively lax Amorebieta, but the offside flag comes to the rescue of the Fulham defender. The summer signing is customarily a centre back and, in all honesty, the fact he's playing out of position is quite evident in this first half.
The scrappiness continues as Kasami cynically brings Walters down as the Stoke forward attempts to break forward.
Amorebieta puts pressure on Stoke high up the pitch as Cameron play its off the stand-in left back for a throw. The endeavour has been there from both sides but this contest has been bereft of any real quality.
Fulham attempt to manufacture something through the middle but Karagounis' pass to Berbatov goes astray. It receives a typically pointed look from the Bulgarian as the Cottager's frustrations continue.
Fulham will be pleased with the last ten minutes or so; they have enjoyed the better of the action and look threatening when they come forward. However, one can't help but feel that they will need to capitalise on this kind of pressure if they are to win this game.
Fulham, who are definitely in the ascendancy after that slow start, almost forge another opportunity after Duff put a dangerous delivery into the area. Kasami met it at the back post after it eluded Berbatov, but his cross could only be headed over by Sidwell.
Amorebieta, like Sidwell ten minutes before him, blazes well over the bar from distance after the ball fell to him appealingly about 30 yards from goal. A poor effort from a man who hasn't started this game particularly well.
N'Zonzi mistimes a challenge on Kasami, allowing Fulham an opportunity to put a cross in the area from a free kick. Ruiz puts it in again but it's another disappointing delivery, failing to beat the first man as Fulham clear.
Senderos, much to the behest of Berbatov, attempts to find the Bulgarian after the latter trundles back from an offside position. The striker implores his teammate to calm down but the blame must lie with the talisman there - he was really slow in his attempts to get back onside there.
After some lovely build-up play from Berbatov, linking up well with Kasami and Duff, Sidwell is afforded space to strike at goal. His effort is well over; that is disappointing but Fulham are definitely beginning to come into this game as the half wears on.
Sidwell attempts to slip Ruiz through behind the Stoke backline but Huth is there to intervene. An excellent, and much-needed, interception from the man who could so easily have opened the scoring mere minutes earlier but for Riether's intervention.
Fulham go down the other end after that scare and earn a free kick deep on the right wing. Ruiz whips in a delivery but Begovic, calm and collected as usual, comes out and claims the ball with consummate ease. He's been largely untested thus far, something that will disappoint Jol greatly.
Stoke pick themselves up from the disappointment as Arnautovic attempts to strike goalwards from the ensuing free kick. The wall deflects the ball behind for a corner. Etherington whips in a dangerous delivery, Huth heads goalwards but Riether is there to clear off the line! That was a close call for Fulham!
Yellow Card Amorebieta
To be fair to the officials, that probably is the right call. There was definitely a tug of Walters' shirt from Amorebieta but it was outside the box, though he waited until he was inside to actually go down. Nevertheless, another contentious call - the second of today's game at Craven Cottage.
Stoke are denied a penalty once again! Walters is threaded through beautifully by Ireland and, after the Irishman is brought down by Amorebieta, the Potters appeal vehemently for a penalty. The linesman, who flagged immediately, deems the offence to have occured just outside the box, however, and a free kick is given.
That spell of possession comes to an abrupt end as Karagounis misplaces a pass, allowing Ireland to steal in and win the Potters possession.
Karagounis gets the delivery of the subsequent corner all wrong, however, failing to beat the first man. Jol shakes his head and it's understandable; they need to capitalise on such opportunities if they are to get anything from this encounter.
Fulham enjoy a rare foray forward as Ruiz advances on the Stoke backline down the left. Cameron intervenes, however, putting the ball behind for a corner in timely fashion.
Berbatov isn't happy (well, even unhappier than usual) as he feels he deserves a foul, having dropped deeper only to be brought down by Etherington. Nothing doing though, and Stoke come forward again.
Walters, who appears to have recovered, is brought down by Amorebieta and Stoke come forward once again, eventually working the ball out left to Etherington. Riether clears, however, and any potential danger is averted.
Stoke have enjoyed the better of the opening twenty minutes; Fulham have struggled to really get going and the Potters are controlling proceedings. The closest they've come to opening the scoring, however, is still that Stephen Ireland penalty shout.
Walters appears to have picked up a knock of some sort - he was a doubt before the game, perhaps he's exacerbated his problems by starting here?
There are shouts for a penalty from Stoke! Senderos appeared to bring down Ireland in the penalty area but the referee only deemed it worthy of a goal kick. That was most certainly a contentious decision - it looked like a spot-kick, in all honesty.
It's Fulham's turn to get forward but nothing doing, as Stoke smuggle the ball clear, with Riether eventually pulled up for an apparent foul on Arnautovic on the halfway line.
Sidwell gives away an unnecessary foul on Arnautovic, allowing Etherington to whip in a dangerous delivery from a free kick. Senderos heads to the edge of the area but Arnautovic is there; the striker volleys goalwards but he doesn't quite catch it right, skewing his effort wide for a goal kick.
Cameron gets forward down the right for Stoke but his cross is deflected behind for a corner. Meanwhile, it's Arnautovic's turn to claim for a free kick after engaging in an aerial battle with Hangeland.
Pieters, for no discernible reason other than for show, receives treatment for his 'injury' as Kasami receives a talking to from the referee. Definitely the most notable moment of this half; even though the Stoke defender made the most of it, you can't raise your arms like that these days.
The game threatens to boil over after Pieters goes down after a coming together with Kasami. The Fulham midfielder lashed out after not appreciating the attention afforded him by the Stoke left back; Pieters made the most of it but that was petulant from Kasami.
Fulham have a free kick in a dangerous area after Huth fouls Ruiz in an advanced area. The same man looks set to swing an effort goalwards, though Karagounis is also lurking.
Karagounis attempts to find Duff down the left but the winger is unable to catch the slightly overhit pass from the Greek midfielder.
This game has started out at a slow rate; both sides appear to be sounding each other out as no opportunities have yet to materialise in the early stages.
Stoke enjoy the best of the opening couple of minutes as Etherington attempts to get forward down the left. His cross is, quite routinely, cleared by Hangeland, however, and Fulham look to build an attack from the back.
And Stoke get us underway here! Let's see if the Potters can put further pressure on Jol and his men and grab a much-needed win for themselves, following two league defeats on the trot.
Both teams are out on the pitch now as we are minutes away from kick-off at Craven Cottage!
Stoke, meanwhile, introduce Stephen Ireland into the starting eleven as Kenwyne Jones is dropped to the bench. With Peter Crouch alongside his fellow striker on the sidelines, Mark Arnautovic starts through the middle for the Potters.
Fulham make four changes from the side that fell 2-1 to Cardiff, introducing Philippe Senderos, Giorgios Karagounis, Damien Duff and Bryan Ruiz at the expense of Scott Parker, Darren Bent, Kieran Richardson and Alexander Kacaniklic.
Stoke: Begovic; Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Pieters; Wilson, Nzonzi, Ireland; Walters, Arnautovic, Etherington. Subs: Sorensen, Adam, Assaidi, Whelan, Palacios, Jones, Crouch.
Fulham: Stockdale; Riether, Hangeland, Senderos, Amorebieta; Duff, Karagounis, Sidwell, Ruiz; Kasami; Berbatov. Subs: Etheridge, Richardson, Taarbat, Rodallega, Zverotic, Boateng, Bent.
And here come the team line-ups:
The Cottagers come up against Stoke who, following Mark Hughes' introduction in the summer, have endured a mixed start to the season. After a positive August where they managed two wins, the Potters failed to really push on in September, failing to claim a win and losing two of their three games. In all fairness, however, two of those three games were against Manchester City and Arsenal and, with Fulham a palpably winnable game, this could be the perfect opportunity for Hughes' side to get back to winning ways. With Jol's job on the line though, that could be a big ask for this Stoke side; either way, this is set all up for an enthralling encounter!
This is undoubtedly a vital game for Fulham and perhaps even more so for Martin Jol; the Dutchman has come under increasing pressure of late as the Cottagers have got off to a torrid start in the league. They have managed a paltry four points from their six league games, falling to increasingly disconcerting defeats against the likes of Newcastle and Cardiff. They sit in 18th place and, though it's early in the season, a loss here could really bring Jol's position under question. Looking at it under a different light, however, a win here could easily provide the London outfit with the kick-start they need, potentially sending them out of the relegation zone and up the table.
Good afternoon and welcome to live coverage of today's Premier League clash between Fulham and Stoke, I'm Sam Wells and I'll be guiding you through this afternoon's proceedings.
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