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Premier League

  • February 23, 2013
  • • 7:45 AM
  • • Craven Cottage, London
  • Referee: L. Probert
  • • Attendance: 25458

Fulham 1-0 Stoke City: Berbatov stunner spoils Brek Shea's debut

The former Manchester United striker produced a moment of brilliance to secure all three points for the hosts and move them up one place into 11th in the Premier League table

An unstoppable volley from Dimitar Berbatov proved decisive in securing a 1-0 win for Fulham over Stoke City and spoiling a promising debut for Brek Shea on Saturday.

The Bulgarian rifled home in first-half stoppage time after the Potters failed to clear Sascha Riether's searching cross from the right to take his tally to nine goals for the season.

Martin Jol made three changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Norwich last time out, with Ashkan Dejagah, Giorgos Karagounis and Riether all starting, while Geoff Cameron and Marc Wilson came in for Stoke.

A lively start to the match saw presentable chances squandered by both sides as first Jonathan Walters wasted an opportunity to really test Mark Schwarzer before Berbatov volleyed over the top after good work on the right flank by Riether.

The hosts did have the ball in the net in the 11th minute although referee Lee Probert correctly ruled that Bryan Ruiz had used his hand to convert following Damien Duff's delicious in-swinging free kick from deep.

In the 24th minute, Stoke's starting left winger Matthew Etherington had to be pulled off due to a back injury. This gave United States international Brek Shea an opportunity to make his Stoke debut and he looked active after not playing a game since Oct. 28 with FC Dallas.

Steven N'Zonzi, who was visibly riled after taking a whack in the face from a flailing Berbatov arm just minutes earlier, was then perhaps fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after pushing Ruiz in the face.

Karagounis nearly made the Potters pay from the resulting free kick, with his curling effort forcing Asmir Begovic to palm over the top of his crossbar.

Jol's men would go into the halftime break with a 1-0 lead, however, with Berbatov the man of the moment as, in first half stoppage time, he arrowed a sublime volley into the top corner after Robert Huth had only half-cleared Riether's cross.

A defensive error nearly cost the hosts almost immediately after the restart as Philippe Senderos attempted to block off Peter Crouch only for the former Tottenham striker to nip in front of his man, forcing Schwarzer to rush out and smother.

Shea forced a penalty after he was fouled in the box and Schwarzer was again called into action to deny Stoke from the penalty spot. Dejagah was penalized for handball in the box and Walters stepped up only to see his spot kick saved low to the Australian's right.

Fulham almost doubled its advantage shortly after as Berbatov produced a couple of nonchalant flicks to get away from Huth but his awkward low volley was gathered at the second attempt by Begovic.

Shea then struck a fizzing low shot just wide before John Arne Riise had Begovic worried in the 64th minute with a bending effort that drifted just over the top.

Fulham looked the most likely to score the game's second goal it entered the latter stages. Karagounis blasted over the top after cutting inside from the left flank before Ruiz jinked past Ryan Shawcross and into the box but he ultimately failed to deliver the telling final pass.

Even with the introductions of Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones, Stoke failed to find an equalizer, with the result moving the hosts up to 11th in the table, one point behind Tony Pulis' men in 10th.

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