Writer: Niall Cope
Date:Saturday February 23 2013
Stoke City`s poor away record continues after a solitary strike from Dimitar Berbatov secured the three points for Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Jon Walters wasted a golden opportunity from the penalty spot to get Tony Pulis` side back into the game, but he saw his effort saved by Mark Schwarzer.
Defeat makes it just one win in their last 23 games on the road for the Potters, whilst they have only managed to score once in their last seven away from home - a late consolation strike from Michael Owen at Swansea.
It was Stoke who started the better side and could have opened the scoring early on, but after a neat through ball split the Fulham defence, Walters raced clear but by delaying his cross to Etherington who was well positioned on the penalty spot, the attack was snuffed out.
Berbatov had his first opportunity within the opening ten minutes but he fired just over Asmir Begovic`s crossbar, before strike partner Bryan Ruiz was booked for handling into the Stoke net.
Stoke were limiting the hosts to long-range efforts as they stayed compact to try and build on their 2-1 win against Reading two weeks ago.
Steven Nzonzi became the centre of attention half way through the opening period when he first suffered a broken nose before slapping Ruiz in the face - an act that referee Lee Probert deemed only worth of a yellow card.
A back-injury to Matthew Etherington saw the former Tottenham winger replaced by Brek Shea for his debut.
Stoke were struggling to retain possession in the final third despite packing the midfield and Martin Jol`s side started to pin back their opponents.
Fulham`s mounting pressure brought about the only goal of the game moments before half-time.
After intercepting a rare Stoke foray forward, Sascha Riether charged down the right before delivering a teasing cross that Robert Huth could only half-clear to Berbatov who lashed home into the top corner from 12 yards.
The Potters came out for the second period with fire in their bellies and almost levelled within minutes.
A mix-up between Philippe Senderos and Schwarzer and allowed Peter Crouch to nip ahead of the Swiss defender but he could only fire his shot straight at the onrushing 'keeper.
Cameron Jerome was introduced by Tony Pulis to try and add further impetus to his side`sbright start and the Potters had the opportunity to get back on level terms minutes later.
After Fulham failed to clear a Stoke corner, Shea`s attempt to loft the ball back into the box was blocked by the outstretched arms of Ashkan Dejagah.
Jon Walters stepped up, despite missing his last spot-kick against Chelsea, and the Ireland international saw his shot saved to Schwarzer`s right.
Jerome almost raced clear after Fulham played a high line but the assistant referee wrongly adjudged the striker to be offside, before the hosts almost doubled their lead through Berbatov but his shot was saved superbly by Begovic.
As the game started to open up, Shea was unfortunate to see his shot from the edge-of-the-box go narrowly wide after latching onto Glenn Whelan`s cross-field ball.
Stoke were becoming reliant on some impressive crossing from defender Ryan Shotton but ultimately his efforts came to nothing as Fulham defended well in the closing stages to see out the game.
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Date:Saturday February 23 2013
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|12. West Ham||35||10||7||18||-10||37|
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