Fulham undone by late Stoke strikes

Stoke 2 Fulham 0

Late goals by Jon Walters and Rory Delap sent Fulham tumbling to defeat at the Britannia Stadium.

Walters diverted Matthew Etherington’s 80th-minute cross-shot into the net, and Delap headed home Jermaine Pennant’s free-kick seven minutes later.

The Whites seemed to have weathered the storm after a sustained spell of second-half Stoke pressure, during which they rode their luck at times, but in the end City were worthy winners.

Fulham created few chances although John Arne Riise hit the bar in the second half and went close to scoring for them early on, sending a sweetly-struck effort over before Peter Crouch wasted a great opportunity for Stoke by making a mess of a close-range volley which bobbled harmlessly wide.

That was as exciting as a dour first half got and Fulham lost the attacking flair of Moussa Dembele when the forward limped off eight minutes before the break.

Dembele again started with Bobby Zamora and the in-form Andrew Johnson up front, with manager Martin Jol making only one change to the side that thrashed neighbours QPR 6-0 prior to the international break.

That change was the welcome return of the ever-dependable Aaron Hughes at the back, with the unfortunate Zdenek Grygera dropping out of the starting line-up.

Stoke ended the half strongly and almost went ahead shortly before the break when Pennant just missed the target after a neat one-two with Crouch.

It was a sign of things to come as the home side moved up a gear after the restart and Fulham had a lucky escape after keeper Mark Schwarzer failed to claim a throw-in by Delap, and when Glenn Whelan’s deflected shot hit the post.

After Whites skipper Danny Murphy cleared Marc Wilson’s header off the line, Fulham were themselves denied by the woodwork when, against the run of play, Riise smashed a free-kick against the bar.

It proved to be a turning point in the game because Stoke eventually broke the deadlock at the other end, before Delap sealed Fulham’s fate.