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Fulham vs. Stoke City: Final score 1-0, Cottagers hang on after Berbatov brilliance

Dimitar Berbatov's first-half volley proved enough to secure a narrow win for Fulham, after Stoke missed a second-half penalty.

Jan Kruger

Fulham appeared to put a recent poor run well and truly behind them as they came out looking in the mood and on the front foot. After a Jon Walters run caused an early scare for the hosts, they soon created plenty of chances of their own. Sascha Riether's cross was almost volleyed home by Dimitar Berbatov, and then Bryan Ruiz managed to put the ball in the net, only to see it correctly ruled out after it was judged that he handled the ball while controlling it.

The first half then threatened to descend into a stop-start, dull battle that many had feared, as first Steven Nzonzi required treatment after a clash with Dimitar Berbatov, before the Stoke midfielder was lucky not to see red after slapping Bryan Ruiz. A yellow was deemed sufficient by the referee, however. Brek Shea then got an early chance to make his Potters debut after replacing Matthew Etherington, who withdrew with a back injury.

With injuries and fouls aplenty however, the half was to end on a moment of real quality. A cross from Riether could only be headed up into the air by the Stoke defence, and Berbatov was lurking to crash a magnificent volley into the top corner from 12 yards out. With Stoke given no time to respond, the Cottagers went into the break on top.

Stoke almost seized an equaliser as soon as play kicked off again however, with Peter Crouch getting the better of Philippe Senderos in a competition for a long ball, but Mark Schwarzer was off his line to snuff out the danger.

Fulham appeared determined to throw away their narrow lead, however, and a few minutes later Stoke were given their best opportunity. Debutant Brek Shea sent a fine cross into the area which Ashkan Dejagah handled in the area, and a penalty was duly awarded to the visitors. Jon Walters prepared to take it, but the Irishman's massive run-up allowed Schwarzer to anticipate his shot, making a fine save to keep his side ahead once again.

Fulham struggled for a response, but Stoke began to wither thereon, with the game a generally slow-paced by end-to-end encounter, with Berbatov and Ruiz spearheading attacks for the home side and Peter Crouch making himself a nuisance for the visitors. Neither team was able to produce any football of real fluency, however, and in the end Berbatov's first-half volley proved enough to secure a vital win for the Cottagers.