Fulham 0-1 Stoke City - Match Report
Stoke City took advantage of Fulham's distractions to win 1-0 at Craven Cottage after Roy Hodgson's team threw away another good performance by switching off late on.
Matthew Etherington thrashed home the winner in the 83rd minute but the home side will undoubtedly carry on singing 'que sera, sera' ahead of next Wednesday's Europa League final.
Hodgson recalled Dickson Etuhu, Danny Murphy, Brede Hangeland, Aaron Hughes and Damien Duff after resting them at the weekend, with every Fulham player knowing a place in the starting eleven for next week's historic game is up for debate. The difference between the two sides, therefore, was startling early on.
Zoltan Gera continued to solidify his place alongside Bobby Zamora, who was rested again for this match, looking much more threatening than strike-partner Clint Dempsey, who hasn't featured in Europe on the last three occasions.
Just under 20 minutes in, the Hungarian checked his run back a step to receive a low cross inside the area from Duff and thrashed a shot just over from ten yards out.
Fulham's passing became more assured as the first half wore on and Stoke were left crying for the ball, with needless free-kicks given away out of frustration.
Approaching 40 minutes in, Gera combined with Dempsey in a well-crafted one-two, splitting the centre-backs, and sent a disappointing low drive straight at Asmir Begovic.
Stoke must have had a right going over from Tony Pulis at half time as they emerged almost unrecognisable from the first period. Etherington was certainly fully-charged by now and twice beat players down the left flank before flashing dangerous crosses in front of Mark Schwarzer.
Fulham finally broke loose in the 69th minute when Dempsey latched onto a deep ball to the far post and forced a magnificent save from Begovic who spread his body to deflect the volley wide.
But Etherington finally punished the home side on the left after a cross from Ricardo Fuller on the opposite side touched Tuncay on the way through, and the 28-year-old crashed a left-foot volley off the near post and in.
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