Feb 23, 2013 at 12.45pm UK at ​Craven Cottage
Fulham
1-0
StokeStoke City
Berbatov (45')
Ruiz (11')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Nzonzi (23'), Wilson (35'), Shawcross (75')

Live Commentary: Fulham 1-0 Stoke City - as it happened

Fulham forward Dimitar Berbatov scores against Stoke on February 23, 2013
© PA Photos
Find out how Fulham overcame Stoke City at Craven Cottage 1-0 with Sports Mole's live updates.

Although in no immediate danger, both sides went into this encounter knowing that the three points would help them in their bid to retain their status as a Premier League club for another season.

As it was, a first-half stoppage time volley from Fulham's Dimitar Berbatov proved to be the difference between the teams at Craven Cottage.

Stoke City had the chance to claim a share of the spoils in the second half from the penalty spot, but Jonathan Walters saw his effort saved by Mark Schwarzer.

You can find out how the match unfolded with our minute-by-minute commentary below.


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11.47amMorning all. The weekends don't half come around quickly at the moment. Another round of Premier League fixtures is upon us. To get us started, we've got two teams that will be keen not to be dragged into relegation trouble - Fulham vs. Stoke City.

11.50amIt may have sounded a little dramatic to mention relegation when talking about these two sides. After all, Stoke are 10th and Fulham are 12th. But with a couple of defeats in succession, both of these could find themselves being drawn into trouble. With that in mind, three points today would be very welcome.

11.54amLooking at the table, you'd have to say that it's Fulham who are in greater need of the points. As it stands, they are six points above the drop zone. If they were to lose today and those below them collect points, they could find themselves in a spot of trouble.

11.57amAnyway, that's enough pre-match chat for a few minutes because the team news from Craven Cottage is just beginning to filter through. We'll start with the away team...

12pmSTOKE X1: Begovic; Shotton, Huth, Shawcross, Wilson; Whelan, Cameron, N'Zonzi, Etherington; Walters; Crouch

12.03pmSo, the big news from a Stoke point of view is that Marc Wilson starts for the first time since his recovery from a broken leg that he suffered in October last year. To be back playing by February is impressive. Meanwhile, Peter Crouch will play as a lone striker, while Jonathan Walters will offer the support from deep.

12.06pmFULHAM XI: Schwarzer; Riether, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise; Dejagah, Karagounis, Sidwell, Duff; Ruiz, Berbatov

12.09pmThe experienced Georgios Karagounis is included in the heart of the Fulham midfield for today's encounter. Dimitar Berbatov is also named as a lone centre-forward and will make his 200th Premier League appearance - the first Bulgarian to reach that milestone. Will he cap it with a goal?

12.13pmRecent history shows that if Berbatov does find the net today, Fulham will not lose this encounter. He has scored in six matches this season and the Whites have not been defeated in any of those - winning three and drawing three. He may not be everyone's cup of tea, but there is no doubting the Bulgarian's talent.

12.16pmHere is some of what Berbatov can do. Let's hope he can replicate that today:


12.20pmSticking with the theme of strikers, Stoke's lone frontman Peter Crouch was close to not being included today. During the January transfer window Harry Redknapp was eager to take him to Queens Park Rangers, but Stoke held firm. However, the former England player has insisted that he has no problem being at Stoke.

"Everyone knows that I have got a good relationship with [Harry Redknapp]. I think he is a fantastic manager and QPR are a club that are very close to my heart," he told Sky Sports News.

"That is where I grew up really and where my family are, but it didn't materialise and I am very happy to be at Stoke."


12.24pmWhile Stoke refused to let Crouch go, they did manage to capture the services of American international Brek Shea. He is on the bench today because he is not quite match fit. Those in the know when it comes to the MLS believe that he will flourish in England so it would be interesting to see how he performs if he is given a chance today.

12.29pmTalking of the "bench", here is who has been named among the substitutes for both teams.

FULHAM: Etheridge, Baird, Hughes, Emanuelson, Kacaniklic, Petric, Rodallega

STOKE: Sorensen, Jones, Adam, Whitehead, Kightly, Shea, Jerome


12.34pmMartin Jol has just been talking to Sky Sports News and has admitted that his side face an uphill battle to get a positive result today.

"We need a couple wins. You have to do the ugly things against Stoke. You've got to defend the first ball and earn the right to play your football."


12.40pmRight then, the players are in the tunnel. It certainly looks extremely cold in West London today. Expecting a number of gloves to be worn by the players. Anyone in a short-sleeve shirt immediately earns my respect!

12.43pmThe players and officials are now out on the pitch. The handshakes and coin toss have been completed. Just a couple of minutes now until the off.

1 minVisiting Stoke, kicking from right to left, get the Premier League's early encounter off and running...

4 minFulham have done all the early running and have had one effort at goal. However, the less said about Bryan Ruiz's shot from distance the better. It went so high that at one stage it looked like clearing the stand! Thankfully it stayed inside Craven Cottage, just.

7 minSAVE! First real attack of note for Stoke and they should be in front. Jonathan Walters beats the offside trap and has Matthew Etherington available to cross to. The Irish international goes for goal himself though and sees his low shot saved by Mark Schwarzer. Had he squared for his teammate, Stoke would surely be in front.

9 minCHANCE! Back up the other end Berbatov spurns his first sight of goal. Sascha Riether sent over a cross from the right, which the Bulgarian met at the second attempt. Unfortunately for Fulham he was only able to volley over the crossbar from close range.

12 minBOOKING! Bryan Ruiz tries his best Diego Maradona impression, but referee Lee Probert is wise to it. To be fair, it wasn't too difficult to spot the big Costa Rican attempting to punch Damien Duff's inswinging free kick into the net.

15 minWe've got a stoppage in play as Stoke's Steven N'Zonzi is down following a collision with Berbatov. There's quite a bit of blood on the French midfielder's face. No blame should be attached to the Fulham striker though, it was an accidental clash.

17 minN'Zonzi is now back on the pitch but looks to be in a lot of pain. It seems as though he may have broken his nose. If that is the case, he probably won't be out there much longer.

21 minSAVE! John Arne Riise has scored some screamers in his time and he went in search of another just now. A lung-busting run saw him move to within 20 yards of goal, but his low drive was held at the near post by Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

23 minBOOKING! N'Zonzi is lucky to be on the pitch. He seems to be riled up following the cut to his nose and has just stuck his hand in Ruiz's face for no apparent reason. The referee takes a lenient view though and only dishes out a yellow card. The resultant free kick from Karagounis is then tipped over by Begovic.

26 minSUBSTITUTION: It's an earlier than expected debut for Stoke's new signing Shea. Etherington has suffered a back injury and can't continue. He heads straight down the tunnel as Shea makes his first ever appearance in English football.

31 minVery little happening happening at the moment at the Cottage. Both sides are being extremely wasteful in possession on what looks like an uneven pitch. The most exciting thing to happen is the booing that N'Zonzi receives from the Fulham fans every time he touches the ball!

35 minBOOKING! Another yellow card for Stoke as the returning Wilson is cautioned for a late sliding challenge on Ashkan Dejagah. There wasn't much contact there to be honest, but it was a mistimed tackle so you can understand Probert's decision.

39 minIt's turned into a really poor match at the Cottage. There's a distinct lack of quality on both sides. The last few minutes have shown why the two sides are on the run of form that they currently are.

43 minCHANCE! At last, a shot! Although it wasn't a great one. Dejagah and Steve Sidwell exchange passes on the edge of the Stoke box before the later drags a low shot well wide of the target. At least it is a sign of intent from the home team.

45 minThere will be a minimum of two minutes of stoppage time...

45+2 minGOAL! Fulham 1-0 Stoke (Berbatov)

45+2 minWow! Dimitar Berbatov take a bow my friend. Robert Huth heads clear a cross from Riether towards the edge of the area. Waiting there is Berbatov, who unleashes an instant volley into the top right hand corner of Begovic's net. What a strike from the Bulgarian. It's a goal that doesn't really belong in this game but who is complaining? Not me!

45+3 minHALF-TIME: Fulham 1-0 Stoke

1.37pmQuite simply, Berbatov saved that half. It had been one of the poorest 45 minutes of Premier League football this season until the Bulgarian struck in stoppage time. It was unbelievable technique from the Fulham striker and it's sure to be a contender for goal of the season. It will certainly make Martin Jol's half-time team talk a bit easier.

1.40pmFrom a Stoke point of view they have offered very, very little. The way that they have played, you can see why they have only won once away from home this season. Apart from the early shot from Walters, they haven't troubled the Fulham defence.

1.44pmHere is Nigel Spackman, who is working for BBC Sport, talking about that Berbatov goal:

"What a special, special goal. It was great play down the right but when it was headed out there was Dimitar Berbatov, who showed perfect technique and hit it right into the top corner. He could not have hit it or placed it better. Fantastic. That was worth the entrance fee for this game alone."


1.46pmDon't forget, as mentioned earlier, Fulham have not lost any of the games that Berbatov has scored in this season. The way Stoke played during the first 45 minutes, a lot will need to change if that sequence is to be broken today.

45 minRight then, the players are back with us and Fulham get the second half started. Let's hope it is better than the first half...

48 minSAVE! Philippe Senderos - you lucky, lucky boy! He nearly allowed Stoke to level up his proceedings as he failed to hold off Peter Crouch, who got around him on the edge of the area. However, Schwarzer comes up quickly to snuff out the Stoke striker's lifted shot. What an earth was Senderos thinking there?

51 minSUBSTITUTION: It's an attacking switch from Stoke boss Pulis, who has taken off full-back Geoff Cameron and brought on Cameron Jerome to play up front. That is likely to see Walters pushed out wide but nonetheless, it's a sign that Stoke want to get something from this game.

54 minPENALTY TO STOKE...

55 minSCHWARZER SAVES FROM WALTERS!

57 minDrama at the Cottage. It's a stonewall penalty as Dejagah blocks Shea's cross from the left with his hand. The responsibility is given to Walters, who goes right with a low strike. Schwarzer guesses correctly though and not only denies the Stoke striker, but holds the ball as well. A big opportunity for Stoke to draw level is wasted.

60 minSAVE! There are few better strikers with a greater technique than Berbatov, of that there can be no doubt. He's just attempted another volley from 12 yards out, but on this occasion Begovic gets down to his left well and gathers at the second attempt.

64 minFulham have gained an element of control over this match now. They wobbled at the start of the half but are stroking the ball around the pitch with a bit more authority. They haven't tested Begovic too often though.

68 minSUBSTITUTION: Final roll of the dice from Stoke manager Pulis as Crouch is hooked and on in his place is Kenwyne Jones. It had been a rather quiet performance from the Stoke striker today - perhaps Jones can have more of an impact.

72 minCHANCE! He may not be the quickest, but Karagounis has just scampered along the Stoke penalty area before striking goalwards from 20 yards out. It's a clean strike, but the ball is always rising and eventually goes a yard over the bar. Good effort though.

75 minBOOKING! Karagounis is again involved as Shawcross sees yellow for a late sliding challenge on the veteran Greek midfielder. It was a needless tackle to make in all honesty and the English defender deserves the caution.

80 minSUBSTITUTION: The impressive Karagounis is being replaced by Chris Baird. The Northern Ireland international will provide some much needed energy into the Fulham midfield. Karagounis had played very well, but he was tiring.

85 minSUBSTITUTION: Another switch for Fulham as another tired looking player, Duff, is given a breather. On in his place is AC Milan loanee Urby Emmanuelson. Stoke have five minutes to salvage something from this encounter.

88 minFulham are in control here and are looking comfortable. The likes of Berbatov and Ruiz are holding the ball up well and are frustrating the Stoke defence. There is still time for them to equalise, but it looks as though their best chance has gone.

90 minThere is going to be a minimum of four minutes of stoppage time for Stoke to salvage something this encounter.

90+1 minSUBSTITUTION: Goalscorer Berbatov exits to a standing ovation from the home supporters. He deserves that sort of reception for the goal alone! On in his place is Mldaen Petric.

90+4 minFULL TIME: Fulham 1-0 Stoke

2.40pmIt was by no means a classic, but Fulham won't care one jot. A rare moment of quality from Berbatov sealed all three points for the home side. Stoke will be disappointed because the penalty miss aside, they rarely looked like scoring a goal. Fulham are now just one point behind their visitors.

2.42pmThat's all we have time for from Craven Cottage. Thanks for joining us this afternoon and be sure to stick with us throughout the day on Sports Mole for coverage of football from at home and abroad - as well as the Six Nations rugby. Enjoy!

Grant Holt, Wesley Hoolahan
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