Match Report. Fulham 1-0 Stoke
FULHAM 1 (Berbatov, 45)
DIMITAR Berbatov's stunning volley in first-half injury time sent Stoke City tumbling to a 1-0 defeat at Fulham this afternoon.
The Bulgarian crashed an unstoppable effort past Asmir Begovic to light up an uninspiring first half.
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But Peter Crouch should have levelled three minutes into the second half before Jon Walters missed a 55th minute penalty to complete a miserable afternoon for City.
Stoke could have taken the lead after seven minutes when Peter Crouch played in Walters behind the defence. Walters beat the offside trap and raced into the right-side of the area. His shooting angle was narrow so he instead played the ball across the face of goal, but there was no one there to tap the ball into the gaping net.
Berbatov volleyed just over on nine minutes before Bryan Ruiz was booked for punching Damien Duff's free kick into the net.
Steven Nzonzi was flattened by Berbatov's arm as the pair duelled for a header. The clash broke Nzonzi's nose, so the player required treatment before continuing.
The Stoke midfielder was clearly riled by the incident and was extremely lucky not to be sent off on 23 minutes when he was booked for shoving Ruiz in the face.
Stoke were forced into a change on 24 minutes after Matthew Etherington picked up a knock. He was replaced on the left wing by Brek Shea, making his Stoke debut after his move from FC Dallas.
Duff's powerful shot was blocked by Robert Huth in the area as Fulham began to dominate possession.
John Arne Riise's shot was saved by Asmir Begovic before Steve Sidwell sent a low 20-yard effort fizzing just wide on 44 minutes.
However, Fulham took the lead in first-half injury time when Huth couldn't get enough distance on his header as he tried to clear a cross from the right. The ball dropped to Berbatov whose stunning volley gave Begovic no chance as it rocketed into the corner.
Fulham 1 Stoke 0
Stoke almost levelled three minutes into the second half when Philippe Senderos dithered over a ball flicked on by Brede Hangeland. Peter Crouch got past the Fulham defender and tried to steer the ball past Mark Schwarzer but the keeper got a firm hand on the ball.
Tony Pulis brought on Cameron Jerome for Geoff Cameron on 51 minutes.
Stoke were handed a lifeline on 55 minutes when Brek Shea's cross was blocked by Ashkan Dejagah with his arm. Referee Lee Probert pointed to the spot, giving Walters the chance to equalise.
The Stoke player fired low to Schwarzer's right, but the keeper saved comfortably.
Begovic saved Berbatov's volley after the striker eased past two defenders by lifting the ball over their heads to set up the shot.
Shea fired just wide from the edge of the area before Stoke made a 70th minute change by bringing on Kenwyne Jones for Peter Crouch.
Giorgos Karagounis fired just over for Fulham from 20 yards before Ryan Shawcross went into the book for a late challenge on the same player.
Sidwell's shot was deflected just wide after Ruiz wriggled past Shawcross on his way into the area.
Berbatov was replaced by Mladen Petric, who fired well over after surging into the area in injury time.
It didn't matter because the referee's final whistle confirmed another frustrating afternoon for a Stoke side who now have just one win in 23 league games on the road.
FULHAM: Schwarzer, Riise, Senderos, Hangeland, Sidwell, Berbatov (Petric 90,) Ruiz, Karagounis (Baird, 82), Duff (Emanuelson, 86), Dejagah, Riether.
Subs: Etheridge, Hughes, Rodallega, Kacaniklic.
STOKE: Begovic, Shotton, Shawcross, Huth, Wilson, Walters, Whelan, Nzonzi, Cameron (Jerome, 51), Etherington, Crouch (Jones, 70).
Subs: Sorensen, Adam, Whitehead, Kightly, Shea.
Referee: Lee Probert