Stoke edge Fulham in wintry clash
Stoke mastered the elements better than visitors Fulham to climb back into the top half of the English Premier League with a 3-2 win at a snow-covered Britannia Stadium on Tuesday.
Tony Pulis's side seized control of the encounter after Tuncay Sanli had headed them into an early lead and further strikes from Abdoulaye Faye and Mamady Sidibe gave them a commanding three-goal advantage by half-time. Ireland winger Damien Duff pulled a goal back for Fulham just after the hour mark and a Clint Dempsey strike five minutes from time made things frantic at the end, but Stoke were able to hold out for a win that lifts them to tenth in the table, a place and three points behind their visitors.
The evening had not started auspiciously for Stoke with their Danish goalkeeper, Thomas Sorensen, suffering an injury the warm-up. But once the action got underway they were quickly into their stride and Matt Etherington had the ball in the net after only two minutes only to see his effort ruled out for offside.
The home fans however only had to wait ten more minutes for their side to take the lead from a corner. Robert Huth flicked Etherington's in-swinging delivery on to the far post and Tuncay was on hand to beat Mark Schwarzer from close range.
Fulham came close to an equaliser when Zoltan Gera's effort went just wide from Duff's corner, but Stoke were to double their lead when another excellent cross from Etherington enabled Faye to slide in at the far post to score. Three minutes later Stoke were 3-0 up after a flowing move down their left involving both Tuncay and Etherington, whose cross was flicked on for Sidibe to score with a fine half-volley.
Tuncay limped off with an injury just before the interval to be replaced by Ricardo Fuller, who had a header in first-half stoppage time scrambled off the line and a close-range shot deflected over by Schwarzer.
It seemed inconceivable that Stoke could surrender their lead but they flirted with disaster after Duff gave Fulham a lifeline with a 61st-minute drive that beat stand-in goalkeeper Steve Simonsen with the help of a deflection off Ryan Shawcross.
Dempsey had provided the pass for Duff's strike on goal and the American demonstrated he knows how to finish as well with a stunning, dipping volley from over 30 yards that found the net with five minutes left. That ensured a nervous finale for the home supporters but their side held on for the points.