Premier League: Fulham 1 Stoke City 0
By Football News
An unstoppable volley from Dimitar Berbatov secured a 1-0 win for Fulham over Stoke City at Craven Cottage in the Premier League on Saturday.
The Bulgarian rifled home in first-half stoppage time after Stoke failed to clear Sascha Riether's searching cross from the right to take his tally to nine goals for the season.
A lively start to the match saw presentable chances squandered by both sides as first Jonathan Walters wasted an opportunity to really test Mark Schwarzer before Berbatov volleyed over the top after good work on the right flank by Riether.
The hosts did have the ball in the net in the 11th minute although referee Lee Probert correctly ruled that Bryan Ruiz had used his hand to convert following Damien Duff's in-swinging free kick from deep.
Steven N'Zonzi, who was visibly riled after taking a whack in the face from a flailing Berbatov arm just minutes earlier, was then perhaps fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after pushing Ruiz in the face.
And Giorgos Karagounis nearly made the visitors pay from the resulting free kick, with his curling effort forcing Asmir Begovic to palm over the top of his crossbar.
Martin Jol's men would go into the half-time break with a 1-0 lead, however, with Berbatov the man of the moment. In first-half stoppage time, he arrowed a sublime volley into the top corner after Robert Huth had only half-cleared Riether's cross.
A defensive error nearly cost the hosts almost immediately after the restart as Philippe Senderos attempted to block off Peter Crouch only for the former Tottenham striker to nip in front of his man, forcing Schwarzer to rush out and smother.
Schwarzer was again called into action as this time he denied Stoke from the penalty spot. Ashkan Dejagah was penalised for handball in the box and Walters stepped up only to see his spot-kick saved low to the Australian's right.
Fulham almost doubled their advantage shortly after as Berbatov produced a couple of nonchalant flicks to get away from Huth but his awkward low volley was gathered at the second attempt by Begovic.
Brek Shea, who had replaced Matthew Etherington in the first half, then struck a fizzing low shot just wide before John Arne Riise had Begovic worried in the 64th minute with a bending effort that drifted just over the top.
Fulham looked the most likely to score the game's second goal as it entered the latter stages with Karagounis blasting over before Ruiz passed Ryan Shawcross and into the box but he ultimately failed to deliver the telling final pass.
Even with the introductions of Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones, Stoke failed to find an equaliser as Fulham hung on for the three points.