|An uninspiring match saw neither Stoke or Fulham create many chances, but the Whites will be happy to take a hard earned point back to SW6.|
Ricardo Fuller Card was given for a foul
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
Player was substituted for tactical reasons
Zoltán Gera Card was given for a foul
Roy Hodgson was forced to reshuffle his starting eleven for Saturday's clash at the Britannia Stadium after Bobby Zamora was ruled out with a hip injury. Clint Dempsey moved into attack alongside Andy Johnson and Zoltan Gera returned to the starting line up at right midfield.
The first half was a bruising encounter and after just five minutes of play the game was brought to a lengthy halt when Sidibe went down following an innocuous tussle with Brede Hangeland in the area. Sidibe's injury was serious enough for the striker to be stretchered from the field of play. Tony Pulis had no option but to introduce Richard Cresswell alongside Ricardo Fuller in attack.
Fulham tamed Stoke's early offensive and the home side's frustration was highlighted after ten minutes of play when Ricardo Fuller was booked by Stewart Atwell following a reckless tackle on Brede Hangeland.
Fuller produced the first shot of the game after 15 minutes of play, a speculative 30 yard drive which sailed high over Schwarzer's cross bar. Two minutes later Fulham's traveling army of supporters were appealing out for a penalty when Johnson went down in the area in front of the away end. Johnson's run across the area was checked by Andy Wilkinson but the decision went in Stoke's favour.
Rory Delap failed to launch his much-lauded throw-in on his first attempt after 20 minutes and the midfielder's aggravated shoulder injury appeared to restrict his movement.
Fulham looked to attack down the channels with Johnson and Dempsey working hard to find the space behind the home side's defence. Stoke's approach was more direct and a sustained bout of pressure after 20 minutes saw a series of long balls into area which were expertly dealt with by Mark Schwarzer.
As half time approached Stoke conceded two consecutive free kicks outside the area but Bullard's delivery failed to find his man. The first clear-cut opportunity of the game fell to Cresswell five minutes before the break. Fuller threaded a neat through ball into the feet of Cresswell, unmarked, 12 yards from goal. The striker attempted to bend the ball past Schwarzer into the far corner of the net but the ball ballooned wide.
Zoltan Gera followed Fuller into Atwell's book just before the break for a deliberate handball. Moments later play was brought to a halt when Hangeland and Fuller collided challenging for a header in Fulham's area. Both players required treatment as the Fourth Official indicated four minutes of added time.
Right before the whistle Stoke almost found a path to goal with two consecutive long range throw-ins. Schwarzer tipped the first over the bar and the fortunately the second was cleared to safety by a resolute defence.
This was not a clash for the football purists but credit to Roy Hodgson's side. The Whites matched Stoke's muscular approach during the first half and went in on level terms.
Fulham started the second half brightly and Jimmy Bullard fired in Fulham's first shot on target after 46 minutes. Some neat play down the right saw Johnson's flick inside the area set Bullard up for the snapshot on the right hand side of the box. Unfortunately the midfielder's attempt lacked the bite to seriously test Sorensen in goal.
After 52 minutes of play Fuller and Pantsil clashed on the touchline and the Fulham defender fell to the ground. Steve Atwell had a word with both players and play resumed but the incident certainly raised the temperature in the Britannia Stadium.
Tony Pulis made his second substitution of the game replacing Rory Delap with Michael Tonge. Moments later Dempsey almost broke the deadlock following a superb piece play by Gera. The Hungarian sent a delightful through ball to Johnson in the area who pulled the ball back to Dempsey from the by-line. The striker's shot on goal from seven yards was deflected over the cross bar for a corner.
A sustained period of Fulham pressure followed Dempsey's effort and Stoke were forced to defend in numbers deep in their own half. Simon Davies tried his luck from distance on 67 minutes but his right-footed effort flew wide of Sorensen's goal. Long-range shots from distance seemed the only way that the deadlock would be broken as both sides failed to create anything of note in the final third. Amdy Faye tried his luck as the final ten minutes approached but 30-yard effort sailed high and wide.
Tony Pulis made his final substitution of the game after 68 minutes, bringing on Vincent Preicard for Danny Pugh in midfield. The home crowd were appealing for a penalty five minutes from time when Fuller went down in the area under pressure but Attwell was unimpressed and dismissed the appeal.
Fulham dominated possession in the final stages and attempted to find a way through Stoke's defensive ranks with their natural passing play. In the final minute of added time Fulham pressed forward with some neat one-touch football and Clint Dempsey ended the move with a sweet 25 yard drive which flew just wide of Sorensen's near post.
Stewart Atwell called time on the game after three minutes of added time. Fulham fought hard for their point on Saturday and return to West London residing in tenth position in the Barclays Premier League on 21 points.
Competition: Barclays Premier League
Date: Saturday 13 December 2008
Venue: Britannia Stadium, Stoke
Referee: Stuart Atwell
Line-up: Sørensen; Wilkinson, Faye, Sonko, Higginbotham; Delap (Tonge 61'), Whelan, Amdy Faye, Pugh; Fuller, Sidibe (Cresswell 5')
Unused substitutes: Simonsen, Cort, Davies, Olofinjana, Camara
Line-up: Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Davies, Murphy, Bullard, Gera; Dempsey, Johnson
Unused substitutes: Zuberbühler, Stoor, Kallio, Seol Ki-Hyeon, Gray, Etuhu, Nevland
|16||West Ham United||16||18|
|20||West Bromwich Albion||17||12|