Clint Dempsey’s brace was enough to secure all three points for Fulham on Saturday afternoon against Stoke City.
Mousa Dembele returned to action at Craven Cottage, joining Andrew Johnson up front in attack for the visit of Stoke City as Fulham produced a polished performance to claim all three points at Craven Cottage.
Throughout the encounter the Potters certainly looked dangerous from the set-piece and Ryan Shawcross came close to opening the scoring in the fourth minute when he rose highest in the Fulham area to head just wide from a dangerous free kick delivery.
Damien Duff then rattled the Stoke crossbar on six minutes when he made space for himself after receiving a pass from Dempsey. The Republic of Ireland international checked back onto his left foot before unleashing a fierce rising drive which had Begovic beaten well beaten.
That shot set Fulham off on the front foot and put Stoke into a more defensive posture. Danny Murphy was next to try his luck when his shot from 25 yards flew just wide of the post following good work from Mousa Dembele.
With Andrew Johnson proving to be a willing runner up front for the Whites, the Stoke defence was rarely allowed a moment’s peace to build from the back.
A flowing move from Fulham on 21 minutes saw Dickson Etuhu and Clint Dempsey involved before feeding the ball to the impressive Damien Duff who forced Asmir Begovic into a flying save away to his right.
Once more, it was through the set-piece that Stoke looked the most threatening and on 25 minutes Kenwyne Jones stuck the outside of the Fulham post when Chris Baird’s defensive header fell into his path.
As the first-half progressed the game gradually became more fragmented in nature, suiting Tony Pulis’ men better. But Fulham were best able to work the game to their advantage when they were allowed to get the ball on the floor and play their natural game.
It was from such a passage of play, on 33 minutes, that the Whites took the lead. Andrew Johnson showed a fine turn of pace in the Stoke area to beat his man and lay a square pass into the path of Clint Dempsey, who scored with a routine finish from two yards.
The second-half got under way with Fulham attacking the Hammersmith End. Immediately the trickery of Damien Duff drew two quick-fire fouls from Tony Pulis’ men, as they looked to assert their authority on proceedings.
Andrew Johnson’s outstanding work ethic was again in clear evidence when, on 51 minutes, he charged down a clearance from Andy Wilkinson, leading to a promising situation for the Whites
Stoke were reduced to ten men on 54 minutes when Ryan Shawcross brought down Clint Dempsey in the area after the US international showed an outstanding first touch to put himself clear of the Stoke defence. With only the keeper to beat, Dempsey was brought to ground, earning Fulham a penalty and Shawcross a straight red card. Dempsey stepped up and fired his shot firmly past Begovic.
Stoke introduced John Carew to the action in an attempt to get back into the game. And shortly after, Dickson Etuhu was replaced by Steve Sidwell in a like-for-like swap.
Andrew Johnson almost put the result well and truly beyond doubt on 72 minutes when he produced a sublime first touch to create an opportunity on his left foot. Unfortunately Begovic was able to save low down.
Zoltan Gera was introduced to the action on 74 minutes in place of Mousa Dembele. Mark Hughes then made his final change of the match when Aaron Hughes came off for Rafik Halliche.
The changes did little to affect Fulham’s dominance on proceedings as the ten men of Stoke were simply unable to overcome their numerical disadvantage. The Whites remained well in control until the final whistle, earning another three points and completing a league double over Stoke.