Fulham fight past Stoke
A goal from Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak on his debut earned Fulham a 2-1 victory over Stoke.
By James Riach at Craven Cottage
Last Updated: 11/02/12 5:53pm
A goal from Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak on his debut earned Fulham a 2-1 victory over Stoke at Craven Cottage.
A deadline-day signing from Stuttgart, Pogrebnyak smashed home from inside the penalty area in the 16th minute after John Arne Riise's powerful effort fell at his feet.
Fulham soon had breathing space as Clint Dempsey's fine 25-yard strike thundered off the crossbar in the 28th minute, hitting Thomas Sorensen and crossing the line for an own goal.
Stoke should have already been on the scoresheet as Matthew Upson missed a good chance from close range, but Ryan Shawcross gave them hope by heading in Jermaine Pennant's corner with 12 minutes remaining.
Tony Pulis' side proceeded to bombard the Fulham area with long balls but the hosts stood up tall and held on to earn the three points.
Both sides made four changes apiece for the match, which began slowly on a bright afternoon by the Thames.
Neither team proved a real threat during the opening exchanges, although Moussa Dembele was impressing for the hosts despite playing in an unusual role alongside Danny Murphy in central midfield.
The Belgium international was leading the City defenders a merry dance and put an incisive ball behind the Stoke backline but Damien Duff's cross was stopped by Sorensen.
Fulham were soon in the ascendancy and, aside from a tame long-range Glenn Whelan effort that Mark Schwarzer held with ease, Jol's side were bossing possession.
The Cottagers turned that dominance into a 16th-minute goal as Pogrebnyak controlled a wayward Riise inside the box and unleashed a fierce drive into the top left-hand corner.
The Russia international was fortunate not follow up his debut goal with a booking shortly afterwards for a late challenge on Wilson Palacios, who soon dusted himself down to shoot just wide.
Kenwyne Jones was another pushing for a Stoke equaliser, although that task was made harder in the 28th minute.
Out of the blue, in-form Dempsey fired a long-range effort that rattled the crossbar and rebounded onto goalkeeper Sorensen - and in off his back.
The second goal left Stoke looking devoid of ideas going forward and they had Shawcross to thank for stopping a third at the other end.
Pogrebnyak was proving difficult to handle and darted down the left, before firing a cross into the six-yard box that would have been tucked home by Dempsey if not for the Stoke defender's clearance.
Dempsey became the game's focal point as half-time approached, with Marc Wilson and Palacios picking up bookings for challenges on the American attacker.
Murphy curled just wide from the first free-kick on the edge of the box, before the Fulham skipper's chipped ball into the box would have been tucked home by Duff had Sorensen not been alert to save.
Stoke looked rejuvenated immediately after the restart and came close to reducing the deficit through Upson, who volleyed Whelan's free-kick just wide in the 47th minute.
The visitors were by no means dominating second-half proceedings, though, and a Stephen Kelly cross almost crept inside Sorensen's near post moments later.
The match began to ebb and flow more as the half wore on, before Fulham were forced to change things.
Pogrebnyak appeared to fall awkwardly in a challenge with Shawcross and had to be replaced in the 62nd minute by Simon Davies, which resulted in Dempsey moving into attack.
Stoke made changes of their own in a bid to change the course of the game shortly afterwards as Pulis used his full complement of substitutes.
Ricardo Fuller, Jermaine Pennant and Ryan Shotton all came on and the changes soon had the desired effect.
Aaron Hughes deflected a Fuller shot out for a corner, which was crossed in by Pennant and flicked home at the near post by Shawcross.
Peter Crouch flashed a shot over from close range as Stoke pushed for a leveller, leading Jol to bring Dickson Etuhu on for Murphy in a bid to shore things up.
Sorensen had to react quickly to prevent Dempsey netting a last-gasp third after a defensive mix-up, before the United States international hit the post after rounding the Danish goalkeeper towards the end of the five minutes of stoppage-time.