Fulham 1-0 Stoke City: Match Report

FulhamÔÇÖs fans were not exactly shouting Martin JolÔÇÖs name from the rooftops around Craven Cottage, but at least their ire was directed this time at the opposition manager ÔÇö and their former boss ÔÇö Mark Hughes rather than the Dutchman, after Darren BentÔÇÖs late goal secured an invaluable first home victory in the league for six months.

darren-bent_a_2693697b

Bent, on loan from┬áAston Villa, shot home in the 83rd minute to give Fulham their first victory since April FoolÔÇÖs Day, and three points takes them out of the bottom three.

It also relieves the pressure on Jol, who was bookiesÔÇÖ favourite for the sack following demands to that effect from Fulham supporters after their home defeat by Cardiff last week.

Afterwards he denied feeling the strain. ÔÇ£Pressure is if you are vulnerable and your life will change big time. My life will not change big time.

I will be in management for years to come but I want to be here [at Fulham] with my players.ÔÇØ They certainly responded to their lowly position with a display as defiant as their managerÔÇÖs. Sascha Riether made two goalline clearances from headers by Robert Huth, who nodded another chance over the bar from close range.

Stoke City┬áhad the better chances, and Hughes felt aggrieved. ÔÇ£The team most likely to win was us. We had a lot of control of the game, created clear opportunities but did not take them, which is the story of our season.

ÔÇ£If everyone connected with Fulham was honest with themselves they would consider themselves fortunate to take three points. We should have had two penalties and (Pajtim) Kasami should have been sent off for raising his hands. Those are the key decisions you want the officials to get them right.ÔÇØ

In fairness, both sides could have had penalties but referee Roger East was having none of it. He failed to give a penalty when Jon Walters was sent tumblng by Fernando Amorebieta in the 26th minute, instead awarding a free-kick outside the area for an earlier foul. Fulham got nothing when Bryan Ruiz was tripped in the penalty area by Marc Wilson in first-half stoppage time.

There appeared precious little prospect of a goal until BentÔÇÖs late and decisive intervention. Both sides played with a lack of confidence befitting their lowly positions and poor form recently.

Dimitar Berbatov, who scored the only goal in the corresponding fixture last season, showed his full repertoire of flicks and feints without threatening Asmir BegovicÔÇÖs goal, and looked far from happy when he was replaced by Bent.

But at least the move sparked the game into life, belatedly. Riether cleared a Huth header off the line, for the second time, before running almost the length of the pitch to fire a shot that Begovic saved at his near post.

Finally, Bent struck the goal that could mean so much to his team and his manager. Kasani tried a shot at goal from wide on the left, but it clipped Ryan Shawcross and fell at BentÔÇÖs feet in the penalty area. He had no clear sight of goal, so cut the ball back on to his left foot, wrong-footing Huth and Begovic, before shooting home with his left foot.

Jol punched the air in celebration, the home supporters erupted with delight, and started singing: ÔÇ£Stand up if you hate Mark HughesÔÇØ in reference to the WelshmanÔÇÖs short-lived spell as Fulham manager, after which he claimed the club did not match his ambitions.

He was still unhappy an hour after the game. ÔÇ£We were the better side and the overriding emotion is one of disappointment that we got nothing from the game.ÔÇØ Jol can now go into the international break with a win behind him, although he knows there is some way to go to improve his teamÔÇÖs fortunes and his relationships with the fans.

ÔÇ£Of course we were a bit lucky, Huth had two clear chances from set pieces. We have to do better on the ball, we have to improve on a lot of things, but I was still a happy customer because we got three points and that is what we needed.ÔÇØ