Walters gives Stoke advantage as Fulham draw blank in Croatia

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The Independent Online

Jonathan Walters' early header last night means Stoke hold a narrow advantage against Hajduk Split after the first leg of their Europa League third qualifying round tie at the Britannia Stadium. The Potters, playing in major European competition for the first time in 37 years, took the lead in the third minute when Walters was allowed the space to nod in Matthew Etherington's measured cross.

Despite dominating for much of the match thereafter though, they were unable to find the second goal which would make next week's trip to Croatia for the return leg more comfortable.

Also last night, Fulham endured a frustrating night in Croatia as they struggled to a goalless draw with RNK Split in their third qualifying round tie. After victories over Faroe Islands minnows NSI Runavik and Northern Ireland part-timers Crusaders, the Cottagers had been expected to secure another win at Dugopolje's Stadion Hrvatski Vitezovi.

However, Split proved dogged opponents throughout and were unfortunate not to take the lead in just the sixth minute. The Reds peppered Mark Schwarzer's goal with numerous chances and Ante Erceg came closest, although he somehow shot wide when through on goal.

The home side missed another gilt-edged chance to score in the dying moments, with substitute Duje Cop missing an equally inviting chance after turning his marker. Fulham had chances of their own but struggled to break down the resilient Croatian side, to the disappointment of 86 travelling fans.

The Fulham manager, Martin Jol, claimed that a draw was a good result in the circumstances. "I am satisfied with the result," said the Dutchman after the match. They played with three at the back and two wing-backs, which made it difficult to pressurise them.

"At the end of the day, we drew 0-0 away from home against a good side. I'm not happy with the result, but satisfied. There certainly was not a lack of effort from my players."

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