Fulham 3 Stoke City 0: Fulham aim to make most of Montella's visionary intelligence

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The Independent Online

One name was on all lips at Craven Cottage by teatime on Saturday, but it may need a run to Wembley in the FA Cup to make sure that Vincenzo Montella is still being talked of in west London by the end of the season.

Three goals in a week of silky touches and visionary football have swiftly attached the Italian striker to the Fulham fans, but his manager, Chris Coleman, who is building an improving squad, knows he has little chance of keeping him.

Montella, 32, on loan from Roma, scored after 12 minutes of his first start for the London club after three goals in four games as a substitute and then provided the movement and creativity to open up Stoke City twice more as they were removed from the FA Cup with some ease.

Impressive statistics, yes, but not enough for Coleman to feel he has any realistic hope of persuading the Italian to abandon the Eternal City and move to the English capital.

"He is here because he wants to play football and sample living in London and we are glad to have him," said Coleman, who has Alexei Smertin from Dynamo Moscow to add more guile to his impressive midfield. "He helped to make two other goals and the most important thing after that was to rest him because we have a really tough game at Sheffield United on Tuesday.

"Vincenzo has scored goals wherever he has been and everybody knows about him," Coleman said. "He has fitted in very well in our dressing room, the players and the crowd love him."

Montella was given a standing ovation when he was replaced by the American Clint Dempsey after 58 minutes. He clearly relished that moment. "It was a very difficult decision for me to leave Roma," said Montella. "They have given me a lot in my career. And it will take me time to get to know everyone involved in this squad and also to get used to different styles of training, the rhythm of play and the pace of the game, which is different to Italy. But I feel Fulham are going in the right direction. The club has shown plenty of ambition with the players they have brought into the squad."

Coleman added: "He has got to go back at the end of the season. But, he has a massive amount of experience and a goal record that speaks for itself. He came here because he thought the Premiership is the best league in the world and he wanted to test himself. Now we have him for 14 games, plus cup ties, and we want to make the most of him.''

Tony Pulis, the Stoke City manager, blamed his own team for their exit and said they had conceded three soft goals. "We gave Fulham a real leg-up and it is very disappointing," he said. "We came here to give a show and put up a fight - but you have to attend to basics. It is a step up, playing a Premiership team, but once they got the first goal we were struggling really. You can't give them a start."

Montella gave Fulham an early lead, set up Brian McBride for the second and played a part in the build-up to Tomasz Radzinski's third as the Londoners left Stoke chasing shadows.

Goals: Montella (11) 1-0; McBride (39), Radzinski (54).

Fulham (4-4-2): Lastuvka; Rosenior (Davies, 65), Christanval, Bocanegra, Queudrue; Routledge, Brown, Volz, Radzinski; McBride (Jensen 77), Montella (Dempsey 61). Substitutes not used: Niemi, Knight.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Simonsen; Hoefkens, Duberry, Higginbotham, Griffin (Wilkinson, 47); Lawrence, Russell, Matteo (Diao, 53), Martin; Fuller (Rooney, 65), Sidibe. Substitutes not used: Eustace, Pericard.

Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).

Booked: Fulham Rosenior, Volz; Stoke City Fuller.

Man of the match: Montella.

Attendance: 11,059.

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