Stoke avert slip-up after skating clear

Stoke City 3 Fulham 2
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The Independent Football

By Stoke City's standards, three goals in 25 minutes at a snow-swept Britannia Stadium was an avalanche rather than a flurry. Tuncay Sanli set it rolling, Abdoulaye Faye added to the momentum and even Mamady Sidibe marked his 150th appearance for the club with a rare goal, but Tony Pulis's side had to withstand a fierce fightback by Fulham before savouring a first win in seven games.

The heady thrill of a three-goal haul in the Premier League for the first time since August 2008, when Aston Villa were beaten 3-2, seemed to intoxicate Stoke. Fulham, shrugging off an injury to Bobby Zamora, poured forward after Damien Duff's deflected goal, and Clint Dempsey's volley ensured a fraught finale.

Fulham appeared to have a valid claim for a penalty in stoppage time when Ryan Shawcross handled, but manager Roy Hodgson was "unaware" of the incident. He was more worried by the loss of his leading scorer Zamora, who suffered a dislocated collarbone or shoulder when Faye brought him down, and by a recurrence of Brede Hangeland's knee problem.

"It was a very expensive game for us because we lost two players and lost the match," Hodgson said. "Zamora's injury is a bad one. When Andrew Johnson suffered a similar problem he was back in three weeks, but it's certainly not a short-term injury.".

Pulis was justifiably enthused by Stoke's perpetual motion in the first half. "But in the second, Fulham pushed bodies forward and made it nervous for us," he said.

In the 12th minute Fulham's Danny Murphy was caught in possession by Tuncay, forcing Hangeland to concede a corner. Matthew Etherington's delivery found Robert Huth rising to direct the ball goalwards, and Tuncay scored with a sharp header.

Faye steered in Etherington's free-kick to double the advantage 11 minutes before the break. Etherington was also involved in the third goal, which followed a fluid move that began deep in home territory. The winger's cross was headed on by Danny Higginbotham, the ball reaching Sidibe near the penalty spot. The Malian's first-time volley thudded into the turf before rearing up into the net.

A hamstring strain forced off Tuncay and with him went Stoke's dynamism. Steve Simonsen, deputising for Thomas Sorensen in Stoke's goal after the Dane aggravated a finger injury during the warm-up, had not made a save worth the name before Duff's drive flew in off Shawcross. He was helpless, too, in the face of Dempsey's superb dipping shot from 25 yards, but Stoke held out.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Simonsen; Huth, Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham; Lawrence (Diao, 89), Delap (Whelan, 66), Whitehead, Etherington; Sidibe, Tuncay (Fuller, 42). Substitutes not used: St Louis-Hamilton (gk), Beattie, Collins, Wilkinson.

Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Kelly, Hangeland (Smalling, h-t), Hughes, Konchesky; Gera, Baird, Murphy, Duff; Zamora (Dempsey, 54), Johnson (Nevland, 82). Substitutes not used: Zuberbühler (gk), Greening, Kallio, Dikgacoi.

Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).

Booked: Stoke Faye.

Attendance: 25,104