Stoke 2-0 Fulham

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport
Stoke celebrate Jon Walters goal against Fulham
Stoke's players rush to congratulate Jon Walters after his goal

Jon Walters and Rory Delap scored late goals as Stoke continued their unbeaten home start by seeing off Fulham with a dominant second-half display.

A tedious first half gave way to a thrilling second period, in which John Arne Riise smashed a fine 25-yard free-kick against the bar for the visitors.

But Stoke were on top and deservedly went ahead when Walters turned in Matthew Etherington's miscued shot.

And Delap headed in number two from Etherington's cross to seal the win.

The gripping second 45 minutes, in which the home side steadily increased the pressure until they finally broke Fulham's resistance, was a welcome relief after a soporific first half.

Pulis praises Stoke's great start

Fulham boss Martin Jol had said he would be happy with a point before the game, and although neither team could be accused of an ultra-defensive approach, both seemed unwilling to risk committing too many men forward early on.

Peter Crouch was the focal point for Stoke and his most telling contribution led to the half's outstanding chance seconds before the break.

The gangly striker played a one-two with Jermaine Pennant as the winger cut in from the right, and although Pennant easily jinked past centre-half Brede Hangeland, he shot narrowly wide of the far post.

Crouch had earlier hopelessly miskicked an excellent volleyed chance from eight yards out after a delightful Pennant cross.

Fulham, who began in the sort of positive manner you would expect from a side who had won their last game 6-0, fared little better in front of goal despite some promising approach play.

Riise blazed a fierce shot over the bar and Bobby Zamora sent a fine header narrowly wide from Chris Baird's inviting cross.

The lack of potency in open play inevitably led to both sides looking to profit from long throw-ins - Stoke with the familiar Rory Delap bombardment and the visitors through Riise's efforts.

Delap's throws caused the greater panic, particularly after the break as a much-improved home side started to get on top and create chances.

Riise did crash a fantastic, trademark free-kick against the bar from 25 yards but it was the Potters who increasingly posed the greater threat.

Marc Wilson's header was brilliantly blocked on the line by the expertly positioned Danny Murphy and Delap hit the post with a curled, deflected strike after some nifty footwork on the edge of the box.

But the excellent Etherington - who played despite requiring injections in his back - proved the inspiration Stoke needed.

His shot, following a corner, was heading just wide of the far post but Walters was quickest to react and knocked the ball home from close range.

And in the closing stages he ensured the hosts - who are four Premier League games undefeated at home, and eight in all competitions - rose to seventh in the table, when his delightful free-kick was powerfully headed home by Delap from six yards.

Fulham remain winless away from home this term and have just the one Premier League victory from their eight fixtures.

Stoke City manager Tony Pulis:

"It was a great result because Fulham are a decent side and looked really dangerous off their long throws and set-plays.

"But in general play I didn't think they caused us too many problems. We had six or seven good opportunities to score and we would have been very disappointed if we hadn't won.

"We've got it going [at home] and the crowd have been fantastic. They get behind us brilliantly. It's been a great start to the season for us."

We weren't good enough to win - Jol

Fulham manager Martin Jol:

"We did well for 80 minutes but from a free-kick they scored and the negative thing is that we gave away unnecessary free-kicks which you shouldn't do against them. I think we contained them but it's not easy on this pitch to play our football.

"I thought we were OK. We hit the post and had a couple of chances so to give it away in the last 10 minutes is harsh.

"I don't think we played well enough to win but we contained them for 80 minutes. We were pretty good at the back."

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