I sat down on the couch to watch this match already having a pit in my stomach. I was already worried and seeing the lineups did little to calm my fragile nerves. Playing three center backs, Karagounis, and Duff seemed about the most cynical lineup Jol could put out there.
The first fifteen minutes were quite boring. There was much passing from both sides, but no real chances either way. The most interesting thing going on was the sniper in the stands that kept shooting Stoke players and causing them to fall down holding their faces.
Two times in the first half Fulham seemed lucky not to give away penalties. First, Senderos made his mental mistake as he is want to do. A bad challenge in the box on Ireland could have been called a penalty. Fortunately for him, the contact was minimal and Ireland dove a little too enthusiastically. Later in the twenty eighth minute, Amorebieta fouled a player just outside of the box. However, they continued into the box where Amorebieta fell down clipping the Stoke player. Thankfully, the officials correctly called the foul outside the box. The free kick led to a corner, and again Fulham's set piece defense was poor. Stoke had a free header that required Riether to head the ball off the line.
The first half ended with Fulham having a decent showing in the last five minutes, but still no clear cut chances. I couldn't tell if the boos were for the penalty that wasn't called for Bryan Ruiz or directed at Martin Jol.
The second half kicked off with a surprise sub. I wasn't surprised to see Richardson come on. Swapping him for Duff and going to a 3-5-2 with two wing backs would have been a good idea. Unfortunately, Hangeland had a stiff leg and was the one who required the sub.
The second half was again pretty uneventful, without a major chance from either size. Fulham made their second sub in the sixtieth minute bringing Boateng on for Karagounis. I would have preferred a more positive sub rather than a like for like. Doing something more creative like bringing on Taarabt or Rodallega and moving Kasami back to central midfield for example. In the sixty fifth minute, Fulham were forced to make their final sub when Berbatov appeared to hurt his ankle when he was tackled rather harshly. Bent being his replacement.
After the Bent substitution, Stoke went on a pretty good run. Once again dominating from a corner and being unlucky not to get the header on target. The game opened up a lot at this point with some end to end play including an amazing 80 yard run with the ball by Sascha Riether. Finally, in the eighty third minute a give away by Stoke led to a deflected cross by Kasami that some how found Darren Bent. Bent was able to make a slight turn and slot it into an empty net.
Now the only question would be if Fulham could keep from conceding after the eighty fourth minute. My expectations were not high. Thankfully though, this was the least nervy I remember the end of a close Fulham match in some time. Stoke never really created a real chance. In fact, the best chance came for Fulham when Kasami played a beautiful ball to Bent who just couldn't quite get a shot off.
So Fulham won at Craven Cottage for the first time in six months, Jol probably keeps his job for a while, but this win was hardly convincing. They were out shot and out possessed by Stoke at home. They simply need to play better. The next two away games are going to be a tall task. If they don't earn at least four points, it will be a disaster. All that being said, things are better now than they were this morning before kickoff. Perhaps there is hope after all.