3 days after Christmas 2010, Stoke anticipated Fulham like estranged cousins to the Britannia Stadium, hoping their gift wasn’t quite as nice as the one the Cottagers brought for them. Alas, it wasn’t to be, as they fell to a 2-0 defeat against the side from Craven Cottage. Two early goals from full back Chris Baird proved enough to put Stoke to the sword. Was it as one sided as the scoreline suggests? Or did Stoke manage to keep up with their more experienced opposition. The stats will tell us, right?
Britannia Stadium, Stoke
Stoke City: Begovic; Collins, Shawcross, Wilkinson, Huth (Yellow); Pennant, Whitehead, Delap, Etherington; Jones, Walters. Subs – Fuller for Walters, Tuncay for Etherington, Wilson for Wilkinson.
Fulham: Schwarzer; Pantsil, Baird (Yellow) (Goal x 2), Hughes, Hangeland; Etuhu, Murphy, Davies, Duff, Dempsey (Yellow); Johnson.
In one of the closest possession stats I’ve seen for a Stoke game, the teams were evenly matched, Fulham with 51% to Stoke’s 49%. Stoke managed 2 shots on target to Fulham’s 3, while they had 6 shots off target to their opponents 1. Both sides attempted over 300 passes – 319 from Stoke, 351 from Fulham, while Fulham had the higher pass completion rate – 64% to Stoke’s 56% (225 to 178 successful passes respectively). Stoke attempted a total of 31 crosses in total (one every three minutes), but were on successful with 8 of those (26%) while Fulham only attempted 12, being successful with 4 of them (33%).
Surprisingly in defence, Stoke weren’t quite as dominant as they have usually proved to be. They won less tackles than Fulham, winning 9 to the Cottagers 16. In possession duels, Fulham won 60 to Stoke’s 57, while Fulham also won slightly more aerial duels – 28 to their opponents 25. These aren’t huge margins of course, but compared to the usual stats from Stoke, it’s easy to see why the scoreline went against them on the day. Fulham also made more interceptions (15-13) and made more effective clearances (41-10) on the day than Stoke. Stoke only conceded 5 chances to Fulham, while they conceded 16 chances throughout the game.
A close game, where Fulham managed to eek out a win over their mid table rivals. On reflection, the stats show that a draw might’ve been a fairer result, but football isn’t played on paper, as we all know. At the end of the season, the two teams were separated by 3 points, despite Fulham finishing 8th and Stoke in 13th – showing the strength in depth in the EPL throughout the mid table teams.
This time round? Both teams have made solid starts to the season, despite two losses and a draw in the last three for the team from the Britannia. Fulham are just finding their stride in the EPL, demolishing QPR 6-0 in the last round of fixtures. I’m predicting a win for Stoke, surprisingly enough. Fulham have had more players involved in international duty, with the star man, Dempsey, involved in two gruelling games in North America. With their engine potentially not on top form, it’ll take a massive effort to overcome a solid Stoke side at home. The home side, on the other hand, will be looking to bounce back from their defeat against Swansea, and I could see this being a similar game to that versus West Bromwich Albion. Very tight, but with Stoke getting a lucky goal to seal the 3 points to consolidate their position within the top 10.
So with EPL fan’s complaining to high heavens that there’s no football on, and England safely through to the European Championship’s, I’ll be clinging to the hope that the Lithuanians can do us a massive favour against the Czech’s, and praying that a place in the playoffs can be ours. Oh, and Allez Les Blues.