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This was a vital win as Martin Jol’s side edge ever closer to mid-table obscurity rather than having to focus on a relegation dogfight, something which looked distinctly possible at various times over the past few months. A match that was much more attritional than attractive – as clashes with Stoke so often are – was settled by a moment of brilliance from Berbatov just before half time, although Fulham were indebted to a sharp penalty save from Mark Schwarzer to keep them in front. The irony of it all was that, given the Whites’ grip on the game, through possession and concerted pressure, they might have wrapped things up well before the all too familiar nervy finale.

Schwarzer: Calm, commanding and assured. This type of performance will do his chances of retaining the number one next season – apparently so crucial to the Australian signing a contract extension at Craven Cottage – no harm at all. Made a couple of terrific reaction saves, especially the one from Crouch when he had to readjust himself quickly as Senderos’ attempts to shepherd the ball back to him fell short, before the brilliant penalty save from Jonathan Walters. His kicking might not be what it was – but a second clean sheet in succession can’t be sniffed at. 8

Riether: The German full-back – surely a shoo-in for Fulham’s player of the year – returned after missing the draw at Norwich through illness and it was like he’d never been away. Overlapped at will down the right and whipped over countless dangerous crosses. His persistence created an early chance for Berbatov and it was his cross that arrived at the Bulgarian’s feet on the stroke of half time, via Robert Huth’s head. His boundless energy saw him supporting the attacks throughout the second half – outstanding. 8

Riise: Another strong showing from the Norwegian, who seems to have taken his chance to re-establish himself as the first choice left back whilst Kieran Richardson has been injured with both hands. Solid defensively, with none of the feints that got himself into trouble a couple of months ago, Riise got forward regularly, although he seems destined never to score for the club – this time Asmir Begovic easily gathered his drive from distance. 7

Hangeland: Another performance that suggests the skipper’s back to his best. Easily dealt with the high balls pumped forward to Crouch and Walters, winning his fair share in the air, and organised the defence expertly. Seems to be well over the little wobble that followed his return to the side after the Sunderland sending off and his partnership with Senderos certainly nullified Stoke’s physical threat this afternoon. All that’s needed now is his signature on that new contract. 7

Senderos: An accomplished performance that would have been superb without the amateurish attempt to shepherd a loose ball back to Schwarzer that afforded a glorious chance to Peter Crouch to equalise. That was casual in the extreme – and was so far removed from a performance that saw the Swiss centre back give no quarter to two dangerous forwards. Played out from the back far more than usual and, in one sweeping move, accepted a one-two before progressing forward with the ball and whipped over a dangerous cross from the right wing. 7

Sidwell: Quietly than usual, but by no means less effective. Sidwell’s smart reading of the game and screening of the back four ensured that Fulham kept control of a midfield that the visitors too often had to bypass as a result. Didn’t venture forward as often as in previous performances, but fired off a couple of shots from range that spoke to the team’s willingness to try a few more efforts from distance. 7

Karagounis: You can’t help but warm to the Greek. Signed as stopgap to fill the void in Fulham’s midfield after the traumatic end to the August transfer window, he’s making a pretty persuasive case for a new contract. Full of energy and desire in the middle of the park, Karagounis broke up the play with enthusiasm and spread the ball wide with raking passes of precision. Plenty of passion in his play and was unlucky not to break the deadlock with a dipping free-kick. 7

Duff: Quiet on his hundredth Premier League appearance for the club having agreed a one-year extension of his stay at Craven Cottage yesterday. Even though he offered little in an attacking sense, this display demonstrated why he’s still an important part of Jol’s side. Tracked back diligently, kept the ball well and made any number of intelligent runs. Swapped wings frequently with Dejagah but only had a fleeting sight of goal, when a speculative shot early in the first half was blocked. 6

Dejagah: Possibly his best display in a Fulham shirt. Linked well with Riether down the right, but ran at the Stoke defenders with purpose, frequently committing them and creating space and opportunities for others. Showcased an array of skills to get away from a tight spot along the Riverside touchline in the first half and still had the energy to be raiding forward deep into stoppage time. Exceptionally unlucky with the penalty – when the ball seemed to cannon off his body into his hand. Did brilliantly to track back towards the end of the game and get a crucial head to a deep cross with Crouch waiting at the far post. Might be close to making that right wing spot his own now. 8

Ruiz: The closest the Costa Rican came to a goal this afternoon was when he uncharacteristically touched in Duff’s free kick with a raised hand at the far post. Far more effective operating in a central position behind Berbatov, this was a manful more than a creative display, as to be expected against Stoke, when brute force is more effective than subtlety. Still showed his class with the way he waltzed past two men on the by-line to create a chance in the second half. Always confident on the ball, he might have had a penalty had he opted to fall to ground rather than striving to keep his feet. 8

Berbatov: There were a few murmurs of discontent about Berbatov’s application near me just before half time. Needless to say, they all vanished as we took in that sublime strike in added time. It was truly one of those ‘wow’ moments that the Bulgarian can produce and, yet, he’s so ridiculously talented that you believe him when he says that’s nothing out of the ordinary. Might have already put Fulham a goal to the good when his agility fashioned a chance from Riether’s cross in the early stages, chesting the ball down before hooking it over. Covered plenty of ground and worked back effectively, but – for the first time in a while – expended most of his energy in the oppostion’s penalty area. 8

Subs:

Baird: Sent on with ten minutes to go to shore up the midfield as a replacement for a tired Karagounis. Kept it simple and kept Fulham in front – the rapturous reception the utility man received after stepping off the bench shows how pleased the Fulham faithful are that he didn’t make that switch to West Brom in January. 6

Emmanuelson: We caught a fleeting glimpse of the AC Milan loanee in his natural position as he came on for Duff in the closing stages. Sprinted away from his man on a couple of occasions but didn’t get to deliver more as Fulham were largely on the back foot towards the end of the contest. Must be close to getting a start soon. 6

Petric: Introduced for Berbatov as injury time approached, Petric brought his usual hustle and bustle approach to proceedings as a late substitute. Desperate to impress in an effort to get himself a bit more game time, the Croatian end found time to make a late chance for himself, but lifted the merest of openings high into the Hammersmith End. 6