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Stoke 2, Fulham 0: Late tackle on Dembele could add injury to insult

21 September 2010

Fulham suffered its first loss of the season today, falling 2-0 at Stoke City in a Carling Cup third-round match. The final minute of the affair, though, created for more worry for the Cottagers than how they were beaten by standard Stoke “offense” of a pair of headers off a corner kick and a Rory Delap throw-in.

This is NOT how you want your striker leaving the pitch.

Deep into injury time, with the match already decided, Stoke’s Andy Wilkinson brought down Fulham striker Moussa Dembele with a tackle Mark Hughes termed “absolutely ridiculous.” The crushing, needless challenge left Dembele clutching his left leg and eventually leaving the pitch on a stretcher. It only earned Wilkinson a yellow card, but left Hughes seeing red.

“When you are at that stage of the game and your team is leading 2-0, there is a certain code I would suggest that you look after your fellow professional, and the lad has ignored that,” Hughes fumed after the match. “There was no need for the challenge at that late stage in the game and he has put a fellow professional’s career at risk by the nature of it. I don’t know what the hell he was thinking about to be perfectly honest.”

When the opposing assistant manager calls his own player’s tackle “an unnecessary, rash challenge,” you know it’s bad, and Wilkinson’s moment of stupidity could have far bigger ramifications on Fulham.

There’s no initial sense of how bad Dembele’s injury is, but if he did break a bone or suffer some other sort of long-term injury, the Cottagers are going to be really hurting for attacking options. Bobby Zamora already is out until at least January and ineffectual U.S. striker Eddie Johnson already is the first option off the bench, with the mediocre David Elm and the recently-acquired-but-untested 19-year-old Lauri Dalla Valle seemingly the other options. Fulham already are playing a de facto 4-6-0 in Zamora’s absence, so it’s hard to believe the Cottagers could overcome a second crushing injury to a scoring weapon and be OK until the transfer window reopens in January.

This is potentially very damaging, even dangerous news for Fulham, which hasn’t played any elite side away from home yet. When there’s more information on Dembele’s prognosis, we’ll provide an update.

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