Jol celebrates Darren Bent's late winner, as Craven Cottage erupts.

Fulham 1-0 Stoke City: Bent’s late strike seals win for Cottagers (video)

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The 1-0 win against Stoke at Craven Cottage on Saturday was their first since August 17 against Sunderland, and marked their first victory in six games.

But the home side looked anxious in possession throughout, however Bent’s late strike will ease some of the pressure on under-fire manager Martin Jol. Stoke battled hard, and took the game to the Cottagers after the interval but wasted several good chances.

In the end, Fulham made them pay.

With their first home success of the season, Fulham climb out of the relegation zone into 17th spot with seven points, while Stoke are in 16th.

Early on Fulham were composed as they looked to get Damien Duff in down the flanks. But as the half wore on, the home side grew more nervous as Stoke got going.

In the 9th minute there was a potential flash point right in front of the benches, as Pajtim Kasami needlessly flung his hand out at Stoke defender Erik Pieters off the ball. Contact was minimal, and Pieters overreacted, but Kasami was silly to lash out so petulantly.

In the 25th minute came a real turning point, as Johnathan Walters raced clear and Fulham’s Fernando Amorebieta pulled him back right on the edge of the box. The linesman gave the foul and a free kick, as Stoke’s players protested for a penalty, but the foul looked to have taken place just inside the box. A let off for the home side.

And just moments later, Stoke came so close to taking a 1-0 lead as Sascha Riether cleared a header off the line following an out swinging corner.

Both sides battled away for most of the first half, with several careless passes adding to the building tension in Craven Cottage.

source: Getty Images
Fulham and Stoke battled it out down by the River Thames.

However, right on half time Bryan Ruiz was caught in the box as he tried to wriggle free. The home fans cried for a penalty, but referee Roger East turned their protests away. It looked like Marc Wilson tripped the Costa Rican attacker, as the Cottagers finished the half strongly.

At half time Kieran Richardson replaced Brede Hangeland, as Jol tried to change things around for Fulham with Amorebieta switching to center back.

Throughout the game Fulham’s players were severely lacking in confidence, as they searched for their first win in six games. Steve Sidwell worked hard in the Cottagers engine room, but was lambasted on several occasions by the home fans for giving the ball away. Although Fulham’s Macedonian winger Kasami looked a threat throughout.

Mark Hughes’ Stoke side were resilient and ground down Fulham with some late tackles and determined running, but both sides were reduced to speculative efforts.

One of which came from U.S. international Geoff Cameron, as his right-footed shot from distance was arrowing towards the top corner before being deflected wide for a corner.

From that set piece Stoke captain Robert Huth rose highest unmarked, but put his header over the bar as David Stockdale was left flapping. And soon after Oussama Assaidi’s cross found Stephen Ireland who volleyed just wide in the 68th minute.

That mini barrage of chances for Stoke breathed new life into the Potters, and in a few minutes Riether first cleared Huth’s header off the line, again, before running the length of the pitch and forcing Asmir Begovic into a fine save at his near post.

And moments later the game-winning goal arrived, as Bent was Fulham’s hero. The second half sub saw the ball ricochet to him in the box after Kasami’s shot in the 83rd minute and the striker, on-loan from Aston Villa, coolly slotted home to send Craven Cottage wild.

LINEUPS

Fulham: Stockdale; Riether, Hangeland (Richardson 46), Senderos, Amorebieta; Duff, Karagounis (Boateng 60), Sidwell, Ruiz; Kasami; Berbatov (Bent 66).

Stoke City: Begovic; Cameron, Huth, Shawcross, Pieters; Wilson (Whelan 59), Nzonzi, Ireland; Walters (Crouch 83), Arnautovic, Etherington (Assaidi 63).

Electricity restored at Maracana after some late bills paid

This Feb. 2, 2017 shows Maracana stadium with a dry field in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Stadium operators, the Rio state government, and Olympic organizers have fought over $1 million in unpaid electricity bills and management of the venue. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rio’s electricity utility has turned the power back on at the famous Maracana stadium after it was shut off for almost a month in a dispute over $1 million in unpaid bills.

The utility on Thursday said power had been restored after the stadium operator paid 1.3 million reals ($430,000) in late bills from November through January. It was shut off on Jan. 26 in the dispute.

The utility said it is still negotiating for 1.8 million reals ($600,000) in unpaid bills from the organizing committee of last year’s Rio Olympics. Rio 2016 organizers still owe millions to companies which helped prepare the Olympics and Paralympics

The stadium has been vandalized over the last month with seats torn out, televisions stolen and the grass field left untended.

VIDEO: FC Dallas youngster Kellyn Acosta unleashes howitzer goal

Arabe Unido goalkeeper Miguel lloyd (1) reaches up to block a shot from FC Dallas as defender Rigoberto Nino (2) and FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta (23) watch in the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals soccer match, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 in Frisco, Texas (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
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With FC Dallas taking on Panamanian club Aribe Unido in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta grabbed a second for the Major League Soccer club 10 minutes past halftime.

It wasn’t just any old goal. It was a STRIKE.

The Texas native trailed the play, and with Roland Lamah shut off in the box by solid man-marking on the ball, Acosta was there to provide an outlet, and he blasted a vicious strike into the top-left corner. The find by Lamah was a smart one with a host of defenders closing in, and his calm demeanor was rewarded as his teammate launched a rocket into the back of the net.

The goal is a fodder for those who believe Acosta, who has played full-back for much of his career, should be a midfielder instead. His positioning and ability to trail the play with deadly accuracy is what makes this goal so special.

Acosta would bag a third in the dying minutes of the game, giving FC Dallas a 3-0 lead to take on the road as they travel to Panama for the second leg on March 1st.

Top Premier League Storylines – Week 26

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  Claudio Ranieri, manager of Leicester City speaks with his players during the break in extra-time in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round replay match between Leicester City and Derby City at The King Power Stadium on February 8, 2017 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Well. This weekend’s return of Premier League action was already slated to be an exciting one, but now with today’s enormous bit of breaking news, it has become even more intriguing.

[ WATCH: Previewing every match in Week 26 ]

There’s plenty to discuss at the top of the Premier League table, as Arsenal and Spurs look to heal their European wounds, but it’s what’s at the bottom that has everyone talking today.

How will Leicester City react after the firing of Claudio Ranieri?

Leicester City vs. Liverpool —  3:00 p.m. EDT Monday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Well. The Foxes had their work cut out for them coming into this match already, but now it has a whole new flavor. Claudio Ranieri has been dismissed just nine months after winning the Premier League title, and sitting just a point off the drop coming into the weekend (and inside the relegation zone coming into the match?) Leicester City will be lead into King Power Stadium by Assistant Manager Craig Shakespeare and First Team Coach Mike Stowell.

Liverpool stopped a five-match winless streak last time out with a quality 2-0 win over Tottenham, but the Reds defense has been leaky all season, and if Leicester is to break its horrid 610-minute goalless streak, it would be here. The Foxes are without a win in five and have not scored a Premier League goal in all of the 2017 calendar year. Can they respond and begin to play for themselves rather than their former manager?

Can Dele Alli and Tottenham bounce back?

Tottenham Hotspur vs. Stoke City — 8:30 a.m. EDT Sunday on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Spurs looked like they had rediscovered their Champions League form with a comprehensive smothering of Championship side Fulham in the FA Cup. Then, they welcomed KAA Gent to Wembley and promptly lost their heads. Dele Alli was sent off for one of the worst challenges you’ll see, and Spurs were vulnerable as a result, crashing out of the Europa League.

Now, Mauricio Pochettino must regroup the squad and get them ready to host Stoke, a team they clobbered 4-0 in the third match of the season. The squad is still healthy, and the loss of European play may actually help them in the long run. Here, however, it provides them with negative form and a short prep time. They need this one badly to solidify a top four place moving forward, can Poch turn it around?

Can Sunderland get a result against surging Everton?

Everton vs. Sunderland — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Hull City hosts Burnley. Crystal Palace welcomes Middlesbrough. With those two fellow occupants of the relegation zone playing at home against lower-half sides, the spotlight is squarely on Sunderland. The Black Cats have a tough matchup, on the road at Everton.

The Toffees haven’t lost a Premier League match since falling to Liverpool in mid-December, and have scored 19 goals in the eight matches since that blemish. With that in mind, Sunderland must get some kind of a result to pull off the bottom of the Premier League table. Can they snatch points at Goodison Park?

EFL Cup final could leave Chelsea well out in front

Chelsea vs. Swansea City — 10:00 a.m. EDT Saturday on NBCSports.com

Chelsea is already eight points ahead of the pack and looks to be the clear favorite to win the Premier League title. It could get even clearer after this week. Manchester United is off, Manchester City is off, and Arsenal is off. Couple that with Tottenham struggling and Liverpool facing a desperate Leicester City side, and it’s entirely conceivable that a win for Chelsea over Swansea City could leave the Blues as far as 11 points clear at the top of the table, albeit a game ahead of some. That would all but wrap things up, wouldn’t it?

Mario Balotelli handed 2-match ban for abusing referee

FILE- In this Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 file photo, Nice's forward Mario Balotelli, of Italy, reacts during the Europa League group I soccer match between OGC Nice and FC Salzburg, in Nice stadium, southeastern France. Nice striker Mario Balotelli’s teammate Alassane Pleas has confirmed he heard Bastia supporters racially abusing Balotelli with monkey chants during the league match on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)
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After being sent off for referee abuse in last weekend’s Ligue 1 win over FC Lorient, Nice striker Mario Balotelli has been handed a two-match ban.

Balotelli earned his second red card of the season in the 69th minute of a 1-0 win that kept Nice within striking distance of the leaders Monaco. It was his second straight red and third sending-off of the season, having already been dismissed in reverse fixture against Lorient after a pair of yellows in the final three minutes of the game.

After the mercurial Italian’s hot start to the season, he has just one goal in the last two months, the third in a 3-1 win over Guingamp. He has not scored a point-winning goal since bagging both in a 2-1 win over Dijon back on December 18th.

Balotelli’s agent, the well-known Mino Raiola, was so frustrated with his client’s continual dismissal problems that he told French media conglomerate RMC Sport that the solution to Balotelli’s problems is to “cut out his tongue.”

“I have already found the solution: you have to cut out his tongue,” Raiola said bluntly. “To play soccer, there is no need for language! In all seriousness, he knows he made a big mistake and he has no excuse. He knows he needs to improve that. He is very sad for him, for the team.”

The suspension leaves Balotelli on the sidelines for tomorrow’s match against 11th placed Montpellier and then on March 4th at 17th placed Dijon. Nice sits in third, level on points with 2nd placed PSG and three back of leaders Monaco.