An afternoon which promised so much for Sunderland ended a complete shambles as Fulham ran riot at our expense. I don't think anyone saw the result coming, and certainly everyone, including myself, expected some more fight than was shown.
Desperate tactics at times, desperate substitutions and an entire team just giving up. This was the bad Sunderland we saw for several months previous to Wigan.
No strikers, and seemingly no ideas as we slump to another defeat, and to 14th (at time of writing).
Here's the story of the afternoon from my Roker Reporting eyes...A bright and sunny afternoon at the Stadium of Light got even brighter for our fans as news filtered through that Clint Dempsey and Brede Hangeland were absent for the visitors. Phillipe Senderos making his debut for Fulham in the absence of Hangeland.
Not that we needed many more boosts after last weekend mind, as everyone was full of confidence despite the fact we had no strikers, meaning Steve Bruce started with the same line-up everyone expected pre-match. There were also spots on the bench for youngsters Blair Adams and Craig Lynch.
The opening ten minutes were fairly cagey from both teams, neither establishing a foothold in the game. The best we could offer was a pair of corners which came to nothing, and Fulham forcing a chance of their own when Sulley Muntari's poor free-kick allowed the visitors to counter. Luckily Eidur Gudjohnsen over hit the ball to Bobby Zamora as Fulham had 3 on 2.
Following those opening exchanges, Sunderland began to get more of a foothold in the game, and a pattern was set. We're gonna play it out wide a lot unless Stephane Sessegnon is in space, and Fulham dead-set on counter attacking. Which I'd have to say, we had the better of as the half started to settle. Ahmed Elmohamady came closest to breaking the deadlock on 14 minutes when he could have done much better with a header, having got ahead of Carlos Salcido.
The Londoners carved a chance of their own, and arguably the best of the opening 20 minutes when Zamora played in Gudjonsen, who got the better of Michael Turner far to easily before firing well over from 8 yards. Very lucky for us that he didn't seem to realise how much time he had, and a let off for us, and in particular Turner.
On the half hour, Sunderland forced their best chance. Senderos the guilty party for Fulham, who simply belted a routine hoof upfield straight at Steed Malbranque. Sadly Steed's lack of pace, combined with a little tug from the Swiss defender and well, we all know about his finishing, ended with Steed attempting to dink the ball over the advancing Mark Schwarzer. The right idea from Malbranque, but execution all wrong and things remained 0-0.
Well, they did for a little while anyway, 33 minutes in, and Gael Kakuta scored the opening goal, completely against the run of play. Neat footwork on the edge of the area between Zamora and Gudjohnsen, eventually playing the ball through to the on-loan Frenchman, who pushed the ball under Simon Mignolet. Michael Turner culpable for allowing Kakuta far too much space, then getting the wrong side, giving him an easy finish.
We could have equalized two minutes later. Great hold-up play from Stephane Sessegnon allowed Lee Cattermole to burst on to the ball, unfortunately his shot was weak as piss and straight at Schwarzer. An opportunity squandered and you wondered if this was to be 'one of those days' which seem to happen with far too much regularity for Sunderland.
From then on, for me anyway, halftime couldn't come quick enough. We tried desperately to get something, but poor free-kicks, even worse corners and a persistence with attempting to try and walk it in conspired against us, whilst Fulham gathered a little more swagger and looked continually dangerous on the break. 0-1 it was at half-time however.
Having expected Sunderland to have had a rocket up the arse at halftime for allowing the game to pass them by, I really hoped for an explosive start to the second half, but unfortunately that didn't come really. Lots of long balls in the air, pointless with two midgets up front, and many a wasteful pass. The best mustered was a poweful shot by Sessegnon from the edge of the area, but a routine stop for the diving Schwarzer. Nice to see a whot from outside the area mind.
A lot of huff, and plenty of puff from Sunderland for the next ten to fifteen minutes went without a decent shot on goal, and on the hour we were punished heavily as Fulham grabbed the second. This time Simon Davies finishing off a great team move involving Zamora & Sidwell so slide the ball into the bottom corner beyond Simon Mignolet. A disappointing one to to let in, but we should be doing more at the other end, even without a recognised striker.
65 minutes brought around Bruce's first gamble from the bench. Anton Ferdinand came on to replace the highly ineffectual Sulley Muntari, plonked himself in the centre of defence, and Nedum Onuoha became a makeshift striker, with Sessegnon played just off the on loan Manchester City defender. It seemed a pre-planned move as as soon as the board went-up, Onuoha began heading forward. Strangely enough only minutes earlier I was sat thinking maybe we could put Turner up front. I'm not sure what that says about me though really! Great minds or desperate men think alike?
The desperate. Sunderland 3-0 down with fifteen minutes to go. Zamora once again the instigator, with the defence all over the place, he slid the ball into the middle at speed. A combination of Ferdinand and Mignolet couldn't stop Simon Davies, and he managed to bundle the ball over the line ahead of Ahmed Elmohamady, who had also gone walk about.
This prompted Bruce into his final raft of subs, as off came Steed Malbranque on 75 minutes (standard) and Jordan Henderson for Bolo Zenden, and a debut for Craig Lynch. Shame it couldn't have been in nicer circumstances for the academy product.
It mattered little. Sunderland barely got themselves on the ball as Fulham simply saw out time towards a deserved victory, and it seems we were content to do so too showing even less effort as the whistle approached.
A second half of being second best to everything really cost us.
22 Mignolet - 6/10 - Fairly disappointing from the Belgian, looked shaky from the off.
02 Bardsley - 6/10 - Not the usual marauding Bardo, more subdued and SAFC less attacking as a result.
04 Turner - 5/10 - Poor for the first goal, and never really recovered.
06 Cattermole - 6/10 - Wasted a glorious chance to get us level, otherwise ok though.
08 Malbranque - 7/10 - One of the better performers on the day, held the ball well, but also missed a good chance.
10 Henderson - 7/10 - On fire in the first half, but ran out of ideas in the second.
11 Muntari - 4/10 - Awful in possession, and didn't do a good job of proving why he should stay at the club.
15 Onuoha - 6/10 - Decent at the back, poor as a makeshift striker. Not that I expected much from him there.
25 Colback - 8/10 - Never wasted possession once, which is more than can be said for the rest.
27 Elmohamady - 6/10 - Decent opening half, good crosses, but then became non-existent.
28 Sessegnon - 7/10 - Can't fault his effort, needed more help which never arrived.
07 Zenden - 5/10 - Came on and added little.
29 Ferdinand - 5/10 - Only time he had to do anything he ballsed it up.
38 Lynch - 5/10 - Nice to make his debut, but generally offered very little in a game that was already lost.
The boo's rang out at full-time, and rightly so, we were abysmal today.
It was going to be a difficult task with no recognised striker, but I along with 40,000 others did expect some sort of fight to be put up.
It looks as though we are safe from relegation at least, but still this defeat hurts. Not the result, it could have been 10-0 for all I care, it was the performance. This didn't look the same side that pulled themselves up by the boot straps against Wigan Athletic just seven days ago.
With Niall Quinn looking at "7 or 8" signings this summer, results like this won't attract the quality we need.
A better performance at Bolton Wanderers needed next week, well, actually it will be a better performance. It can't get much bloody worse than today.
I'm keeping the faith, just about anyway, I hope you are too.