Match Report: Fulham 1-3 Sunderland - Three-sy Does It

Julian Finney

Three goals, three points and surely smiles all round on Wearside. It was far from a great performance today at Craven Cottage but with three valuable points on the board there's not a great deal of room for complaint.

The opening fifteen minutes of the game were incredibly quiet. Perhaps too quiet, as neither side seemed to really want to commit to anything particularly adventurous.

John O'Shea did something well for the first time in a few weeks in intercepting a ball destined for Alexander Kacaniklic from Dimitar Berbatov, clearing well. Berbatov found himself on the end of a cross a few minutes later which caused absolutely no panic for Simon Mignolet at all.

At the other end, the best we could muster in twenty or so minutes was Stephane Sessegnon taking a pot shot from distance which went well over Mark Schwarzer's crossbar. A nice move involving Sess, Seb Larsson and Steven Fletcher almost yielded a chance but instead only a piss-poor corner.

The plus sides of this period seemed to only be that we were containing Fulham very well. When the ball found itself anywhere near the edge of the area a wall of our defenders usually robbed any attacker of possession well. Just we couldn't really do anything with it after that.

Sunderland were given something more to think about after 26 minutes when Alexander Kacaniklic came off with a foot injury, replaced by Hugo Rodallega, who slotted straight in to the left hand side.

Action at last on the half hour as Brede Hangeland received his marching orders with a straight red card. With the ball there to be won on the half way line, he and Lee Cattermole contest it, but for a change it wasn't our skipper who went in two-footed. The red card rightly produced by Lee Probert, much to the displeasure of the home support.

Dimitar Berbatov then wasted a pretty decent chance when he opted to side foot rather than power it towards goal, meaning an easy gather for Mignolet. Berbatov came a little closer to breaking the deadlock with five minutes to go in the half but he drilled wide from a tight angle after escaping the attention of Carlos Cuellar.

Our chances came though with the extra man advantage too. Steven Fletcher charged towards goal and saw an effort deflect over for a corner. You don't need me to tell you that came to nothing.

Sessegnon should have done better when he found himself in on goal, but rather inexplicably chose to try and square it to Fletcher rather than take the shot on himself. A chance wasted as the half time whistle blew.

The first five minutes of the first half suggested that we were in for more of the same, that was until a 30 second spell seemed to turn the game on it's head.

A handball shout against John Arne Riise never came, and the Norwegian's effort came crashing back off the bar via huge deflection off Phil Bardsley and onto the cross bar. Very lucky. Mignolet was completely stranded.

Fortuitously from the ball coming back off the bar we counter attacked and did it well. Adam Johnson played a wonderful ball in behind the Fulham defence froma wide left position, Fletcher latched on to it, took a great touch and with his second prodded neatly beyond Schwarzer for the opener.

That seemed to have us playing the way we can, grabbing the game by the throat and not even remotely looking like self-destructing as we usually do. Spoiler Alert - that comes later.

Fulham made their final change, introducing Mladen Petric for an injured Bryan Ruiz, and he proved to be quite the nuisance for us. With almost his first touch he sneaked in at the front post to fire over the top of the crossbar.

It came as a surprise to no-one that he bagged the equaliser, and even less surprise that we shot ourselves in the foot to allow him to score.

Damien Duff got himself in behind the defence after we tried to play an offside. Duff was nowhere near offside and play naturally continued with him picking the ball up, us standing around scratching our arses and complaining, and Petric nipped in to level things up.

Did you expect anything less?

Seemingly undeterred by this we continued to attack, and it wasn't long before we were back in front. Adam Johnson saw a curling effort palmed away by Schwarzer, however we did manage to recapture the lead through Carlos Cuellar.

The goal was an odd one. Mainly because it was our first corner of the game which wasn't absolutely horrendous, and Cuellar rose well above Sidwell to head into the bottom corner. Cuellar must have felt a bit of relief after scoring his first goal for the club having been the man who played Duff onside minutes earlier.

We grabbed a valuable cushion just five minutes later when Sessegnon opened his box of magic tricks. Up to this point he'd been really quite awful and was a clear candidate to get the hook. This is exactly why you persevere with him though.

While we had a man injured we decided to continue playing. Johnson played the ball off to Sessegnon near the corner of the penalty area. Head down, a few men beaten and then an unstoppable drive in off the far post from a full 20 plus yards. A lovely goal.

It knocked the stuffing out of Fulham somewhat. Hugo Rodallega's freekick went straight into the wall while Steve Sidwell in acres of space seemed to get himself terribly confused and couldn't find a way past Simon Mignolet who came to meet it and made himself very big.

Sunderland had the ball in the net for a fourth time through Steven Fletcher but this one was ruled out for offside. It would have been a nice goal too. Sessegnon robbed Sidwell near the half way line and fed Jack Colback. He in turn fed Johnson to cross for Fletcher to tap the ball in, but the linesman got the call correct again.

Time flittered away nicely for us. Substitutes James McClean and Hugo Rodallega exchanged poor shots from distance, Lee Cattermole and Dimitar Berbatov had a bit of handbags, but this was to be our day. Not a vintage performance, but with three goals and three points, who the hell cares?

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