Vito Mannone - 7
Another decent performance from Mannone, who has looked very very good since coming in for Westwood at Hull. The Shark-Faced Italian pulled off another couple of fine saves today, with the best coming near the end as he got down very quickly to deny Steve Sidwell a tap-in from point-blank range. However, he does get deducted a mark as he really should've come out for the corner that allowed Fulham an equaliser early in the second half.
Phil Bardsley - 6
A mostly solid performance from the right back. Never looked particularly troubled in defence and had a trademark long range effort tipped wide for a corner when it was still 0-0. He did manage to pick himself up a silly booking for kicking the ball away, but most of Fulham's relatively minor threat came down the Sunderland left or centre so his caution was never exploited by the home side.
John O'Shea - 7
A solid Premier League return for the captain. Never looked particularly stretched in defence today, and was probably unlucky not to get himself an assist when he headed Johnson's freekick back across the goal early on where it should've been headed home by Steven Fletcher.
Wes Brown - 7
Another good performance from Big Bad Wesley Brown. Nearly gave away the lead in the first half when a misplaced pass/touch lead to a clear chance at goal that Berbatov badly mucked up, but recovered well after that. Highlights were a fantastic challenge to win the ball back and stop a one-on-one in the penalty area (probably a sending off, according to Mark Hughes) and then managing to scramble the ball out for a corner after Mannone's excellent save late on.
Marcos Alonso - 5
It's probably fair to say that the Spaniard didn't impress as much today as he did on his debut. He still managed to put a few good deliveries into the box, but at the back he was beaten a few times allowing Fulham to get the ball into the Sunderland area. He was also to fault for the goal where he really shouldn't have allowed Steve Sidwell to get in front of him and head the ball in unopposed. I like the lad, but he needed to be a bit more diligent in his defensive work today.
Ki Sung-Yeung - 9
Managed, along with Lee Cattermole and Jack Colback, to win a fair few freekicks in the first half by knowing when to hold onto the ball and invite the challenge. However, the best was yet to come from the Korean. His goal from Adam Johnson's freekick was a lovely training ground move, with the winger delivering the ball on the ground behind the scrum of players in the Fulham area. When Ki latched onto the ball his finish, delivered powerfully, was perfect and although it took a few deflections it has to go down as his goal. It gets better still, several times when Sunderland were 2-1 up and counter-attacked he made himself available down the middle with driving runs, but wasn't picked out. When he finally was by Jozy Altidore he played an absolute inch perfect pass through to Adam Johnson to create Sunderland's third goal. Ki's play just oozes class, what a fantastic addition he's been.
Jack Colback - 6
In for Seb Larsson after the Swede ran himself into the ground in the last two games, the Ginger Prince did well enough without creating many waves. It was a very "Colback" performance in truth; he worked hard and mostly kept the ball well, but failed to offer much going forwards. A slightly rash challenge saw him pick up a yellow card, and there was at least one time when his failure to close quick enough could've been punished by a side with better distance shooters.
Lee Cattermole - 7
With the arrival of Liam Bridcutt expected to be imminent, Cattermole produced a performance that showcased a lot of his good and bad points. He made a few absolutely crucial tackles to win the ball and then set off counter-attacks in the second half, but was also goaded into a few rash challenges by Taarabt as well. Another tackle, on Scott Parker, wasn't in truth too dissimilar to the challenge that got him sent off against Hull earlier in the season. Also, possibly could be blamed in part for not challenging Sidwell as he scored the Fulham goal. However for the most part Cattermole was a key presence at the base of Sunderland's midfield, distributing the ball well and stifling Fulham when they got to the edge of Sunderland's area.
Fabio Borini - 6
Not the greatest of performances from Borini, who has been rather good of late. The Liverpool loanee had a great chance early on when Adam Johnson sent a lovely ball over the top of the Fulham defence, but he just couldn't quite reach it after having made a clever run. Apart from that he was quieter than usual, and was the obvious choice to come off when Poyet wanted to add Seb Larsson for a bit more defensive stability.
Adam Johnson - 10
BOOM BOOM SHAKE THE ROOM. More on Adam Johnson's rather brilliant performance below.
Steven Fletcher - 4
Worryingly, Steven Fletcher continued to look out of sorts today. The bearded Scotsman yet again spurned a couple of good chances, and apart from receiving the ball to feet and laying off well enough, didn't really look in the game. Early on in the first half Adam Johnson's free kick was headed back to Fletcher by John O'Shea, positioned centrally and able to rise and get to the ball before the 'keeper he really should've put Sunderland into the lead rather than looping his header over the bar. Late on another fantastic cross from Johnson was headed wide by Fletcher when he should've done better. Poyet continuing to start the striker suggests that rumours about him being on his way are inaccurate, but he isn't showing many signs of being the man to score us out of the relegation zone either.
Jozy Altidore - 7
Poyet used Altidore the same way he's used him a couple of times this season; bringing him on for Fletcher later in the game, when Sunderland have dropped deeper, as a striker more capable of battling physically with tired defenders in order to hold the ball up and give the defence a break. His work to break and play in Ki for Sunderland's third goal was crucial, but he never seems to look that comfortable when it comes to getting in, and taking advantage of, scoring situations. A pull-back by Johnson went just behind him at one point, and whilst it wasn't his fault that the cross didn't find him he was very slow to react and had he thought just a bit quicker could perhaps have still got to the ball and kept the attack alive. He did do well to win the penalty though; driving into the box and panicking Senderos into rashly raising a leg for the American to conveniently flop over. This, incidentally, was a bit of a theme today. Altidore, Borini and Johnson all went to ground at times in a manner not entirely dissimilar to the contestants in Splash!
Seb Larsson - 6
Introduced for Borini to add a bit more of a defensive aspect to the side, Seb did pretty much just that. At one point he charged towards the goal from the right wing in a way that he hasn't done in seemingly yonks, which was quite fun.
Ondrej Celustka - 5
Came on with a few minutes to go primarily just to make sure Adam Johnson received a well deserved ovation from the fantastic away support.
Man Of The Match: Adam Johnson
What a month this lad's having. Under Poyet Johnson has often found himself on the bench or flitting in and out of the side with a string of fairly mediocre performances, but perhaps he needed a jolt like being told he wasn't an automatic starter to unlock his undoubted quality on a more persistent basis. Poyet spoke during the week of the importance of having someone in the side who isn't afraid to run at defenders and take them on, and Johnson proceeded to prove his manager's words 100% correct all game.
In the first half hour he stayed mostly wide on the right tying a progressively more stressed looking John Arne Riise in knots. He then cut inside beating a few players before going down under the challenge he was waiting for from Steve Sidwell. Confidently (how nice is it to see that from him?) stepping up to the resultant free kick, he curled it beautifully home in the exact same manner as he had done versus Carlisle in the FA Cup.
He continued to make dangerous runs on and off the ball for the rest of the match, and his second was a counter-attacking goal of sheer unadulterated beauty. Altidore played in Ki who held onto the ball until the precisely right moment, when he slid an inch perfect through ball out to Johnson whose finish, through the legs of the keeper, was just as perfect as the pass. It was a sensational goal, and quite possibly should come with at least a 15 age certificate. Then, when Altidore won the penalty, only one man was ever going to stand up to take it. Coolly slotting it into the corner as the keeper dived the other way Johnson rounded off his best performance in a Sunderland shirt with a well-deserved hat-trick.
We'll have more reaction in the coming days, so loiter round our Match Stream like a bad smell HERE awaiting that coverage.