Sunderland dominated possession and controlled most of the game but couldn’t break down Fulham as creativity seems an even bigger issue now for Gus Poyet’s men.
Sunderland started well and they dominated the early proceedings with Billy Jones enjoying space down the right. The opening chance came through Jones who crossed to the back post for Van Aanholt who cut the ball back to Defoe but Fulham managed to scramble the ball clear. Moments later Rodwell saw his shot deflect over the bar before he tried his luck again from the edge of the box but he sent his effort wide of the target.
For all of Sunderland’s early dominance it was Fulham who tested the opposing keeper first as they slowly got into the game. A shot by Dembele from the edge of the area on 24 mins had to be pushed away by Mannone into the path of Fofana who sent the rebound high and wide.
Bettinelli was called into action on 33 mins after nice build up play from the Black Cats allowed Van Aanholt to cross for Defoe who couldn’t connect but Seb Larsson latched onto it and his shot had to be saved at the near post.
Sunderland continued to control the game without really causing Fulham any trouble in the final third. Just before half time Fletcher led a counter attack were he sent Bridcutt through down the wing but his cut back was blocked before Defoe could line up a shot.
A fairly mundane first half with Sunderland controlling possession as neither sides really looked like breaking the deadlock.
The second half started much the same as the first with Sunderland controlling possession but unable to unlock the Fulham defence.
Fulham however had the first real chance of the half on 51 mins through on- loan Manchester City midfielder Seko Fofana. The Frenchman cut inside and curled an effort towards the far post but it took a deflection which saw the ball go inches wide.
Sunderland got back on the front foot with Defoe shooting wide from 25 yards before Steven Fletcher had an effort blocked on 58 mins.
The deadlock was nearly broken by Jermain Defoe on 62 mins as Sunderland upped the pressure on the Fulham goal. Jones drove down the right and his cut back was met by Defoe who saw his volley saved onto the post by Bettinelli. Three minutes later Defoe had another chance after latching onto Rodwell’s scuffed effort but his shot was well saved by the outstretched foot of Bettinelli.
Sunderland’s plans to progress without a replay took a major hit after Jack Rodwell was shown a second yellow card on 66 mins when he needlessly impeded Bettinelli as the keeper was trying to throw the ball out.
The game evened out after the sending off but Defoe still looked dangerous when Sunderland could find him and he forced Bettinelli into another good save on 71 mins after volleying towards goal.
As the game entered the final ten minutes Sunderland remained a constant threat after the introduction of Connor Wickham. Van Aanholt had a shot tipped over and Wickham had a 25 yard shot well saved by Bettinelli.
Fulham nearly snatched victory on 87 mins when Hugo Rodallega crashed an effort off the far post and saw his rebound deflect wide off Liam Bridcutt.
The game finished goalless at the Stadium of Light as Sunderland couldn’t turn their possession dominance into goals as they forced no less than 15 corners but were unable to break down the Fulham defence.
Sunderland (3-5-2): Mannone, Vergini, Coates, O’Shea (c), Van Aanholt, Jones (Buckley 76’), Bridcutt, Rodwell, Larsson, Fletcher (Wickham 66’), Defoe.
Subs: Pantilimon, Gomez, Alvarez, Giaccherini, Buckley, Wickham, Graham.
Red Card: Rodwell 66’
Fulham (4-3-3): Bettinelli, Grimmer, Hutchinson, Bodurov, Stafylidis, Tunnicliffe, Fofana (Kačaniklić 75’), Christensen, Ruiz, Woodrow (Rodallega 76’), Dembélé (McCormack 61’).
Subs: Kiraly, Zverotić, Burn, Roberts, Kačaniklić, Rodallega, McCormack.