10-man Fulham come unstuck: Fulham 1-3 Sunderland

Julian Finney

Martin Jol's side put in a tremendous shift as they succumbed to an organised, numerically advantaged Sunderland side.

You could have quite easily questioned the referee over why he decided Brede Hangeland's tackle had deserved a sending off but it would probably be more rewarding, and apt, if you asked Lady Luck just where she was on Sunday afternoon. She certainly wasn't in SW6.

One red card. Two and a half injuries. A 3-1 loss at home. Oh, and yet another goal conceded to a set piece.

The last is, of course, no result of misfortune, but more a worryingly distinct incapability to mark, contain and clear the most simple of corners. It's an issue which has wounded us many times this season and you have to wonder just when it will cease. If never, then surely some concerns should be flung in the direction of an otherwise unimpeachable Martin Jol.

As you may have guessed by now, this was no cut and dry defeat. Fulham dominated large chunks of this game, even with ten men on the pitch - nine if you consider the ghastly gash inflicted upon Mladen Petric's leg as any kind of hindrance. Dimitar Berbatov was again classy, Ruiz again silky.

But, unfortunately, some nights just cannot be yours and, at the very least, we can be assured that our season's worth of injustice is already past us. Or at least we can hope so.

The home side definitely started the brighter. We passed well while Sunderland looked flat and devoid of creativity. Perhaps more notably, though, was that despite our hold over the game, genuine chances were rare.

In fact, you'd be hard pushed to say the first half carried much entertainment at all, until the harsh sending off of captain Hangeland. With Jol already forced into removing Alex Kacaniklic through injury, his Norwegian skipper lunged in on Lee Cattermole and was immediately sent off. Whether it was two-footed is questionable in itself but as to any intent, there clearly was none.

Cattermole himself would dish tackles like that out all day if he could but, alas, this is besides the point.

It didn't seem to put Fulham off immediately though, Berbatov firing a shot straight at an in-form Simon Mignolet. The Belgian stopper had a solid afternoon and, arguably, was a significant reason behind Sunderland's preservation of their lead at the end of the game.

10-man Fulham were still throwing men forward and it was Berbatov again who spurned the next chance, firing wide as he did after being released by Aaron Hughes.

And this strength in crisis continued in the second period. A John Arne Riise shot deflected onto the cross bar but it was this opportunity that led to Sunderland's opener.

With credit to the visitors, they broke with admirable pace and Adam Johnson laid a superb ball to Steven Fletcher who, as he does, finished calmly. 1-0 Sunderland.

Bryan Ruiz was the next drop out for Jol as he pulled up directly in front of the home technical area. The Costa Rican was removed and, as a sign of intent, Petric was his replacement.

The forward's impact was instant and impressive. Damien Duff was adjudged onside - though, from the static nature of the Sunderland back line, you wouldn't have thought it - and he drove a ball across the goal which Petric connected with smartly.

It was a deserved equaliser and it felt as though, despite the numerical disadvantage and a fresh injury to Petric's leg, Fulham could push on from there.

But then again, there are set pieces in football. As Fulham's goalscorer received treatment on the sidelines, leaving nine players, a Sebastian Larsson corner was met by the head of Carlos Cuellar. Now the injustice began to kick into effect.

Still, though, the Whites didn't pull their foot off the gas but, ultimately, that would be their undoing. Another breakaway was finished brilliantly by Stephane Sessegnon and the game was now quite clearly beyond repair.

Sunderland lowered the tempo of the match as Fletcher fired in another, only to be ruled offside. Fulham still sensed some sort of reprieve and Steve Sidwell wasted a glorious opportunity when faced by Mignolet in the penalty area.

The goalkeeper would again save the away side as he batted away a Petric strike with his arm, after the Croatian had been set free.

No consolation would come, though and, in truth, that wouldn't have been enough. We deserved far more than that.

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