Fulham 1-3 Sunderland

Sometimes you just get a feeling about games. Just when you think things are going well, there’s a nasty surprise around the corner.  In this case the nasty surprise came in the form of Sunderland, a spluttering version of their former selves, Martin O’Neill more or less failing to ignite his expensiveish team to the point where until very recently only one person – Stephen Fletcher – had actually scored for them. But what Sunderland have is a bit of midfield bite, terrors down the flanks, and the fortune to be playing Fulham on a dark Sunday when bad vibes were everywhere. So yes, sometimes you just know.  I put my money where my mouth was and placed a hefty £4 on a Sunderland win, cashed out at half-time when the score was 0-0 but when Brede Hangeland’s sending off had placed Fulham’s game in jeopardy.

It was just one of those games. Sunderland aren’t all that and with 11 men I’m sure my bad vibes would have ended up being misplaced, but as it was we didn’t have 11 because Brede Hangeland became a victim of the current “thou shalt not tackle” dictum. Yes, he left his feet, but only so he could execute a tackle on the half-way line that wasn’t exactly perfectly timed but which did win the ball. The referee’s red card brought disbelief from Hangeland and indeed everyone else. Martin Jol stood up from his bench, for example.

Fulham nearly went ahead anyway, John-Arne Riise shot across goal and hit the bar via a deflection, but this was a problem in the making. With 10 men our covering options were perhaps diminished and nobody had taken Riise’s place. Sunderland broke, Senderos gestured behind him to nobody and ended up covering two people but nobody, a great pass took him out and Fletcher scored easily at the far post. Harsh on Fulham.

But an equaliser came, Duff teeing up the lively Petric for a well taken equaliser. Petric came on when the influential Ruiz was removed with an injury, and made the most of his chance. He’s become a bit of a forgotten man what with everything, but showed phenomenal skill on a number of occasions. We ought to find a way to make the most of his talents, and he should certainly have taken more of the free-kicks we kept winning.  Rodallega seems no better than Riise at these, but still positions himself as one of the go-to-people when there’s a shot on.

Sunderland went back ahead with a Cuellar header from another set piece, Steve Sidwell underlining a miserable game for him by not getting close enough to the goal scorer (and doesn’t that feel like a strange marking assignment?).

Sidwell. I watch Berbatov with interest. Does he feel his team-mates are good enough? Who does he work well with? Ruiz, Duff, anyone really. But his every interaction Sidwell seemed to end in disappointment. I exaggerate, and credit to Sidwell for getting into a few good situations, but it just wasn’t happening. A missed chance in either half following some Berbatov genius was the biggest issue, and could have made the game quite different. But again, credit Sidwell for making the right runs.

Stephane Sessegnon, who apparently has been pretty terrible this season, scored a screaming third to sort it all out once and for all, a wonderful fading drive that Schwarzer couldn’t get near.

3-1, and that was that.  It was an unfortunate defeat for Fulham but not one that holds any great meaning in the big scheme of things: just one of those things.


11 thoughts on “Fulham 1-3 Sunderland

  1. I found this game intensely frustrating, I can’t believe we contrived to lose it. For the first 30 minutes we were nothing special but in complete control – I think Sunderland got into our box once. It looked like a 2-0 win all over.

    Watching the Hangeland tackle live, I thought it looked a bit lively but that he had won the ball – free kick, word in his ear, possible yellow if the ref wanted to put a marker down. I don’t remember any big reaction from Sunderland players. The red was a total shock.

    Watching the replay I still think it was on the harsh side but also that it was a silly challenge from Hangeland which was asking for trouble. It won’t be recinded, if we even appeal. Annoying.

    Then we missed FOUR glaring opportunities – two from Berbatov at 0-0 in the first half, and Sidwell and Petric’s one-on-ones in the second. Incredible (and encouraging) really how many openings we continued to create with one fewer player. Berbatov was immense in his midfield general role. On another day it could have been a famous victory.

    I know we were down to nine but what shocking defending for that Cuellar goal – Hughes and Sidwell are somehow marking each other.


  2. A miserable experience. Fulham was so star-crossed in this that by FT I just wanted it to end before Lee Cattermole shredded Berbatov’s knee. Given the events of the previous 90 minutes, it seemed like the only possible denoument.

    This Sunderland side is lousy — or at least, they played lousy. I confess to having not watched them previously this year. It’s a weird thing to say that a side dominated a game down a man while losing 3-1, but that was how it felt, modulo the fact that absolutely nothing went our way, or worked, or wasn’t terrible.

    The game seemed oddly officiated to me. Hangeland, of course, was sent off for probably the 15th to 20th most reckless challenge of the match, if they were to be ranked in order. Later, Sidwell was carded for a touch on Cattermole that seemed extremely minimal. It’s an odd reversal – usually the more physical players get fewer calls when the tables are turned, but that was not the case today. I’m not nuts about the asymmetric power of the red based on when it’s awarded, or the near-complete lack of oversight in the league in general, but I will leave those complaints for Timmy to flesh out.

    The point was, down a man we had plenty of chances, but everything was a touch off. Ruiz had a shot at the top of the box he elected not to take in favor of one final pass; it seemed the wrong decision in hindsight. Berbatov had a number of shots that didn’t end up in the right places. Petric could have had at least one more, and on and on. Even Riise was dangerously close to ending his drought.

    It’s one thing when the pieces don’t come together, but now with Ruiz and Kaca injured, and Hangeland suspended, it’s grim situation. (Petric claimed on twitter he needed 5 stitches but expected to be available next week.) The sort of stuff where you break the furniture.

    Two final thoughts. First, we need to Just Say No to Riise taking FKs. If Ruiz is on the pitch, he should probably always take them, and even without Ruiz there are better options. Second, Damien Duff — with his haggard, leathery look and his dodgy neckbeard — is increasingly looking like some sort of malevolent forest creature. I love it. He looked ready to murder after taking his umpteenth elbow to the head today, though.

  3. So, the question is: how many games will the ban be? I don’t think (as a ref with 350+ matches under his belt) that this would have even been a yellow in my book. Definitely a talking to, but his studs were down, he got the ball, and he didn’t go over the ball. It was two-footed, for sure, but that was the *only* thing wrong with that challenge. It certainly seems like a three-match ban would be excessive. One of the reasons Hangeland has been my favourite players pretty much since his arrival is that he manages to be an outstanding defender without having to rely on the dirty tricks and manhandling that John Terry seems to traffic in. A gentleman defender, if you will. If anyone didn’t deserve that, it was Hangeland.

  4. A lousy day indeed

    Probert carelessly ruined the game in the first half with a decision that he really didn’t need to make. In another universe it would have been a ticking off and maybe a yellow that would not have featured much in the subsequent match reports. As such it was a harsh decision that became the defing moment of the game rather then any football.

    Sunderland were so lacking in confidence that even with an extra man the sum of their ambition seemed to be disrupt our play with niggly little fouls and try and hit us on the break

    Add in the fact that had we taken some of our many presentable opportunities the outcome could have been a bit different

    Then there is the injuries and suspensions

    And it made my chest infection worse

    Knew I should have stayed in bed…

  5. Have you ever seen a team go a man down at 0-0 and attack MORE!? I haven’t, and whatever the result I loved it. Frustrating, of course. But we played some seriously good football.

    Harsh to criticize Sidwell. Yes, he is one of the more limited passers of the ball. And yes, it was he marking Cuellar at the corner. But we were able to continue to attack and look like we might have gotten something out of the game because he basically acted as a one-man midfield shield for our one-man defense (Aaron Hughes). He and Hughes were absolutely immense. I’ve been very skeptical of Sidwell. But these last two matches he has been immense.

    Even in defeat, I love this Fulham team! Thank you Martin Jol.

  6. It took a 9 1/2 man Fulham with three of their better players removed and no midfield for Sunderland to eek out a win. 3-1 was hugely flattering to them.

    Really frustrating game, but full credit to the players (and the manager) when they simply went for it and came close on a number of occasions to get the goals back.

    Duff, Berbatov, Hughes and Petric were all excellent. Senderos struggled, but it was probably the worst situation possible for him to make a comeback game (no cover, no midfield, down to 10 men etc).

    On to Stoke. With ths current Fulham side, we may lose at the potteries, but by damn I know it is going to be exciting!

  7. What a ridiculous red card it was. Hangeland’s feet came up but only well after he had made contact. Then Rose makes almost exactly the same challenge on Riether except FROM BEHIND, and Bardsley lands a flying elbow to the side of Duff’s head, and neither even merits a foul. It probably won’t be rescinded, because the FA doesn’t like to undermine their referees and we’re not a big enough fish to sway them to do otherwise, but it would be if there were any justice in the world. Undoubtedly the turning point of the match. And Sessegnon wouldn’t score that goal again in 500 tries.

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