Fulham 1-3 Sunderland 04 rply fac 1415 The Guardian

last updated Wednesday 04th February 2015, 6:22 PM


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Russell Kempson at The Guardian


Fulham (1) 1-3 (0) Sunderland


Someone had to stand up for the big boys in the FA Cup fourth round and Sunderland did just that last night. After the near carnage, in which Chelsea, Manchester City and Swansea City made their exits to lower league teams, at least Sunderland kept their Premier League flag flying.

It was not without a scare, though, against Fulham of the Championship. Held to a 0-0 draw at the Stadium of Light in the initial meeting, they trailed 1-0 in the replay until a goalkeeping error from Marcus Bettinelli helped them on their way. Bettinelli's own-goal provided the equaliser and the momentum, with late efforts from Ricardo Álvarez and Jordi Gómez, a penalty, securing safe passage into the last 16.

There they will meet Bradford City, the shock conquerors of Chelsea. Gus Poyet is looking forward to the tie but not the notorious pitch at Valley Parade, which often resembles a cabbage patch. "It's going to be tough after what Bradford did because they did something incredible," Sunderland's manager said. "And we are already talking about their pitch, which everyone knows is one of the worst in the country.

"So that is going to make the game different. We'll see how we plan it. Of course, it's not going to be a passing football game. Maybe I'm going to ask the groundsman at our training ground to mash one of the pitches and train on it the week before. Maybe we'll have to play a little more direct.

"Bradford can play a bit, I've seen them, and I'm sure they're not happy about the pitch as well. It's also a problem for them. I'll invite them to come to the Stadium of Light. Our pitch is great. We can ask them to change the venue [of the tie] but I don't think they'll accept that."

Sunderland will need to adapt in West Yorkshire. Yet on a true surface at the Cottage, on a bitterly cold night in west London, they were able to show their skills to the full early on. Fulham hardly got a look-in.

And that was despite Sunderland losing the striker Connor Wickham, who injured a calf in the pre-match warm-up and had to be replaced by Steven Fletcher. It barely made a difference up front, where Sunderland also had the services of Jermain Defoe. He was busy throughout but could not add his second goal for the club since moving from Toronto FC.

Fulham were also a man light at the off, with Bryan Ruiz absent pending international clearance for his loan move to Levante in Spain.

Though Fulham have improved radically since Kit Symons took over as permanent manager, they were fortunate still to be level when they went ahead in the 28th minute. Ross McCormack slung over a corner from the left and, after a scramble in the area, Hugo Rodallega powered the ball home via the crossbar.

"Even though we had been the better team by far, I was not really worried," Poyet said. "I just wanted the players to keep believing that something would happen."

Happen it did, in the 61st minute, when Patrick van Aanholt's cross deflected high into the air and Bettinelli - with barely a challenge in sight - dropped it over the goalline - a huge clanger.

"It was a mistake but Marcus has been excellent for us this season," Symons said. "So I'm not going to point any blame at him. He'll be all right, he's a strong character. One error like that won't affect him too badly. He's a bit upset but these things happen.

"We never really got going in the first half, we never got our passing going. In fact, we never really got going all night. I expected us to play much better but the performance - or the result - was just not there."

After Bettinelli's blooper Sunderland grew in confidence, especially Álvarez, who slalomed in from the right and unleashed a fierce effort. This time Bettinelli had no chance.

He had little chance again when, after Shaun Hutchinson brought down Danny Graham in stoppage time, Gómez coolly converted the penalty and Sunderland, having avoided the embarrassment of many of their peers, rubber stamped their path into the fifth round and a day trip to League One Bradford.

If their cabbage patch is up to it.























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