Fulham 2 Sunderland 1 - Match Report

last updated Monday 02nd January 2006, 5:05 PM
Collins John
Collins John

Fulham ended their festive schedule on a winning note with a Collins John double rescuing them from a potentially embarrassing defeat by Sunderland.

The Black Cats, who began the day seven points adrift at the foot of the Barclays Premiership table, took a shock lead through a stunning volley from Liam Lawrence.

But injury-hit Fulham hit back with a goal in each half from John with the second arriving shortly after Stephen Caldwell's straight red card for his tackle on Heidar Helguson.

Chris Coleman's side made hard work of dispatching Sunderland, who have won only one Premiership match all season, but just about deserved the three points.

They paid the price for yet another defensive error with Lawrence punishing a lame clearance from Zat Knight and against a better team there would have been no way back.

Their numerical advantage was effectively over in the 75th minute when substitute midfielder Steed Malbranque limped off and Coleman had no one else to bring on, but they had already done enough to ease their own relegation fears.

With a little more luck Sunderland could have left Craven Cottage with some reward and they appeared capable of salvaging a point until late in the game.

They made a dream start when a defensive blunder from Knight allowed them to take a seventh minute lead.

Danny Collins crossed from the left but Knight's attempted clearance fell into the path of Lawrence who fired home on the volley with a magnificent left-foot drive.

Fulham worked their way into the box on a couple of occasions but their final ball was poor and Sunderland's defence easily snuffed out the threat.

Sylvain Legwinski and Papa Bouba Diop, playing his last game before leaving for the African Nations Cup, tried their luck from long range but both shots were well wide.

Fulham could have equalised in the 21st minute when Brian McBride capitalised on an error from Gary Breen to feed Luis Boa Morte who went racing down the left.

Boa Morte waited until the last possible moment to square the ball but Collins cleared it with Collins John charging in at the far post.

Sunderland, who made just one change following Saturday's 1-0 defeat by Everton with Anthony le Tallec replacing Andy Gray, had faded as an attacking force and were giving the ball away with increasing regularity.

McBride went close at the far post with stout defending from Caldwell denying him and the Sunderland defender headed away an on-target free-kick from the USA international shortly after.

Jonathan Stead and Lawrence combined as Sunderland edged their way back into the match but the latter's final ball was poor and Fulham escaped Lawrence threatened again in the 39th minute but goalkeeper Tony Warner beat him to the ball.

Senegal midfielder Diop was struggling so Coleman brought him off in the 40th minute with Helguson, who was injured himself in Saturday's 1-0 defeat by Portsmouth, coming on.

The loss of Fulham's star midfielder failed to dent the home side's confidence, however, and they equalised in the 43rd minute.

Tomasz Radzinski crossed to McBride on the edge of the area with the American's flicked-on header finding John who prodded home.

Knight should have given Fulham the lead two minutes after the interval but his shot flew miles of target even though he was only some 12 yards from goal.

A powerful run from Whitehead was ended by a double tackle by Knight and Liam Rosenior but the ball squirted out to Lawrence who was inches wide of the left post with his shot.

Sunderland keeper Kelvin Davis kept out a Radzinski free-kick with a fine fingertip save and the visitors found themselves under further pressure with the 57th minute dismissal of Caldwell.

The ball was slipped to Helguson whose sprint to the goal was halted by a foul from Caldwell - the last line of defence - and Dermot Gallagher had no hesitation in showing him a red card.

Match Stats Fulham Sunderland
Goals 2 1
Goal attempts 12 10
On Target 9 7
Corners 6 6
Fouls 9 14
Yellows 2 2
Reds 0 1
source: Sporting Life

Fulham did nothing with the free-kick but were more successful in the 61st minute when they took the lead.

Helguson, who had impressed since replacing Diop, crossed from the left to the far post where John drifted between Gary Breen and Julio Arca and nodded in at the right corner.

Sunderland made three substitutions in the 65th minute with Nyron Nosworthy, Daryl Murphy and Gray coming on as boss Mick McCarthy looked to breath new life into his side's fading hopes.

The lively Lawrence, easily Sunderland's most dangerous player, then shot wide before Fulham replaced John with French midfielder Steed Malbranque.

Malbranque limped off with a dead leg in the 78th minute, a challenge from Tommy Miller doing the damage, but as Coleman had used all of his substitutes Fulham were also down to 10 men.

Sunderland were under the cosh in the last 15 minutes with Arca also getting booked but Fulham were unable to make another breakthrough.

Fulham: Warner, Leacock, Pearce, Knight, Rosenior (Niclas Jensen 75), Boa Morte, Diop (Helguson 40), Legwinski, Radzinski, McBride, John (Malbranque 69).
Subs Not Used: Drobny, Rehman.

Booked:
Dean Leacock(41,f)
Sylvain Legwinski (59,f)

Goals:
Collins John 43,
Headed goal into top-right of goal from right side of penalty area 12 yards out (assist by McBride)

Collins John 61, Headed goal into bottom-right of goal from right side of penalty area12 yards out (assist by Heidar Helguson)

Sunderland: Davis, Hoyte (Murphy 64), Breen, Caldwell, Arca, Lawrence, Whitehead, Collins, Le Tallec (Nosworthy 64), Stead (Gray 65), Miller.
Subs Not Used: Alnwick, Woods.

Sent Off: Caldwell (57).

Booked: Miller, Arca.

Goals: Lawrence 7.

Att: 19,372

Ref: D Gallagher (Oxfordshire).

Source sportinglife
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