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Sunderland 0-0 Fulham FAC 4r 1415 Daily Mail

last updated Monday 26th January 2015, 1:37 PM
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Craig Hope at Daily Mail

Sunderland (0) 0-0 (0) Fulham

Jack Rodwell was once a highly-rated future England captain, right?

Sadly, his career is drifting by. It says everything that Sunderland actually improved following his second-half dismissal.

But don't let that minor upturn mask what was a dreadful match - what must home debutant Jermain Defoe have thought? On this evidence, he's staring at an awfully long three-and-a-half years on Wearside.

Sunderland fans can only hope he does not regress into the same rut in which Rodwell finds himself.

This was only his 12th start since his £10 million arrival from Manchester City, but that fee looks inflated with every sorry showing.

The 23-year-old was lucky not to see red for a first-half lunge on Konstantinos Stafylidis, but was given his marching orders for a second yellow when he needlessly impeded goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli on 66 minutes.

Remarkably, Black Cats boss Gus Poyet refused to criticise the three-times-capped midfielder.

'Sometimes you do things that you would not do again. You don't have time to think. I'm not bothered about it,' he said.

What Poyet was disturbed by was his side's lacklustre performance.

'I'm more bothered about the disconnection with the fans. I think they want Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips back, but that's not going to happen,' he added.

'The first half was poor and it was difficult to watch. We didn't pass it well or have the pressure in their half. I wouldn't like to watch that week in, week out.'

Poyet was right. The first half was everything which has become so disheartening about this competition at times - two teams feigning interest, rendering the contest utterly meaningless.

Highlights? Lowlights more like. There was a Patrick van Aanholt shot which smashed new team-mate Defoe flush in the face. That got a laugh, at least.

The home crowd were rightly restless at half-time. Despite playing two up front - Defoe and Steven Fletcher - Poyet eroded that positivity by starting with five defenders.

It wasn't until the 56th minute that Defoe registered an effort towards goal - a dipping 25-yard strike dropping way wide. Still, it was progress.

And Defoe came a damn sight closer to breaking the deadlock four minutes later when his volley, from Billy Jones' centre, was shoveled around the post by man-of-the-match Bettinelli.

The new signing drew another instinctive stop from the Fulham netminder when flicking Rodwell's mishit shot on target, Bettinelli reacting to shin clear.

From the resulting corner the keeper confidently gathered and, as he strode forward to launch a counter-attack, Rodwell intervened with a mindless tug and was off.

Fulham boss Kit Symons - whose side could have nicked it when Hugo Rodallega cracked the post late on - said: 'The sending-off stirred Sunderland into life if anything.

'But to come here to a Premier League side and equip ourselves like we did, I can be proud.'

As it is, these two will replay a week on Tuesday - just don't expect a surge for tickets.

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