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Sunderland 0-0 Fulham FAC 4r 1415 Daily Telegraph

last updated Monday 26th January 2015, 1:40 PM
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Luke Edwards at Daily Telegraph

Sunderland (0) 0-0 (0) Fulham

Sunderland are a hard team to beat, but they are becoming even harder to watch, failing to score against Championship side Fulham in yet another uninspiring performance in front of their own supporters.

The Black Cats have now won just two of their 14 home games this season and Gus Poyet's side are going to be in serious trouble if things do not improve. This was the 11th time in 26 games they have failed to score this season.

Given results elsewhere, though, at least they have another chance to progress in the FA Cup in a replay at Craven Cottage.

Jermain Defoe made his home debut alongside Steven Fletcher as Poyet persisted with a two-man strike force, but Sunderland rarely got the ball to either of them in or around the Fulham box.

Indeed, the Championship side played the more attractive football for most of the first half, although they also struggled to create chances.

Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone made one solid save to keep out a powerful strike from Moussa Dembele, while Cauley Woodrow also had a goal-bound effort blocked, but the game was largely played well away from either goal.

The closest Sunderland came to a goal was when Defoe flicked on Patrick van Aanholt's cross, but Seb Larsson shot was saved by the legs of Marcus Bettinelli.

The home crowd booed their team off at the break, but there was little sign of a positive reaction when the players emerged from Poyet's half-time teamtalk as Fulham continued to starve Defoe and Fletcher of service.

Frustration grew, both on and off the pitch, and Seko Fofana almost game Fulham the lead. Cutting in off the left flank, he made room for a shot that curled just wide of the far post thanks to a slight deflection off a Sunderland defender.

Defoe must have started to wonder if he made a mistake signing for the club, his ineffectual display summed up when he completely misjudged a cross from Billy Jones six yards out. Moments later, the England international sent a long range effort wide. At least that drew a ripple of applause from the crowd.

Defoe very nearly had his first goal when he met another Jones cross at the far post on the volley, which Bettinelli did well to keep out despite an awkward bounce in front of him.

Having been little more than a spectator in the first half, Defoe was suddenly at the centre of everything, although he should have scored with his next chance, a stabbed effort in the six yard box that was too close to Bettinelli.

Sunderland were enjoying their best spell of the game, but it came to an end thanks to Jack Rodwell's stupidity.

Booked in the first half for a stud high tackle on Konstantinos Stafylidis, the former Everton and Manchester City was sent off when he picked up another needless yellow card for preventing Bettinelli taking a quick throw after claiming a corner.

Rodwell signed for Sunderland talking enthusiastically about playing regularly again in order to force his way back into the England squad, the 23-year-old has been a huge disappointment.

At times, Rodwell has not even looked good enough to play for a struggling Premier League team, let alone the national side. Given a chance to impress in the absence of Lee Cattermole, Rodwell has not only failed to take it, he left his team in trouble. At £10m, Sunderland expected far more from him than this and the midfielder, such a bright prospect at Everton, reputation is plummeting.

Sunderland actually played better without him, Defoe going close with a low effort from 25-yards before Patrick van Aanholt fired narrowly over and Connor Wickham drew a good save from the goalkeeper.

Fulham held firm, finished the tie strongly and almost caused an upset when substitute Hugo Rodallega shot smashed against the foot of the post.

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