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Sunderland 2-2 Fulham Prem28 1213 Daily Telegraph

last updated Monday 04th March 2013, 11:32 PM

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Luke Edwards at Daily Telegraph

Sunderland (1) 2 Fulham (2) 2

Sunderland and Fulham shared a point and also a sense of frustration they had not taken all three. Both had a case for a hard-luck story, both struggled to present an entirely convincing argument to support it. A draw was a fair result.

Fulham were the better side in the first half and perfectly executed a counter-attacking plan, yet Sunderland, as they tend to do on home soil, gradually built up a head of steam and finished the game looking the more likely to snatch a winner.

At the same time, Fulham will feel, having gone two goals ahead 10 minutes before half-time, they should have held on and they could well have scored a third seconds before their hosts equalised, Dimitar Berbatov firing against the legs of Simon Mignolet following a brilliant chip pass from Bryan Ruiz.

When the loose ball broke, Sunderland's one outstanding player, St├ęphane Sess├Ęgnon, picked it up, and fed Adam Johnson. When his pass to Steven Fletcher was cut out by Philippe Senderos, Sessegnon arrived on the edge of the area and lashed a low shot into the bottom corner.

You had to admire Sunderland's spirit and determination, while also bemoaning their poor set-piece delivery and continued vulnerability in the full-back positions. In Craig Gardner and Jack Colback, Martin O'Neill has shunted two midfielders back to fill the gap and it showed as Gardner hung out a leg for Ashkan Dejagah to fall over. Berbatov duly put Fulham in front with the coolest of penalties, looking in one direction while side-footing the ball in the other.

Fulham scored their second goal in similar circumstances to Sunderland's equaliser, breaking free from a Black Cats corner through Ruiz and the lively Dejagah, allowing Sascha Riether to bundle in his first goal for the club after Mignolet had spilled.

Had Fulham made it to half-time with that lead, they probably would have gone on to win, but they also conceded a soft penalty before the break when Senderos pulled back Danny Graham and Gardner converted.

"We dominated them in midfield," said Jol. "If you look at the first half, we deserved to win, but they scored a penalty and that got them back into it. There was contact, but it wasn't a spot-kick.

"On the one hand it is a good point, on the other we could really have done the business today."

O'Neill, who claimed "not to have heard" Sunderland fans booing James McClean when he came on in the second half following his Tweet about a pro-IRA song, felt his side should have had another penalty after the break "when Senderos clearly handled" but the "referee chose not to give it." He added: "We could have and should have won. There was terrible organisation for their second goal, but I'm pleased with the way we rallied."

Sunderland (4-4-2): Mignolet; Gardner, Bramble, O'Shea, Colback; Sessegnon, Larsson, N'Diaye, Johnson; Graham (McClean 76), Fletcher.
Subs not used: Westwood, Bardsley, Vaughan, Mangane, Cuellar.

Booked: N'Diaye.

Fulham (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise; Karagounis (Frimpong 65), Sidwell; Dejagah (Rodallega 85), Ruiz, Duff (Emanuelson 80); Berbatov.
Subs not used: Etheridge, Petric, Frimpong, Richardson, Hughes.

Booked: Hangeland, Riether, Sidwell.

Attendance: 39,312.

Referee: Mark Halsey (Herts).

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