Sunderland re-found their goal scoring touch as they recorded only a second Premier League win at the expense of ten man Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Brede Hangeland’s dismissal midway through the first half was the turning point in the game as Steven Fletcher scored for the first time in six to give Sunderland the lead shortly after the half time interval.
Although second half substitute Mladen Petric drew Fulham level, a quick fire double shortly after from Carlos Cuellar and Stephane Sessegnon wrapped up the game for Martin O’Neill’s side.
Fulham started the game brighter with Dimitar Berbatov the architect in any Fulham move. It was good work from Damien Duff initially before Berbatov slipped a ball inside to Steven Sidwell, only for his shot to lack any power to trouble Sunderland keeper Simon Mignolet.
Despite a few headed chances for Berbatov, a low key game was livened up by the dismissal of Fulham’s Captain on the half hour mark. Hangeland judged to have gone in recklessly with a two footed lunge on lee Cattermole. It was only Fulham’s 2nd red card in 100 premier league games.
A rejuvenated Sunderland side suddenly looked more urgent and were rewarded just after the half time interval. Adam Johnson with a defence splitting pass setting up Fletcher to finish. The goal coming just 14 seconds after Riise had hit the bar at the other end for Fulham.
However, against the run of play, Fulham equalised. Confusion in the Sunderland box, allowed Duff to receive the ball in plenty of space before firing across the box for Petric, who had just replaced the injured Bryan Ruiz, to fire the ball past Mignolet, with the Sunderland players claiming for an offside in the build up.
Fulham’s joy soon turned to despair however. With Petric being forced off momentarily with an injury, Fulham had only nine men defending a corner. Johnson’s in swinging cross finding the head of Cuellar who found the bottom corner. Ironically it was Cuellar who had injured Petric in the previous Fulham attack.
With play opening up, Sunderland killed off the game, when a swift counter attack was finished by a wonderful Sessegnon effort which found the top corner.
Despite Fulham pushing forward, Mignolet pulled off two brilliant saves to deny both Sidwell and Petric, who had worked the ball into promising positions after a good bit of play from Berbatov again.
For Sunderland it’s their first win in six Premier League games to ease the increasing pressure on manager Martin O’Neill, who now sit three points clear of the relegation zone.
The lowest scoring team in England going into the weekend’s games certainly chose the right time to find their shooting boots.