Sunderland vs Fulham report: Jack Rodwell red doesn't cost Black Cats as Cottagers take fourth round clash to a replay

Sunderland 0 Fulham 0

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The Independent Football

Apparently Toronto’s nice this time of year. If that was going through the mind of Jermain Defoe as he made his greatly anticipated home debut for Sunderland, few could blame him. Long before the end of a joyless afternoon on Wearside, Defoe looked disconsolate.

He was not alone. This was a depressing occasion for Sunderland. They can take nothing from this into the Premier League - and they face Burnley here next Saturday.

Jack Rodwell will not be available, Sunderland’s previous big-money signing being sent off 20 minutes into the second half. Rodwell was fortunate to be shown only yellow for his lunge on Konstas Stafylidis in the first half. Another yellow came after Rodwell hampered Marcus Bettinelli as Fulham’s goalkeeper tried the throw the ball out.

The red card coincided with Sunderland’s best period. At long last, Defoe was provided with a couple of chances, the first a volley from a Billy Jones centre that was going in until the impressive Bettinelli shovelled it away.

Bettinelli then stuck out a leg to thwart an instinctive Defoe toe-poke. Those were Sunderland’s best moments.

“The first half was difficult to watch,” said Gus Poyet, the Sunderland manager. “It was average, poor, boring. In the second half we were more aggressive and the sending-off opened the game up.” Poyet then mentioned the atmosphere: “When the stadium is not happy, the players don’t express themselves.”

He asked for understanding and patience from the crowd. Sunderland’s style under Poyet also demands patience from the players, but yesterday they were far too slow. 

It enabled Fulham to settle. Kit Symons rested Ross McCormack and Hugo Rodallega and, though both appeared as substitutes, had either of them started, the day could have been even worse for Poyet. Four minutes from the end a lay-off from McCormack found Rodallega running on to a 25-yard lash. His effort thumped the left-hand post of Vito Mannone.

The replay on Tuesday week will be an opportunity to rectify Defoe’s isolation. It will also be a chance for Fulham to cause another premature exit for a Premier League side.

Sunderland: (3-4-1-2) Mannone; Vergini, O’Shea, Coates; Jones (Buckly 75), Bridcutt, Rodwell, Van Aanholt; Larsson; Fletcher (Wickham 66), Defoe.

Fulham: (4-3-1-2) Bettonelli; Grimmer, Hutchinson, Bodurov, Stafylidis; Tunnicliffe, Christensen, Fofana (Kacaniklic 75); Ruiz; Woodrow (Rodellega 75), Dembele (McCormack 61).

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Man of the match: Bettinelli (Fulham)

Match rating: 4/10