Fulham 1 Sunderland 3: Keane's forward push leaves Fulham going backwards, and fast
Painful loss gives 'devastated' Hodgson that sinking feeling
Sunday 06 April 2008
Fulham have been defying the odds for the last seven years by keeping Premier League football afloat down by the Thames, but the waters are rising fast around Roy Hodgson's team. This was a match that was crucial to their chances of survival, but defeat at Craven Cottage left them six points away from safety with only five games left.
Having had the better of the first 44 minutes, Fulham conceded goals either side of half-time and were well beaten by the end. A downcast Hodgson, sounding like a manager who believed that relegation was now all but inevitable, said he was "devastated" by the result.
"This was a game we had to win," he added. "I thought that coming in 1-0 down at half-time was unbelievably cruel. We really believed we could win it and I thought our first-half performance showed that we could, but the game is all about scoring goals and not conceding them. We didn't create enough chances. They defended well and we made some bad mistakes defensively."
Fulham's fortunes are in stark contrast to those of Sunderland, who all but guaranteed their Premier League future with their third successive victory. When Michael Chopra scored the winner at Aston Villa a fortnight ago it was their first goal away from the Stadium of Light for three months; by the end of the second half here they looked like scoring on almost every attack.
Roy Keane, nevertheless, felt there was little to choose between the two teams. The Sunderland manager thought his team played poorly in a first half which Fulham dominated. However, despite Jimmy Bullard's tireless running and thoughtful passing, Hodgson's team created only a handful of half-chances.
Fulham's best opportunity in the first half came after only 11 minutes, but Brian McBride headed Bullard's cross straight into the arms of Craig Gordon. Sunderland played largely on the counter-attack in the first half, but their threat was underlined when Danny Collins headed past Kasey Keller from Andy Reid's free-kick, only to see his effort ruled out for offside.
If that was a warning for Fulham it went unheeded. One minute before the break their defence failed to clear Reid's corner and left Daryl Murphy in too much space on the right. He had time to curl a cross on to the head of Collins, who found the corner of the net.
Some managers might have been expected to sit on a half-time lead away from home, but Keane's response was to replace a midfielder with a forward. Within nine minutes of Chopra's arrival, Kenwyne Jones's flicked header found his new strike partner, who calmly hooked the ball past Keller from eight yards.
David Healy's superb curling shot from 25 yards offered Fulham brief hope, but within two minutes Dean Whitehead's surging run into the penalty area and unselfish pass gave Jones the chance to drive what will surely be one of the final nails in Fulham's Premier League coffin.
Keane may be the most easy-going of managers, but in an interview in yesterday's Irish Times, the former midfielder claimed that Manchester United had told him "basic lies" about the terms of his departure three years ago and said he lost his love of the game the day he left. Clearly that old fire still burns within.
Latest in Sport
Fifa corruption: Could Fifa's president Sepp Blatter face arrest as part of the FBI investigation into alleged corruption?
Paul Scholes column: With Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Bath vs Saracens live: Saracens win Premiership final with 28-16 victory thanks to tries from Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Chris Wyles
Fifa corruption live: Sepp Blatter tries to shift attention to Uefa and says he expects more from US investigators
Young Preston fan who had Jermaine Beckford's shirt stolen from him at Wembley presented with replacement signed by the play-off hero
- 1 Engineer pictured fixing plane's engine with 'duct tape' by concerned EasyJet passenger
- 2 Two-year-old says goodbye to bin man best friend
- 3 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'