Match Report: Relief for Martin O'Neill as Sunderland finally find scoring boots against Fulham

Fulham 1 Sunderland 3

Craven Cottage

This was just what Sunderland had been waiting for. For the first time this season, their talented attackers all played well in combination. For the first time since he arrived, Adam Johnson showed why he is an England international. And for the first time since 4 February, Sunderland won an away league game.

When Johnson and Steven Fletcher were bought in the summer there was hope on Wearside of a new birth of attacking football. Although Fletcher started with five goals in his first four league games, he had received little support from his team-mates, Johnson included. Before yesterday, Sunderland had looked like a team struggling to find their voice, with one win and seven goals from their first 10 league games.

But yesterday, in the second half, Sunderland finally looked like the side they were meant to be, scoring three goals within 20 minutes to win the game. Fletcher, Johnson and Stephane Sessegnon combined and attacked with the imagination and precision Sunderland have lacked all season. It was almost a surprise watching them that it had taken that long.

Despite a poor first half, the only incident of which was Brede Hangeland being sent off for a two-footed tackle on Lee Cattermole, the visitors were far better after the break. Five minutes after the restart, Johnson produced his single finest moment of quality in a Sunderland shirt so far. Breaking after a Fulham corner, Johnson had the ball near the half-way line on the left and bent a wonderful diagonal pass around the back of Philippe Senderos and into the path of Fletcher, who scored. Sunderland had been waiting all season for those two to combine so effectively.

Johnson, finally playing with confidence, tried a subtle chip to Sessegnon which nearly came off before curling a left-footed shot towards the bottom corner, inducing a desperate save from Mark Schwarzer. Damien Duff equalised before Johnson returned Sunderland to the lead, perfectly finding Carlos Cuellar’s forehead from a corner.

With an advantage of numbers and goals, Sunderland continued to push for a third. It came with 20 minutes left when Fletcher broke down the left and found Sessegnon, who spun inside and shot into the far top corner. It was the quality he had seemed to have misplaced over the summer. “Sessegnon has been searching for that confidence all season,” Martin O’Neill said afterwards. “He can strike the ball. You wouldn’t have thought that from the first six of seven games of the season but he’s taking it onto the pitch now.”

Fulham’s ten tired men could not cope with Sunderland’s pace but they performed admirably throughout. They could never quite find a rhythm, losing Alexander Kacanikilic to injury before Hangeland was sent off. It was not a malicious tackle but with two feet off the ground Hangeland could have no complaints.

To their credit, Fulham continued to attack and when Bryan Ruiz limped off Martin Jol threw on striker Mladen Petric, even with Hugo Rodallega and Dimitar Berbatov already on the pitch. Petric nearly scored with his first touch but shot over. He only had to wait a few minutes before scoring the equaliser, sweeping in Damien Duff’s cross after Duff had exchanged passes with Rodallega.

Petric continued to lead the charge and nearly made it 3-2, dancing inside Cuellar before shooting at Simon Mignolet. Hughes also tested the goalkeeper but Sunderland were too firm in defence.

“We became a bit sloppy, maybe because we hadn't won for some time,” explained a delighted but relieved O’Neill afterwards, “but we ended up with the win. It was just what we needed.”

Fulham (4-2-3-1): Schwarzer 7; Riether, Hughes 5, Hangeland 3, Riise 6; Sidwell 6, Karagounis 5 (Senderos, 35, 4); Duff 6, Ruiz 5 (Petric, 60, 7), Kacanikilic 5 (Rodallega, 28, 6); Berbatov 6

Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Mignolet 8; Bardsley 6, O’Shea 7, Cuellar 6, Rose 6; Larsson 6  (McClean, 70), Cattermole 7, Colback 6 (Vaughan, 79), Johnson 8; Sessegnon 7; Fletcher 8

Man of the Match: Johnson (Sunderland)

Match Rating: 6

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London