Sunderland 2 Fulham 1: Le Tallec and Brown combine to help Sunderland avoid home whitewash

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Having long since lost the war, Sunderland finally mustered enough to win a battle, and they can now say that still no club in the history of English professional football has navigated an entire season without a home win.

Amid a campaign littered with unwanted records, goals from Anthony Le Tallec and Chris Brown ensured that particular albatross does not accompany the Black Cats into the Championship.

Fulham became the first visiting side since Liverpool in December 2002 to taste Premiership defeat at the Stadium of Light, some 29 games ago.

"You'll not take this big smile off my face," said Kevin Ball, the caretaker manager, reflecting on his first victory in nine attempts.

"It's been very difficult for everyone connected with the club this season, and this was a must-win situation for so many reasons. We needed to send the fans home happy."

Sunderland broke the deadlock on 32 minutes. George McCartney and Andy Welsh, who impressed following his return from a loan stint at Leicester, exchanged passes down the left before the latter delivered an inviting cross which Le Tallec stole in at the near post to head beyond Mark Crossley.

In a season as wretched as this, a fifth goal for the Frenchman represents an almost prolific return.

Brown doubled the lead 12 minutes after the interval, outpacing Philippe Christanval to slide home his first Premiership goal courtesy of a close-range rebound after Crossley had failed to hold a Nyron Nosworthy shot.

Fulham rarely played at anything above testimonial pace, but this being Sunderland they inevitably made life hard for themselves. Substitute Tomasz Radzinski cut in from the right to send a shot into the top corner from 18 yards to ensure a tense final 14 minutes for the home side. Collins John rippled the side-netting within 60 seconds, but Sunderland hung on for only a third League win of the campaign.

"We only started playing in the last 20 minutes, but I can't be too hard on the guys," said Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager. "Sunderland were better than us, simple as that. I'm pleased for the Sunderland fans and delighted for Bally."

Luis Boa Morte and Ian Pearce both left the fray early through injury and are unlikely to play on Sunday against Middlesbrough.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Davis; Nosworthy, Caldwell, Breen, McCartney; Hoyte (Kyle, 74), Miller, Whitehead, Welsh; Brown, Le Tallec (D Murphy, 81). Substitutes not used: Alnwick(gk), D Collins, Leadbitter.

Fulham (4-4-2): Crossley; Rosenior, Christanval, Pearce (Brown, 69), Bridge; Malbranque, Diop, Elliott, Boa Morte (Radzinski, 18); Helguson, McBride (John, 69). Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Volz.

Referee: M Riley (Leeds).