Fulham had all the big guns starting aimed to overtake Cardiff in second spot who were defeated at Derby in midweek. Sunderland were in awful form before the game, their relegation confirmed by a meek defeat by fellow strugglers Burton Albion at home. Coleman was looking for a response from his team who looked to topple Fulham’s impressive 22 match unbeaten run.
From the off that Fulham had a degree of anxiety about their play, with their chance to leapfrog Cardiff clearly affecting their rhythm. They looked disjointed and none of their passing game looked good enough to breach Sunderland’s leaky defence. Sunderland were remarkably aggressive and dynamic, displaying a level of intensity that has been missing from their team all season. Then the impossible happened, the Black Cats were winning the midfield battle and as the ball broke to Joel Asoro in the final third it seemed a harmless opportunity but the Swedish international turned swiftly, took a touch out of his feet and rifled the ball home into the corner, a fabulous goal that livened up the game and woke Fulham from their slumber.
The final ten minutes of the first half were full of incident, Fulham were struggling to break out their own half as Sunderland kept the pressure on. Matt Targett had to limp off, moving the boy wonder Ryan Sessegnon to left back, and Aboubakar Kamara to left wing, and former Chelsea loanee Lucas Piazon to the right side. Then Ovie Ejaria danced his way into the Fulham box and looked to be fouled by Tim Ream, the referee waved play on, and 60 second later the ball was in the back of the Sunderland net. Fulham broke quickly and ruthlessly, Kamara played the ball into Fredericks who smashed the ball across the box and Piazon tapped in. The foul on Ejaria looked to be a clear foul and Fulham rode their luck and pounced on the counter.
Fulham targeted the wide areas and we creating chance after chance, but could not make their pressure tell. Kamara continued to cause trouble for Wilson and O’Shea. Just as the game was getting away from Fulham they finally made their pressure count. A great delivery from a free kick deflated Sunderland and who else to put the ball into the net than Alexsandar Mitrovic. The Serbian rose well and nodded past Jason Steele to pile more misery on Sunderland. The Black Cats offered very little in response. There can be no doubting the resilience of the Cottagers who have the mentality and form to push Cardiff all the way.
Once Mitrovic scored the game was sewn up, Sunderland failed to manufacture a decent chance and will once again lament their poor in game management, and at the final whistle the roar from the Craven Cottage gave us a clue on how big this result is, the Bluebirds will have one over their shoulder as Fulham go second and Sunderland slump to the bottom of the Championship, where they will stay for the remaining matchday’s.