For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
Sunderland battle back to claim a draw
SUNDERLAND battled back from two goals down to claim a deserved point in an entertaining 2-2 draw with Fulham.
Trailing to first-half strikes from Dimitar Berbatov, who converted from the penalty spot, and Sascha Reither, the Black Cats looked to be slipping to a fourth straight Premier League defeat.
However, Craig Gardner provided hope when he scored with a penalty of his own before the interval, and Stephane Sessegnon drilled home from the edge of the area with 20 minutes left to complete a memorable comeback.
Yet again, though, the star of the show was goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who made a crucial save from Berbatov seconds before Sunderland swept down the field to claim their leveller.
Black Cats boss Martin O'Neill named the same side that lost at West Brom last weekend, which meant a first home start for Danny Graham alongside Steven Fletcher.
John O'Shea directed a second-minute header into the side netting, but if that hinted at a sustained spell of first-half pressure from the Black Cats, it proved a false dawn.
Instead, Fulham dominated the opening period and claimed the lead from the penalty spot in the 16th minute.
It was a controversial moment, with referee Mark Halsey taking an age before pointing the spot after Gardner tripped Ashkan Dejagah in the penalty area.
Halsey looked as though he was going to penalise Dejagah for diving before he received a message in his earpiece, but his eventual decision was the right one and Berbatov calmly converted from the spot.
Dejagah came close to doubling Fulham's lead when he outpaced John O'Shea to reach Mark Schwarzer's long clearance, only to drag a tame shot across the face of goal.
However, the visitors did not have to wait much longer for their second goal, which arrived at the end of a slick counter-attack in the 34th minute.
A Sunderland corner broke down, and within seconds Bryan Ruiz was releasing Dejagah into the penalty area. Simon Mignolet saved the Iranian's low strike, but Reither was on hand to tap home the rebound from close range.
At that stage, Sunderland were struggling to get any kind of foothold in the game, but they were handed a lifeline eight minutes before the break.
Fulham centre-half Philippe Senderos tugged back Graham in the box, and Gardner stepped up to hammer home his third successful penalty in the last six matches.
Sunderland were a different proposition after they had clawed a goal back, and Schwarzer had to be at his most alert to turn Sessegnon's low 44th-minute shot around the post.
The former Middlesbrough goalkeeper was called into action two minutes after the break, although this time his task should have been much more difficult.
Graham was just eight yards from goal when he received Fletcher's square ball, but the January signing drilled his close-range effort straight at Schwarzer.
Alfred N'Diaye also went close at the start of the second half, drilling a 22-yard strike narrowly over the crossbar before failing to find the target with a header from Gardner's right-wing cross, but while the hosts enjoyed more possession after the break, Fulham remained a threat on the break.
That was exemplified in the 70th minute as Mignolet made a fantastic save to deny Berbatov. The Bulgarian found himself clean through after playing a slick one-two with Ruiz, but Mignolet raced from his line to save with his feet.
The importance of the stop as quickly apparent as within less than a minute, Sunderland had claimed an equaliser.
Adam Johnson's attempted pass into the box was blocked by Senderos, but Sessegnon reacted quickest to sweep home the rebound from the edge of the area.
The Black Cats were the dominant force in the closing stages, and they should have had a penalty with 11 minutes, but Halsey remained unmoved despite substitute Emmanuel Frimpong clearly blocking Johnson's shot with his hands.
SUNDERLAND (4-4-2): Mignolet; Gardner, O'Shea, Bramble, Colback; Sessegnon, Larsson, N'Diaye, Johnson; Graham (McClean 76), Fletcher.
Subs (not used): Westwood (gk), Bardsley, Mangane, Cuellar, Vaughan.
FULHAM (4-4-1-1): Schwarzer; Reither, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise; Dejagah (Rodallega 85), Sidwell, Karagounis (Frimpong 64), Duff (Emanuelson 80); Ruiz; Berbatov.
Subs (not used): Etheridge (gk), Hughes, Richardson, Petric.
Comments are closed on this article.