Monday, October 29, 2007

Sunderland 1 Fulham 1 - Belated match reaction

A little late in the day with this thanks initially to Virgin Broadband being out of action from Sunday afternoon through to Monday lunch time, and then, when service had finally been restored, number one son hogging the PC to play his online games. Still, better late than never.

Before I head down a path of negativity I think I should at least state that prior to the game I would have been happy with a point. Yes, we DO need to win more games, but right now I reckon an away draw, against anyone, is not to be sniffed at. That said, and based only on Sky’s hour long Football First highlights, this appeared to be another fairly poor performance from the Whites.

There were some changes in the starting line up, though possibly the only one that wasn’t enforced was Elliott Omozusi who made his Premier League debut replacing Chris Baird at Right Back. Carlos Bocanegra came in for the suspended Konch at Left Back, Simon Davies returned to the right side of midfield and Clint Dempsey switched to the left side due to Hammeur Bouazza’s second shoulder dislocation of the season. Omozusi, still only 18, had an excellent game and hardly put a foot wrong throughout. He’s been on the first team radar for some time and with Volz injured and Baird struggling to adapt maybe he can grasp this chance and claim a regular spot.

The game itself was disappointing. Fulham can lay some claim to being on top for most of it yet we never looked like we could claim a win. Even during a first half in which Sunderland were shocking we didn’t stamp our authority on the match and make it ours. The goal apart we had chances to score more but one way or another fate conspired against us. A early Davies free kick found Dempsey leaping well in the box but unable to direct his header away from Craig Gordon. Then a mix up between the Sunderland ‘keeper and Danny Higginbottom saw the defender play a ball across goal to where David Healy was presented with a completely unguarded net. With two defender’s closing It needed a first time shot but Healy snatched at it and saw his effort go comfortably wide of the post. Dempsey then played a sublime through ball from the left channel for Kamara to run onto. Unfortunately the Senegalese international was either pulled back or tripped over his own feet (replay’s were inconclusive) and crashed to the ground. The goal came shortly after that when Kamara was awarded a free kick. Simon Davies neatly clipping the ball over the wall and into the top corner of the near post. In his post match interview Davies credited Sanchez with suggesting he try, but even so the execution was superb.

Sunderland came out much stronger in the second half and at times we were definitely on the back foot. Kenwyne Jones looked impressive up front and Danny Murphy did very well to charge down one of his shots early on. We still had chances though and when Healy was pulled back by Greg Halford as he was about to run onto to a decent diagonal pass (from Davies?) it was inevitable that Halford would see Red. In a similar position Kamara seemed to dwell on the ball too long but then somehow muscled his way past Nosworthy before firing in what appeared to be our second goal. The ref pulled play back for an apparent foul by Kamara, though the replays suggested there was very little contact. Healy and Kamara eventually made way for Kuqi (making his Fulham debut) and Seol. A substitution that I suppose was designed to help us hold onto to the points but I would have preferred to see what Kamara could do alongside Kuqi. However, having gone down to ten men Sunderland seemed to up the tempo again. Niemi saved excellently in a one on one with Grant Leadbetter, following a looping kick from Jones, but this was a warning sign of more to come. Kenwune Jones finally got the goal his performance deserved when he managed to get his head to a decent cross and brought the scores level. Jones looked every inch the sort of player we could do with (and have been missing since McBride’s injury). We were on the rack now and in the dying minutes Omozusi made probably his only mistake of the game to allow Stokes through for another one on one opportunity with Niemi. This time the Sunderland players shot was poor, but Niemi did very well in that situation again by making himself big and imposing.

Sanchez claimed afterwards that we had dominated the game from the 1st ‘til the 85th minute and had therefore been unlucky not to win. If that’s Sanchez idea of dominating a game then I think we’ve got very big problems indeed. Lawrie might point to the fouls on Kamara and Healy or the disallowed goal as evidence that he is right but I think you make your own luck and we’re still playing without the passion and fight that you need to survive at this level.

A couple of minor bits of trivia to end on. This was a match up between (allegedly) the quietest team in the Premiership (us) and the noisiest (them), yet throughout Sky’s coverage the Fulham songs could be plainly heard. Well done those travelling fans at least we won that contest. The game also saw the first (and possibly last) appearance of our new blue third strip.
  • GK 29 A.Niemi
  • RB 22 E.Omosuzi
  • CB 18 A.Hughes (C)
  • CB 06 D.Stefanovic
  • LB 03 C.Bocanegra
  • RM 25 S.Davies
  • CM 10 S.Davis
  • CM 27 D.Murphy
  • LM 23 C.Dempsey
  • ST 11 D.Kamara
  • ST 09 D.Healy

Subs: 12 T.Warner, 07 S.Ki-Hyeon (on for 11), 08 A.Smertin, 14 S.Kuqi (on for 09), -- N.Ashton

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