Sunderland and Fulham threw up an interesting game against all the odds today as the home side fought back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 following a pair of soft penalties. If you want a more full recap of the action, read on.
Things started relatively brightly for Sunderland on a sunny afternoon at the Stadium Of Light, and we almost had ourselves in front with less than a minute on the clock.
Stephane Sessegnon did well to win a corner, and from the resulting corner John O'Shea headed at the wrong side of the net despite what the East Stand thought.
Away from that though things were incredibly ordinary. Adam Johnson fired in a few poor crosses, as did Seb Larsson while Steven Fletcher nearly escaped the attentions of Brede Hangeland to get through on goal. Alas nothing was coming from it.
Controversy came however in the 15th minute when the visitors were awarded a penalty. Craig Gardner seemed to be comfortably dealing with Ashkan Dejagah who was wriggling around in the area, until of course he tapped him and a penalty was given.
There was contact, however the Iranian really made a meal of it. So much so Mark Halsey didn't give anything at first until his linesman contacted him. If perhaps anyone of note is reading this, football is still a contact sport. Just putting it out there.
Dimitar Berbatov stepped up to take the penalty and he stroked it home beautifully. Just a gentle tap into the bottom corner with Simon Mignolet left stranded.
We looked futile in our attempt to come back from this. Poor crosses were inter-spliced with genuinely nice passing moves but whenever we got near the 18-yard box it was the same old story... an easy one for Schwarzer.
Dejagah could have made things 2-0 shortly before they actually were. A long hoof up field was latched onto by him with Gardner beaten all ends up. Thankfully he took it on his right foot and sent the ball sailing wide of the mark from eight yards out.
From OUR corner, Fulham made it 2-0 though. As the ball failed to beat the first man for the umpteenth time of the afternoon, the Cottagers broke with bodies and speed. We simply didn't look interested and after Berbatov's shot was parried by Mignolet, Sascha Reither was there to tap into an empty net from close range.
The home fans far from in high-spirits, and rightly so.
That is however until a moment later when we were awarded our own soft penalty. Senderos got into a put of pulling with Danny Graham and with minimal appeal a penalty was given. Upstepped Gardner who'd been having a very poor afternoon to this point to smash the ball home in a polar-opposite penalty to what Berbatov had done earlier.
Parity restored on the penalty front by Halsey, but both were soft in my book. This was the last intriguing action of the second half barring Sessegnon's run and shot which Schwarzer batted away for yet another insignificant corner.
Sunderland started the second period brightly. Which is what we tend to do without actually getting anything from it, and that seemed like it would be the case when Danny Graham wasted a glorious chance shortly after the restart.
The ball fell nicely to him in a reasonable amount of space near the penalty spot but he fired tamely at Schwarzer when the net should have been bulging.
Alfred N'Diaye enjoyed a good second half and got himself forward in what could only be described as marauding fashion. In the space of about five minutes it seemed as though he was involved in everything we did. First blasting over from 25-yards or so, then glancing a header over the bar having beaten Senderos in the air comfortably.
The next time he found himself in such a decent area he opted to play in Danny Graham, but the recently signed striker strayed offside. Something that's a little too common in his game for my liking, especially at times like that when there was no reason to be caught out.
The 70th minute was in short, ridiculous. Dimitar Berbatov could and should have made it 3-1 and put the game to bed having latched on to a scooped ball over the top (think Karel Poborsky, Euro 96) but found Mignolet both advancing and massive to snuff out the danger.
The clearance landed plum for Sessegnon on the halfway line, who drove at the back-peddling Fulham defence. He played out wide for Adam Johnson, who tried something but I'm still not sure what, before it broke to Sessegnon who lashed into the bottom corner with to send the home support wild.
It felt as though things were turning in our favour, and there was certainly enough time left to win it but alas no real clear cut chance came for us. A few penalty appeals which were waved away were worth an ask with the joker Halsey in charge of things but none came. In between Seb Larsson missed the target from range.
Dangerous crosses aside Schwarzer wasn't quite as tested as he should have been in the final ten minutes or so considering we were camped inside the Fulham half.
Overall it's a confusing point. We could have won, we should never have been 2-0 down, 4-4-2 still doesn't look right, we could have lost. Somehow we have a point and our run of defeats is over.
All it means is we're temporarily up to fourteenth and inching away from the relegation zone. About as much as we could hope for at the moment. Roll on the summer.
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