Cottagers snatch points on Wearside.Sunderland suffered a defeat at The Stadium of Light on the first day of the season at the hands of Fulham. However, if chances had been taken, the score line could have been completely different.
Manager Paolo Di Canio gave debuts to new signings Ondrej Celustka, Valentin Roberge, Cabral, Emanuele Giaccherini and Jozy Altidore while other new boys Vito Mannone, Modibo Diakite, Elhadji Ba and David Moberg Karlsson were on the bench along with Carlos Cuellar.
Meanwhile, Fulham handed debuts to Maarten Stekelenburg, Derek Boateng and Adel Taarabt.
The Black Cats started brightly as they passed comfortably and quickly, with Cabral closing down the space especially in midfield to force the Cottagers back.
Altidore, Cabral and Giaccherini all tried their luck from outside the box in the opening half hour, but their shots flashed just wide of the Fulham goal.
However, this soon changed as Sunderland stung Stekelenburg’s palms twice in the next five minutes.
Italian playmaker Emanuele Giaccherini hit a powerful shot from 25 yards but unfortunately the Dutchman in goal was right behind the attempt at goal and caught the right footed shot. Sunderland then came very close through new Czech defender Ondrej Celustka.
The ball was switched left to right and after bringing the ball down; the right back hit a spectacular strike on 36 minutes which brought a fine finger tip diving save out of the Fulham ‘keeper.
The half time whistle went with Keiren Westwood in the Sunderland goal basically a spectator the Lads had been that dominant.
This changed seven minutes into the second half as Dimitar Berbatov won a corner with a rare Fulham attack. In front of the south stand, Damien Duff swung in an in swinging corner toward Pajtim Kasami at the back post.
The No.8 rose above Valentin Roberge to header into a corner where nobody was on the post.
The Lads soon attempted to get back into the game as they pushed further forward.
Adam Johnson, playing on the right wing, flashed a volley wide of the post just before the hour and later hit a 25 yard free kick into the wall.
Ji replaced the off-form Sessegnon on 72 minutes. Shortly after, the ball sprang loose for Giaccherini on the edge of the box. However, his shot was blocked but fell to Altidore who couldn’t quite get the ball under control. In the process Stekelenburg was injured and replaced by David Stockdale.
In the closing minutes Connor Wickham replaced Ondrej Celustka and Ji missed a header from six yards out which he should have planted firmly in the bottom corner.
Despite the result, it was only the first game of the season and there were plenty of positives to take from the game. The interchanging positions and position, the closing down and pressing high is something that Sunderland’s fans have not seen in a while.
It is going to take time when the club has brought in nine foreign players into the Premier but the signs look good.
Sunderland team: Keiren Westwood, Ondrej Celustka (Connor Wickham), John O’Shea ©, Valentin Roberge, Jack Colback, Cabral, Seb Larsson, Emanuele Giaccherini, Stephane Sessegnon (Ji), Jozy Altidore.
Subs not used: Vito Mannone, Modibo Diakite, David Moberg Karlsson, Carlos Cuellar, Elhadji Ba.
Fulham team: Maarten Stekelenburg (David Stockdale), Sascha Riether, Aaron Hughes, Brede Hangeland ©, Kieran Richardson (Matthew Briggs), Adel Taarabt, Steven Sidwell, Derek Boateng (Giorgos Karagounis), Damien Duff, Dimitar Berbatov, Pajtim Kasami.
Subs not used: Philippe Senderos, Bryan Ruiz, Hugo Rodallega, Darren Bent.