Adam Johnson

Sunderland 0 Fulham 1

Published:
by Stuart Vose

Black Cats defeated on opening day.

Sunderland suffered opening-day frustration as a single goal earned Fulham all three points at the Stadium of Light.

Pajtim Kasami's second-half header was the visitors' only effort on target throughout the entire 90 minutes – but they made it count to run out winners.

The Black Cats were in control for long spells and created a number of opportunities – particularly in the first half – but couldn't find the back of the net.

The impressive Jozy Altidore came close on a number of occasions, while Ondrej Celustka was unlucky not to notch a debut goal with a piledriver from distance in the first half.

But Kasami popped up to head home Damien Duff's corner eight minutes into the second period for the decider on the opening day of the campaign.

Following a busy summer in the transfer market, Sunderland head coach Paolo Di Canio gave immediate debuts to five new signings, including Altidore and Emanuele Giaccherini.

Meanwhile fellow new faces Valentin Roberge and Celustka lined up at the back, with former Basel man Cabral just in front.

And Keiren Westwood won the race to start in goal, with summer arrival Vito Mannone forced to settle for a place on the bench.

With a big crowd inside the Stadium of Light, excitement was high and the new-look Sunderland began well.

Altidore saw a shot deflected wide within the first couple of minutes, while Giaccherini volleyed over from the resulting corner and Cabral fired wide soon afterwards.

At the other end, Fulham’s first offering was well absorbed by the Sunderland defence – new boy Roberge blocking brilliantly after Kasami found a sliver of space on the edge of the box.

But it was mostly one-way traffic as Cabral twice tried for goal – seeing the first effort deflected away from danger before his second fizzed just wide from 25 yards following a lovely first touch when receiving a Giaccherini pass.

Italian Giaccherini was proving to be an influential figure, prompting well from out wide while the hosts chased down and harried every ball with dogged determination.

They were almost ahead around the half-hour mark when Jack Colback swung in a delightful low cross from the left and Altidore narrowly failed to get a decisive connection as he homed in at the near post.

Meanwhile Giaccherini tested Fulham keeper Maarten Stekelenburg from distance, and the Fulham keeper had to be on his toes moments later as Celustka took aim from 25 yards out after neatly controlling Colback’s crossfield pass.

The shot was arrowing towards the top corner before Stekelenburg stuck up a hand to touch the ball over the crossbar.

Cabral also headed a Giaccherini cross wide as Sunderland finished the half well on top.

Again, Sunderland began brightly but found themselves a goal down seven minutes after the restart, completely against the run of play.

Duff swung a corner to the back post and Kasami was there to head the ball beyond a helpless Westwood.

The hosts didn’t deserve to be behind but kept their composure and continued pushing, with Cabral and Adam Johnson both shooting off-target following good moves.

Altidore’s size and movement was causing problems up front, with the big American holding off the Fulham defence time and again to bring colleagues into play.

The frontman turned brilliantly on the edge of the box to fire just wide before seeing another effort blocked following a neat give-and-go with Stephane Sessegnon.

Di Canio introduced Ji Dong-won off the bench in place of Sessegnon for the final 19 minutes, but Altidore remained Sunderland’s chief goal threat and he almost levelled soon afterwards.

Giaccherini’s snapshot was deflected into the path of the American, who pulled the trigger on the edge of the six-yard box only to be denied by a brave save from Stekelenburg.

The Fulham keeper was hurt in the challenge and was forced off to be replaced by David Stockdale.

Fulham closed the game down and Connor Wickham entered the fray in place of Celustka in an attempt to force the issue with five minutes to play.

Altidore threatened again when he got away from his marker and fired goalwards from just inside the box, but the shot lacked power and Stockdale gathered down low.

Sub Ji powered a header wide after Johnson stood up a fine cross in the final minute, but the vital breakthrough just wasn’t forthcoming as the visitors held out to claim the points.

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Team Sheet

Westwood
20
O'Shea
16
Roberge
29
Colback
14
Celustka (Wickham)
12
Adilson Cabral
6
Giaccherini
23
Larsson
7
Johnson
11
Altidore
17
Sessegnon (Ji)
28
Stekelenburg (Stockdale)
1
Hangeland
5
Riether
27
Hughes
18
Richardson (Briggs)
15
Boateng (Karagounis) Yellow
23
Duff Yellow
16
Taarabt
19
Sidwell
7
Berbatov Yellow
9
Kasami
8

Substitutes

Cuéllar
24
Moberg-Karlsson
19
Wickham
10
Mannone
25
Ba
22
Ji
27
Diakité
21
Ruiz
10
Karagounis
14
Briggs
17
Rodallega
20
Bent
39
Senderos
4
Stockdale
13