An excellent display of goalkeeping from Marcus Bettinelli kept Sunderland at bay and earned Fulham a deserved FA Cup replay.
The visitors defended stoutly to frustrate their Premier League opponents at the Stadium of Light, although their task was made a bit easier by Jack Rodwell’s sending off midway through the second half. The former England midfielder was sent off for a second bookable offence after clashing with Bettinelli as the Fulham goalkeeper attempted to clear. Rodwell might well have received a straight red rather than a yellow for a late lunge at Kostas Stafylidis and Fulham almost made their numerical advantage count when Hugo Rodallega rattled the post from twenty yards with four minutes remaining.
Bettinelli was the star of the show, however. The Fulham academy graduate has rewarded Kit Symons’ faith since being elevated to first-choice goalkeeper earlier this season and he made two excellent saves to thwart Jermain Defoe in the first half. He clawed away an venomous volley from the England forward at his near post and then denied Defoe from even closer range with the visitors largely on the back foot in a first half that Sunderland dominated.
Symons’ side were much more ambitious after the break and fashioned several good chances of their own. Seko Fofana’s shot was deflected agonisingly wide and Cauley Woodrow had a blast blocked before Moussa Dembele drove over the par from close range. Bettinelli was still blunting Sunderland’s attacks and made an excellent stop with his feet to repel Seb Larsson’s daisycutter and the home fans’ displeasure at the final whistle underlined what a good job Fulham had done in frustrating their hosts.
SUNDERLAND (3-5-2): Mannone; Vergini, O’Shea, Coates; Jones (Buckley 76), van Aanholt, Rodwell, Briductt, Larsson; Fletcher (Wickham 66), Defoe. Subs (not used): Pantilimon, Gomez, Alvarez, Giaccherini, Graham.
BOOKED: Rodwell, Coates, Buckley.
SENT OFF: Rodwell.
FULHAM (4-1-2-1-2): Bettinelli; Grimmer, Stafylidis, Bodurov, Hutchinson; Tunnicliffe; Fofana (Kacaniklic 75), Christensen; Ruiz; Woodrow (Rodallega 76), Dembele (McCormack 61). Subs (not used): Kiraly, Burn, Zverotic, Roberts.
REFEREE: Anthony Taylor (Lancashire).