Sunderland 0-0 Fulham

By Owen PhillipsBBC Sport
Fulham's Damien Duff (left) takes on Sunderland's Lee Cattermole
Damien Duff finds his path to goal blocked by Sunderland's Lee Cattermole

Fulham frustrated Sunderland to earn a point from a scrappy, nervy encounter.

The Londoners rode their luck in a first half which saw the Black Cats hit the bar through Kieran Richardson's header and Jack Colback's fierce shot.

Dickson Etuhu did have a header cleared off the line just before the break and Fulham held their own in an even, but increasingly dismal, second period.

Neither side deserved to win but Fulham's Clint Dempsey and Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon had late chances.

Dempsey should have made more of a swift counter-attack in the final five minutes but dragged his shot across goal and goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer made an amazing reaction save with his legs to keep out Sessegnon's deflected shot.

The result leaves both teams still hovering just above the relegation zone, having only picked up two Premier League wins apiece this season.

And maybe it was inevitable that the teams could not be separated as both had identical records of four draws and five losses from their opening 11 games.

Sunderland needed some luck - Bruce

Sunderland started well enough and had more than their fair share of possession in a first half that promised much but never quite got going.

Fulham struggled to cope with the tenacity and energy of Sunderland's central pairing of Lee Cattermole and Colback, meaning Danny Murphy rarely had the chance to dictate play for the visitors.

Richardson almost opened the scoring for the Black Cats with a fine eight-yard, near-post header that hit the top of the bar from Sessegnon's clipped left-wing cross.

Colback was the pick of the home players, matching his workrate with quality, as well as the ability to arrive into the box.

He did squander one glorious opening when he dithered after racing through on the right and saw his cross easily stopped by Schwarzer.

But Colback was very unlucky to be denied the opening goal when the big Australian reacted with breathtaking speed to tip his fierce, close-range strike onto the bar and away to safety.

Sessegnon also saw a header comfortably saved as the Londoners struggled to break into Sunderland's 18-yard box.

Fulham did have the first chance of the game when Moussa Dembele showed tremendous trickery and quick footwork to wriggle free and fire a shot at Keiren Westwood.

But that was as good as it got until the dying seconds of the half when Etuhu had a towering header cleared off the line by Cattermole.

Fulham improved after the interval, showing more ambition and quality.

Chris Baird saw a precise 20-yard free-kick well saved by Westwood and Murphy should have done better from a similar distance when he elected for a precise finish only to side-foot the ball harmlessly at the keeper.

At the other end, the impressive Sessegnon fired a shot wide following a blundered attempted punch by Schwarzer and Michael Turner's header was cleared after another indecisive moment from the away keeper.

But excitement, and chances, were at a premium and a winner for either Dempsey or Sessegnon in the closing stages would have been out of keeping with such a dour second period.

Sunderland manager Steve Bruce:

"Schwarzer - how often has he done that against me? I don't know, but it was a quite remarkable save. I thought it was a certainly, and you go and win it 1-0 and everything is hunky-dory again.

"It's [goalscoring] the one thing we have got to address, we know that. It's very difficult, very difficult because for me, that's where we were better than the other 12 teams who I am in the mix with.

"When we had Danny Welbeck, Asamoah Gyan, Darren Bent, Fraizer Campbell - that's arguably as good as this club has ever had.

"Unfortunately for one reason or another, we have lost them. We will do our utmost to keep searching and looking and trying to find the right one, of course we will. That's my job and that's our job, to move forward."

Fulham manager Martin Jol:

"If you play well away from home and you have five of six chances, maybe you deserve something.

Jol content with goalless draw

"They had a few good players up front, but I don't think it was good enough to say they should have won this game. Of course, they were playing at home with this crowd.

"I can't say it was pleasing because we needed the three points, but I can live with it because after the first 20 minutes and with the shot at the end, we could have lost it as well."

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