Sunderland recorded only their second Premier League win of the season as they beat 10-man Fulham at Craven Cottage.
The Black Cats hadn’t tasted victory since beating Wigan at the end of September, but produced an energising second-half display to see off the Cottagers, who faced an uphill struggle after Brede Hangeland was sent off in the first half.
Martin Jol will be unhappy that his captain effectively cost them the game after receiving his marching orders in the 30th minute for a rash tackle on Lee Cattermole, especially given the bright start they made to the game.
Up until Hangeland’s dismissal the Cottagers were in full control as the visitors displayed exactly why they’ve struggled so badly under Martin O’Neill this term. Dimitar Berbatov was the focal point and went close with a header in the fourth minute before teeing up Steven Sidwell to shoot straight at Simon Mignolet.
Then came the games turning point as Hangeland launched two-footed into a challenge with Cattermole that was deemed reckless by referee Lee Probert and worthy of a red card despite the Norwegian cleanly taking the ball. Sunderland took full advantage after their numerical superiority after the break and were ahead within five minutes of the restart.
John Arne Riise’s deflected shot bounced off the bar leading to a swift counter attack that ended with Adam Johnson playing Steven Fletcher through on goal and the Scotland striker showed great composure to poke the ball past Mark Schwarzer.
Bryan Ruiz then limped off with a hamstring injury to be replaced by Mladen Petric and the Croatian international made an immediate impact, turning home Damien Duff’s cross from low range to level for Fulham.
But just 90 seconds later the away side restored their lead as Carlos Cuellar rose unmarked to nod home Johnson’s left-wing corner, before Stephane Sessegnon put the icing on the cake with a stunning long-range strike 20 minutes from that that flew past Schwarzer and in off the post.