Fulham's Premier League class proves too much for Sunderland

Fulham's Harry Wilson (third right) celebrates scoring his side's first goal - PA/Owen Humphreys  

Fulham's season continues to go from strength to strength as they navigated their way through a tricky FA Cup replay against Sunderland with a touch of Premier League class.

That sets up a home tie against Leeds United in the fifth round and an excellent chance to progress for a team that has defied so many gloomy summer predictions.

This was not an easy night on Wearside and for a spell either side of half time, Sunderland looked really dangerous. But they were already behind in the game after Harry Wilson's early strike and were exposed on the counter to concede a second with half an hour remaining.

The second goal had come against the run of play but it was impressive from Fulham, who added a third moments after Jack Clarke's brilliant curling shot had given the home crowd hope of a rousing finale.

They did get four minutes of injury time excitement though after Jason Bennette's equally good finish into the top corner, a deserved consolation for the valiant Championship side

Fulham manager Marco Silva may well have promised to attack the FA Cup this season, ambitious talk no doubt fuelled by the Cottagers' lofty league position. That same eighth position has also led to talk of a return to European competitions and the Portuguese, having been held to a draw in west London, once again rotated his squad.

Sunderland will have welcomed that. This young, vibrant side put together since promotion from League One last May has also exceeded expectations under Tony Mowbray.  It was anticipated the Black Cats would look to consolidate in the Championship, restabilise after four long and humiliating years in the third tier. Instead, they have mounted a bold challenge for the play-offs. It has brought a sense of excitement back to Wearside and there were enough signs of encouragement in the first game to suggest Fulham could be ripe for a shock back in the North East.

Fulham, though, were not in the mood for such talk and went briskly about their business and taking an early lead. It was a lovely goal too, scored with the outside of his boot, from the edge of the area, by former Liverpool youngster Harry Wilson. It was the Wales international's first goal for 11 months.

Sunderland had been dangerous on the counter-attack in the first meeting and were now chasing a game without a recognised centre forward. With their leading goalscorer Ross Stewart out for the rest of the season with an Achilles injury, Mowbray played Manchester United youngster, Amad Diallo, on loan for the season, through the middle.

Diallo has been a hugely popular addition to the side and has revived a flagging career at the Stadium of Light, but he is not a centre-forward.

Sunderland had some pace to cause problems, some skill too, but they did not have any height or power in attack. Even during a bright spell towards the end of the first half, when Diallo forced a save from Marek Rodak, they could not create a clear goalscoring opportunity despite building up some pressure.

Fulham sent on Aleksandar Mitrovic and Andreas Pereira at half-time, possibly sensing a shift in the momentum of the tie. Silva wanted the second goal to kill Sunderland off but it was the home side who came flying out at the start of the second half.

First Patrick Roberts danced his way into a shooting position inside the area but from a tight angle his effort was beaten away by the goalkeeper. Sunderland supporters warmed the air with their noise and, moments later, their moment came only for Diallo to see his shot cleared off the line with Rodak beaten.

Mowbray's side were in the ascendancy but could not maintain it. A Fulham break, a good run from Mitrovic, who did well to keep the ball alive, hooking it into the six-yard box where Pereira was there to tap in the second.


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