Stalemate at Stadium of Light
Cottagers 'keeper saves the day to share the spoils
By Hayley Paterson. Last Updated: 19/11/11 9:04pm
Challenge: Moussa Dembele holds off the attentions of Michael Turner in the Stadium of Light encounter
Sunderland were guilty of striking the woodwork twice in the goalless encounter against Fulham.
In a game destined to be a 0-0 following Sunderland's barren record against Fulham in five of their last six meetings, the Black Cats could have twice gone ahead however Kieran Richardson's header and Jack Colback's strike cannoned off the bar in the first half.
Dickson Etuhu, a late addition to the Cottagers midfield following the omission of the injured Steve Sidwell, saw his header cleared off the line by skipper Lee Cattermole in the final chance just before the interval.
Clint Dempsey summed up the afternoon when he found himself through on goal, however dragged his effort wide of the mark.
And then despite his 39 years, Mark Schwarzer pulled off an instinctive save in the dying minutes to deny Stephane Sessegnon in what was the 450th Premier League outing for the Australian shot-stopper.
Sunderland went into the match without set-piece specialist Seb Larsson who is currently serving a suspension and ever-present Wes Brown was partnered with another centre-back in the shape of Michael Turner for Bruce's side.
Martin Jol also had some reshuffling to do as Sidwell was deemed unfit for the away trip as Bobby Zamora teamed up with Moussa Dembele as Andy Johnson was left on the bench.
The home side started brightly and took control early on which was nearly rewarded in the ninth minute through winger Richardson.
The former Manchester United midfielder met Sessegnon's searching cross from the left with a decent header which wrong-footed Schwarzer, but clipped the top of the crossbar.
Seven minutes later, Colback was left cursing the frame of the goal when he blocked an attempted clearance from Damien Duff, turned and drilled a left-footed effort against the paintwork.
Belgian Dembele looked lively for the visitors and was by far their most threatening player as he forced a fine reaction save from Westwood having skipped past Cattermole and Turner on the edge of the penalty area.
But with Nicklas Bendtner and Sessegnon causing problems for Jol's back four, it was seemingly one-way traffic in the North East.
Sessegnon directed a weak header straight at Schwarzer in the 23rd minute before Phil Bardsley had a drilled long-range effort blocked by Brede Hangeland.
However, those chances seemed to wake the visitors up who staged an injury-time flurry and could have gone ahead twice in quick succession.
First Bardsley helped Bobby Zamora's header out for a corner and then, when Sunderland old boy Dickson Etuhu met Duff's set-piece, Cattermole cleared it off the line before the first-half whistle.
Sunderland again came out of the starting blocks the fastest as Aaron Hughes had to cut out an Ahmed Elmohamady cross with Richardson looming before Danny Murphy hacked Sessegnon's deflected shot to safety within seconds of the restart.
Westwood later denied Chris Baird when he parried the defender's low drive from Zamora's clever lay-off from a 51st minute free-kick.
Baird struggled with Elmohamady's pace at times as the Egyptian tried time and time again to force a goal through his whipped in deliveries from the right.
Bardsley provided good service from a series of Sunderland corners with Baird having to clear a Brown header and Sessegnon sliced an effort wide after Schwarzer was caught flapping.
Murphy nearly put the visitors ahead when the ball broke to him on the edge of the Sunderland penalty area with 65 minutes gone, but he fired straight down Westwood's throat.
Jol replaced Zamora with Andrew Johnson and Bruce sent on striker Ji Dong-won for Colback as they both looked for victory with the clock running down.
Neither Bendtner nor Elmohamady could get a touch on Sessegnon's 76th-minute cross as it flew across the penalty area, but both Johnson and Clint Dempsey shot just wide of Westwood's far post in a tense conclusion.However, it took a stunning reaction save from Schwarzer to keep out Sessegnon's goal-bound effort after it had clipped Philippe Senderos with just seconds remaining.
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|3||Shots on Target||4|
|5||Shots off Target||5|
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