Mixed emotions for Symons as Fulham draw FA Cup blank against Black Cats

Sunderland 0-0 Fulham

Fulham manager Kit Symons left the north-east disappointed with a goalless draw in the FA Cup fourth round against an under-par Sunderland.

At a poorly attended Stadium of Light, Symons’ men were grateful for an inspired Marcus Bettinelli performance which earned them a replay against the 10-men of their Premier League opponents.

Sunderland rarely threaten and saw midfielder Jack Rodwell sent off for a second booking with 25 minutes to go.

Hugo Rodellega rattled the post late on but Symons’ side were held.

“It was a bit disappointing in the end but we came to a Premier League side and acquitted ourselves very well,” said manager Symons.

“Our quality in the final third has been generally good but was lacking a little bit. They are a top-flight side with some excellent players though and you expect them to step up when they go down to 10 men.”

Fulham displayed the same determination that has seen them turn their season around and the Cottagers are now unbeaten in their last three games.

Having overseen Fulham’s youth set-up in the past, Symons was pleased with the character shown by his young side, which included a number of players who have come through the ranks under his stewardship at Craven Cottage.

Among the youngsters, 18-year-old Moussa Dembele and 19-year-old Seko Fofana both came close to scoring a goal that would have sealed the win on a day of FA Cup upsets.

At the other end, academy product Bettinelli reacted impressively on two occasions to keep out Sunderland home debutant Jermain Defoe from close range – Seb Larsson was also denied by the 6ft 4in goalkeeper.

On an afternoon of few positives for The Black Cats, the crowd of 22, 961 saw Defoe show that after his stint in Toronto, he is still capable of playing in the top tier of English football.

Sunderland boss Gus Poyet, a former midfielder with south-west London rivals Chelsea, was forced to field his side without Adam Johnson and the winger’s pace and trickery were notably missing.

Poyet said: “It was a poor game overall. The second half was better, there was more emotion and more pressing.

“The sending off changed the game but it is football – if you see the results in the FA Cup today it shows it means so much for teams.”

The committed cup display echoed emotions shared post-match by Symons, who declared his love the FA Cup – he will no doubt be hoping Ross McCormack will have recovered from his niggle when Sunderland travel to the Cottage for the replay.

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