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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Cottagers come from behind to claim second spot in Championship

Fulham came from behind to secure a 2-1 home victory over relegated Sunderland and move up to second place in the Sky Bet Championship.
The Cottagers – owned by Shahid Khan, the US businessman who this week launched a near £1billion bid to buy Wembley – recovered after falling behind to a 28th-minute goal from Joel Asoro.
Lucas Piazon levelled just before the break after the visitors had strong claims for a penalty turned down, before Aleksandar Mitrovic won it with his 12th goal since arriving on loan from Newcastle in January.
Victory moved the Cottagers two points above Cardiff, with the Welsh club facing Hull on Saturday, ensuring the fight to secure automatic promotion will go into the final game of the season.
Fulham came into the game on the back of a 22-game unbeaten league run dating back to the December loss against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Form suggested there was little chance of a repeat, but after initially struggling to move through the gears in the victory at Millwall seven days previously, Slavisa Jokanovic’s side again started slowly.
Their normally slick passing style was missing as Sunderland started the game more positively, and were apparently showing no ill effects from last weekend’s relegation to League One.
Ashley Fletcher posed an early threat for the visitors with a long-range shot and it took Fulham until midway through the first half before they forced a save from Black Cats goalkeeper Jason Steele.
The Cottagers’ Championship player of the year Ryan Sessegnon saw little of the ball during the opening exchanges while in-form Mitrovic found himself isolated up front.
And the home side’s poor start was confirmed when Asoro fired Sunderland into the lead in the 28th minute.
The winger marked his 19th birthday by collecting Fletcher’s nod down and turning left-back Matt Targett before drilling a low shot beyond Marcus Bettinelli from outside the Fulham penalty area.
The Cottagers were struggling to make an impression on the game but they forced their way back onto level terms in the 44th minute, although Sunderland were convinced Jokanovic’s side should not have had the opportunity to equalise.
Ovie Ejaria went down under a challenge from Tim Ream inside the home penalty area but claims for a penalty were ignored by referee Peter Bankes.
And Fulham made the most of the reprieve by breaking swiftly down the right hand flank from where Ryan Fredericks delivered a low cross that was turned home by Piazon from close range.
The hosts stepped up the tempo after the break with Mitrovic threatening to add to his 11 goals for the club with a shot that drew a fine save from Jason Steele.
And the striker finally found a way past the Sunderland keeper with a header from Stefan Johansen’s floated free-kick, despite appeals for offside from the visitors.