MARTIN Jol achieved his first victory over Sunderland at the fifth time of asking yesterday and admitted he took extra satisfaction from achieving it, given the selection problems he had.
The Black Cats dominated the opening game of the Premier League season, almost from start to finish, with Fulham scoring from their only clear-cut chance of the game.
But while Jol was delighted to see 21-year-old Pajtim Kasami get on the scoresheet, his pleasure came primarily from the clean sheet kept at the other end of the pitch.
“I never for one second took for granted that we would keep a clean sheet, because Sunderland are fast and energetic and motivated and we know they are hard to play against,” said the Dutchman.
“We worked hard and we defended well and we had a few defensive problems to cope with on top of that.
“Kieran Richardson has been great in pre-season but had to come off and be replaced by Matthew Briggs who has had no pre-season at all.
“We lost our keeper, Maarten Stekelenburg, too – it’s not a dislocated shoulder but it will keep him out for weeks – and our first-choice centre-half Fernando Amorebieta was not available to us.
“So we did have real problems at the back and so, to get a clean sheet and win, it’s a great result for us in the circumstances.”
It was a fine away victory for the West Londoners.
But Jol knows this is only the opening shot in a long campaign and his challenge this season will be sustaining good performances over the course of the season.
“Last season, they said the same thing,” he smiled. “They said Fulham always get a good start and always fade.
“And they were right – the club has had a tendency to do that.
“But that is for the future.
“I cannot complain right now about getting the three points, especially when we have a difficult start to the season with some tough fixtures to get through.
“Because of that, I can only be pleased at coming to a place where it is difficult for teams to come, and leaving with all three points.”
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