FULHAM proved to be the Stadium of Light party poopers after Pajtim Kasami’s header inflicted an opening day defeat on Paolo Di Canio’s new-look Sunderland.
Kasami’s goal from Damien Duff’s corner, early in the second half, was enough to defeat the shot-shy Black Cats as Fulham stole the points with their only effort on target.
Sunderland controlled proceedings for much of the game, yet lacked a cutting edge going forwards and were largely limited to shots from distance.
One of those, from debutant Ondrej Celustka, almost resulted in a first half opener for the hosts, only for the Czech right-back to be denied by a stunning save from Fulham stopper Marten Stekelenburg.
Substitute Ji Dong-won went closest to an equaliser for the hosts, but he sent his header wide from six yards out in the 89th minute.
Di Canio handed starts to five summer signings, with Ondrej Celustka, Valentin Roberge, Cabral, Emanuele Giaccherini and Jozy Altidore all making their Sunderland debuts.
Keiren Westwood got the nod in goal ahead of new boy Vito Mannone, while Roberge was preferred to Carlos Cuellar and Modibo Diakite at centre-half.
Former Sunderland man Kieran Richardson started for Fulham, while new signing Darren Bent was on the bench for the Cottagers.
Cabral tried his luck from 25 yards in the six minute, but his right-footed effort was harmlessly wide of the woodwork.
Fulham were forced into a 20th minute change when Richardson limped off injured and was replaced by Matthew Briggs.
Cabral produced another effort from outside the area in the 26th minute when he controlled Giaccherini’s square ball with a lovely first-touch, but then lashed his right-footed shot a yard wide.
Giaccherini let one fly from 25 yards in the 34th minute, but his powerful right-footed effort was straight at Fulham stopper Marten Stekelenburg.
Moments later, the Dutch keeper proved his worth to deny Celustka a stunning debut goal.
Celustka received a crossfield ball from Jack Colback, 25 yards out, to the right of goal, and he let fly with a fierce right-footed angled drive.
The ball was rocketing towards the near top corner, but at full-stretch, Stekelenburg showed tremendous reflexes to parry it behind.
HALF-TIME Sunderland 0 Fulham 0
Adam Johnson let fly from 25 yards in the 51st minute, but his left-footed effort was always rising and cleared the crossbar by a couple of feet.
But a minute later, it was Fulham who broke the deadlock in soft fashion as Pajtim Kasami got above Valentin Roberge at the far post to head home Damien Duff’s right wing corner.
Altidore went close in the 64th minute when he collected Celustka’s chipped ball forwards, held off the attentions of Aaron Hughes and hit a right-footed shot on the turn which was a yard wide of the post.
Sunderland had another sniff of a leveller in the 73rd minute when Giaccherini’s shot from 12 yards was deflected but just out of the reach of Stekelenburg, who managed to get to the ball ahead of Altidore.
Substitute Ji Dong-won should have drawn Sunderland level in the 89th minute, but he sent his header wide from six yards after meeting Johnson’s cross from the right.
FULL-TIME Sunderland 0 Fulham 1
SUNDERLAND: Westwood, Celustka (Wickham 86), Roberge, O’Shea, Colback, Johnson, Larsson, Cabral, Giaccherini, Sessegnon (Ji 71), Altidore. Subs not used: Moberg Karlsson, Diakite, Ba, Cuellar, Mannone.
FULHAM: Stekelenburg (Stockdale 75), Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Richardson (Briggs 20), Kasami, Sidwell, Boateng, Duff (Karagounis 65), Taarabt, Berbatov. Subs not used: Senderos, Ruiz, Rodellaga, Bent. Booked: Boateng (23), Berbatov (85), Duff (90)
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