Premier League - Johnson hat-trick lifts Sunderland off the bottom

Premier League, Craven Cottage - Fulham 1 (Sidwell 52) Sunderland 4 (Johnson 29, 69, 85 pen, Ki 41)

Adam Johnson’s virtuoso hat-trick gave Sunderland a vital 4-1 victory away to Fulham at Craven Cottage.

Johnson got his first from a free-kick, bending the ball from 35 yards into the top corner. Despite goalkeeper David Stockdale getting two hands on the ball, Johnson's stunning free-kick flew through his palms.

His second came early in the second half after a wonderful counter-attack from the away side. Ki Sung-yueng brought the ball out from the penalty area before playing a one-two with Jozy Altidore on the half way line. He delayed and delayed and delayed his pass inside John Arne Riise but when it came it was inch perfect for Johnson to rifle home low with his right foot.

And then a few minutes from time Altidore won a penalty off Philippe Senderos who left a trailing leg as the big American waltzed past him and in on goal. Johnson stepped up and blasted the ball low into the bottom right corner sending Stockdale the wrong way.

The winger also set up Sunderland’s second when he played a low free-kick to Ki on the penalty spot for the South Korean to sweep home and give the Black Cats a 2-0 first-half lead.

Fulham rallied early in the second half and pulled one back through a Steve Sidwell free header from a corner to get the score to 2-1 but the West Londoners couldn’t muster another goal before Johnson put them to the sword later in the second half.

The win lifts Sunderland off the bottom of the table and in to 19th place, just two points off Fulham who sit outside the relegation zone in 16th.

KEY MOMENTS

9’ – BERBATOV BLUFF: Sasha Reither catches Wes Brown in possession on the right wing before playing a low pass to Berbatov in the penalty area. The Bulgarian tries to take the ball first time on his left foot but is off balance and can only shank the ball wide.

29’ – MAGIC JOHNSON: Adam Johnson stands over the ball looking seriously confident as he lines up his strike from 35 yards out. He bends the ball with power over the wall but provides just enough dip to get it under the crossbar. David Stockdale flings himself at it and gets two hands on the ball but the power of the shot sends the ball into the back of the net.

41’ – CONTROVERSIAL GOAL: Fabio Borini tucks the ball past Riise on the right wing with the Norwegian flying in. The Italian appeared to hurdle the tackle but fell to the floor and a free kick was given. Johnson stands over it and lays the ball to Ki who sweeps home to put Sunderland two goals up. But should it have been a free-kick in the first place?

52’ – FULHAM FIGHTBACK: Steve Sidwell glances in a free header from just five yards out as Damien Duff swings the ball in from a corner. Sunderland’s marking was woeful as the English midfielder headed home the easiest goal of his career.

69’ – SWIFT COUNTER: Sunderland produce one of the counter-attacks of the season when Ki is able to bring the ball out from his penalty area, play a one-two with Jozy Altidore on the half way line and then drive at the Fulham defence before playing a slide rule pass inside Riise at full back for Johnson to smash home with his right foot.

85' – HAT-TRICK HERO: Johnson smashes home a penalty after Altidore was tripped in the area for his first ever Premier League hat-trick. The winger sends the goalkeeper the wrong way as he seals the game for Sunderland.

KEY STATS

Adam Johnson scored his first ever Premier League hat-trick while Dimitar Berbatov didn’t score for the first time in three games.

The hat-trick was also Sunderland’s first since Darren Bent, now at Fulham, scored in their 4-0 home win against Bolton in 2010.

Sunderland only enjoyed 41% possession and had only 10 shots compared to Fulham’s 17 but had more on target with six to the home side’s five.

Steve Sidwell is now Fulham’s top scorer with five goals – from defensive midfield. This is also the first time Sidwell has scored five goals in a single Premier League season.

TALKING POINT

Can Sunderland drag themselves out of the relegation dogfight in the second half of the season? With more performances like this, then it is certainly do-able but the Black Cats must be wary of inconsistency. If they can keep players like Wes Brown and John O'Shea fit at the back with Johnson and Ki combining going forward, they've got every chance.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Adam Johnson (Sunderland): There was only ever going to be one winner despite an awesome display from fellow goalscorer Ki. The winger was dynamic and inventive and finished every opportunity that came his way. Also set up Ki for the second with a well worked free-kick.

PLAYER RATINGS

Fulham: Stockdale 5, Riether 6, Senderos 4, Amorebieta 5, Riise 5, Duff 6, Parker 6, Sidwell 7, Dempsey 6, Taarabt 4, Berbatov 5. Subs: Kasami 5, Dejagah 5, Bent 4.

Sunderland: Mannone 7, Bardsley 6, Alonso 6, Brown 7, O'Shea 7, Cattermole 7, Colback 6, Ki 8, Johnson 9, Borini 7, Fletcher 6. Subs: Larsson 6, Celustka 5, Altidore 7.

THE MATCH IN A TWEET