Fulham 0, Sunderland 0: Richardson misses a vintage moment

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The Independent Football

It was a day for nostalgia at the homely old Cottage by the banks of the Thames. At lunchtime, Mohamed Al-Fayed, the Fulham chairman, unveiled a statue of Johnny Haynes, three years to the day after the ultimate passing of the man Pele hailed as "the best passer of the ball I've ever seen"

A fine figure the bronze image was too, capturing the Fulham maestro in classic pose, hands on hips, right foot trapping the ball, his gaze cannily considering the options. The cover of the match programme was a tasteful tribute too, a re-creation of the edition published for the great man's debut, back on Boxing Day 1952, with Bobby Robson on the team-sheet as Haynes' fellow inside-forwardand Fulham listed as wearing "white shirts and black knickers".

The fare on the pitch yesterday could hardly be described as vintage but it had its moments, not least the 54th- minute incident that left Sunderland with their knickers all in a twist. Their players and supporters erupted in celebration when Kieran Richardson curled a free-kick past Mark Schwarzer from 25 yards out. It was a superbly executed effort by the one-time England midfielder but Wearside joy turned to fury when the referee, Keith Stroud, deemed it illegal, penalising Pascal Chimbonda for obstructing players in the home wall.

It was harsh on Richardson, but then the Old Trafford old boy had the luck of a Black Cat that had run out of lives. Three minutes before the interval, from a near-identical spot at the other end, he sent another left-footed free-kick sailing past the diving Schwarzer.On that occasion, the ball hit the right post, then the left and finally cannoned off the right post again via the Fulham goalkeeper's right knee.

Djibril Cissé fared no better, smacking an 18-yard volley off Schwarzer's bar 15 minutes from time. Not that the misfortune was all with Roy Keane's side. Far from it. After absorbing Sunderland's bright attacking opening, Fulham ought to have been in the comfort zone by the end of the first quarter. That they failed to get there was down to a brilliant covering block by Chimbonda, after Zoltan Gera had rounded both the Sunderland right- back and their keeper, Craig Gordon, and a howler of an air shot by Gera from the edge of the six-yard box. The great maestro would not have been greatly impressed.