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Fulham stop losing run

last updated Saturday 18th October 2008, 9:00 PM
Zoltan Gera
Zoltan Gera
misses out
Fulham 0 Sunderland 0
Fulham ended their run of four defeats by clinging on for a point at Craven Cottage - but were let off the hook by referee Keith Stroud's decision to disallow a stunning 52nd-minute free-kick by Kieran Richardson - and the woodwork.

Richardson had already suffered when his 41st-minute free-kick saw the ball hit both posts, then strike the woodwork again via Cottagers goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, who eventually gratefully grabbed it.

So it looked like justice was done 11 minutes after the break when he arrowed his set-piece into the top corner - only for referee Stroud to rule it out for interference by Pascal Chimbonda in the Fulham wall.

Television replays appear to showed Chimbonda actually tugged the arm of team-mate, Dean Whitehead.

A point was just about what Fulham deserved though. They made as many chances as their visitors and if Zoltan Gera could have aimed straight they might have earned a valuable win.

Although Sunderland passed more sharply and struck the woodwork in four separate incidents, Fulham never lacked for effort and made some of the better opportunities.

Sadly, most of them fell to the feet of Gera, who had already scored scored twice for them this season since his summer move from West Brom.

However, in the ninth minute he steered a shot from 10 yards straight to Chimbonda - standing on the Sunderland line with goalkeeper Craig Gordon grounded.

And seven minutes later he failed to connect altogether with Andrew Johnson's perfect low cross from even closer range.

Later the Hungarian failed to beat Gordon with two close-range headers, before he was substituted 17 minutes from time.

Chimbonda was in the right place again in the 37th minute when he heroically headed Jimmy Bullard's fierce, rising shot over his own crossbar.

Match Stats Fulham Sunderland
Goals 0 0
Possession 51% 49%
Goal attempts 16 14
On Target 5 4
Corners 8 5
Off-sides 1 5
Saves 4 5
Fouls 14 9
Yellows 1 1
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet
Earlier Schwarzer had to save sharply from Djibril Cisse and Richardson - but was left thanking his lucky stars courtesy of Richardson's woodwork woe.

It certainly did not look like it was Richardson's day when he stepped up for another free-kick nine minutes after half-time, crashing it past Schwarzer only for Stroud to harshly rule the effort out.

Fulham had tried to crank up the pressure towards the half-time break and after their amazing escape the luckless Gera had another near-miss at the other end when his diving header was well saved by Gordon.

Fulham had plenty of of possession, thanks mainly to the energy and determination of captain Danny Murphy and the ubiquitous Bullard.

However, strikers Bobby Zamora and Johnson - returning from suspension - were well policed by Anton Ferdinand and Danny Collins.

Johnson had scored in each of his previous five appearances against Sunderland but rarely got a look in this time.

Frenchman Steed Malbranque wanted to make an impression against his former club but only earned a booking for an over-zealous challenge on John Pantsil - much to the joy of the home crowd, who jeered him all afternoon.

Sunderland's start to the second half promised a breakthrough and Aaron Hughes had to head off Fulham's line when Schwarzer's weak punch fell at Richardson's feet for him to execute a neat lob.

Richardson was denied again with his disallowed free-kick, while Sunderland struck the woodwork again when Cisse's fierce shot was too much for Schwarzer but came back off the bar.

Fulham were clinging on at times but still managed top raise some scares in the Sunderland penalty area, notably when Zamora and Bullard brought saves from Gordon.

However, Sunderland substitute Andy Reid would have been clean through on the home goal in the closing stages as he chased a Malbranque pass - but for Cisse straying offside.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson on referee Keith Stroud's decision to disallow Kieran Richardson's free-kick:
"He had warned (Pascal) Chimbonda already for pushing in the wall and obviously kept his eye on the situation.

"Fair play to him because luckily for us he was able to focus on his job.

"We looked a bit jaded to start with but improved and the main thing was we ended a run of defeats."

Sunderland boss Roy Keane:
"We should have had a goal from Kieron Richardson's free-kick as it was clearly a goal but I do not want to criticise the referee too much. We just have to get on with it.

"Instead of talking about a cracking game we are going to be talking about a goal which was not allowed.

"We hit the woodwork three or four times but I am fairly pleased with a point because we could have been out there all night and probably not scored.

"In terms of chances created we deserved to win the game."

Fulham Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky,Davies, Murphy, Bullard, Gera (Dempsey 73), Zamora, Johnson.
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Gray, Andreasen, Kallio, Baird.

Booked: Murphy.

Sunderland Gordon, Chimbonda, Ferdinand, Collins, McCartney,Malbranque, Leadbitter (Reid 62), Whitehead, Richardson,Cisse (Murphy 84), Chopra (Healy 69).
Subs Not Used: Fulop, Bardsley, Tainio, Diouf.

Booked: Malbranque.

Att: 25,116

Ref: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).

Source Bill Pierce at PA Sport
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