Oct 7 2012 By Yann Tear
Southampton 2-2 Fulham
FULHAM had to settle for a point after a dramatic finale in which Kieran Richardson's first Whites goal had looked likely to be the winner – only for Jose Fonte to head in his second to make it 2-2.
There were just two minutes left when former Manchester United midfielder Richardson (pictured) stole into the area to rattle in a low cross from Sascha Riether – the ball deflecting off a defender to beat keeper Paulo Gazzaniga.
With a packed away end in full celebratory mode, and home fans heading for the exits, Fonte got in between Brede Hangeland and Aaron Hughes to deflect a free-kick into the net at the far post for a 90th minute heart-breaker. Fulham felt they should have had a free-kick of their own in the build-up.
The Whites had recovered well from conceding an early goal – and a wobbly first half in general – to claim a deserved share of the spoils at St Mary's.
They struggled to cope with a set piece bombardement before the break, but posed far more problems in the second half – even if it needed an own goal from defender Jos Hooiveld to cancel out a Fonte header.
The Whites had barely had time to get their bearings before they found themselves a goal down.
Adam Lallana's inswinging corner was just perfect for Fonte on the edge of the six-yard box and a looping header beat a backtracking Aaron Hughes for height at the far post.
It could very easily have been 2-0 in the 18th minute, when a sweet move caught Fulham flat-footed. Lallana fed Jay Rodriguez in the inside left channel and a pull-back offered up a glorious opportunity for Rickie Lambert, which the striker sidefooted wide.
Then, Riether had to clear off the line after another corner caused mayhem in the Whites' six yard box, and Jason Puncheon had a 'goal' ruled out for an infringement at another flag kick.
Mark Schwarzer, a day after his 40th birthday, had to be alert to get down at his near post when Lambert had another chance before the half was out.
It was not as if Fulham failed to venture into the opposition half though, and they forced set pieces of their own. But without either of the injured pair Dimitar Berbatov or Mladen Petric available, there was a lack of incisiveness up front.
Hugo Rodallega almost scampered onto a long ball from deep, but parity at the break would have been undeserved.
There was much more purpose about Fulham after the interval and Ruiz started to look more of a threat.
From one of his free-kicks, Steve Sidwell almost ghosted in to score at the far post – the ball coming back off a post – and Rodallega had a close-range volley blocked following another clever Ruiz floater.
Their greater aggression found reward when Riether charged down the right flank to play a perefct ball across the area to John Arne Riise.
The Norwegian, still seeking his first goal in Fulham colours - struck hard and low, but the ball was going wide until Hooveld obligingly diverted the ball into the roof of the net.
It was a goal that, in the event, set up a breathless conclusion.
Line-up: Schwarzer; Riether, Hangeland, Hughes, Riise; Duff, Sidwell (Karagounis 70), Baird, Kacaniklic (Richardon 66); Ruiz, Rodallega. Subs not used: Stockdale, Kelly, Senderos, Kasami, Briggs.