Richardson downs Pompey
Summer signing strikes twice as Redknapp's side struggle
By James Dall. Last Updated: 13/01/08 3:55pm
Richardson: Vital goals
Kieran Richardson netted an excellent brace to hand Sunderland a much-needed victory over Portsmouth.
Harry Redknapp's side were well below par at the Stadium of Light, and Richardson punished them, striking twice in the first half to ensure The Black Cats picked up their fifth Premier League triumph of the season.
The opener came on 33 minutes when Kenwyne Jones embarrassed a dallying Sol Campbell to roll the ball into Richardson's path, allowing the former Manchester United man to finish cleverly past James.
Just a minute before half-time Richardson was at it again as he skipped past Hermann Hreidarsson to slot home with his right foot.
Portsmouth continued to struggle in the second half, and it was Roy Keane's men that went the closest with Richardson marginally missing out on a hat-trick as his vicious shot cannoned off the bar.
Keane could hardly have wished for a better response from his side just a week after the 3-0 FA Cup loss to the Wigan.
From the first minute, his players hustled and harried their opponents and fully merited a victory which will give them renewed belief that such spirit and commitment could lead them to safety.
Danny Collins, Anthony Stokes and Dean Whitehead all had chances in the first 10 minutes as the visitors sat deep - before Benjani Mwaruwari missed a golden opportunity to hand the visitors an early lead, stabbing wide from close-range.
Niko Kranjcar forced a fine reaction save out of Craig Gordon in the 17th minute, but the home side soon resumed control and seldom looked like slipping up.
Stokes headed over the bar, and Daryl Murphy shot just wide of James' left-hand post before Jones helped to create Richardson's opener.
Returning from a knee injury, the big striker barged past Campbell - who appeared to have given the ball up as dead - before clawing it back from the by-line into the path of his team-mate to sweep home.
It got even better for Richardson one minute before the break when he beat Hermann Hreidarsson to Murphy's ball on the edge of the Pompey box, before firing confidently past James.
Sunderland continued to impress in the second half, and Richardson came close to grabbing his and the Black Cats' third three minutes after the re-start.
Stokes knocked Jones' right-wing cross back into the former Manchester United man's path, but Richardson's rising shot from just outside the box sailed inches over James' bar.
Pompey did their best to respond and Pedro Mendes had a long-range effort blocked by Nyron Nosworthy before play swung to the other end where James had to get down well to hold a Murphy cross.
The frantic action continued when Benjani burst past Nosworthy only to hit a poor shot which was booted clear by Jonny Evans - with Gordon beaten.
In the 59th minute, Richardson again came agonisingly close to his hat-trick when he let fly with a rising left-foot shot from the edge of the box which clattered the bar.
Sunderland continued to hold the ascendancy, and the dangerous Benjani was superbly shackled by Nosworthy and Evans in the home defence.
The home side ultimately coasted home to the obvious delight and relief of Keane.
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