David Lacey at The Guardian
Fulham 3 Liverpool 1
Liverpool's renaissance appeared an illusion at Craven Cottage when, after a promising start, they were well beaten by Roy Hodgson's revived Fulham and finished the match with nine men after Philipp Degen and their captain, Jamie Carragher, had been sent off in the space of three minutes late in the second half.
So much for the promise of better things engendered by the impressive victory over Manchester United last weekend. This defeat was Liverpool's sixth in seven matches and their fifth in the Premier League this season, reawakening fears not only that the championship is going to evade Anfield for another season, but that a place in the top four looks far from a foregone conclusion.
This did not always appear the case here for, while Bobby Zamora gave Fulham the lead against the run of play, Liverpool were the superior side in the first half and, after Fernando Torres had brought the scores level shortly before half-time with his 10th goal in 10 games, a win for Rafa Benítez's team appeared likely.
Liverpool played more than twice as many passes as Fulham despite losing, although 140 of those were no-risk or low-risk touches from their centre backs. Yet once Torres, only recently recovered from a groin injury, had been taken off with this week's Champions League action in mind, Liverpool lost their cohesion and discipline, and after goals from Erik Nevland and Clint Dempsey, plus the sendings-off, had put the contest beyond their reach, the Fulham supporters chanted "We want four", which added insult to injury considering that Hodgson's side had previously scored only four times in all of their home league games this season.
Benítez said Liverpool would appeal against the red cards shown by Lee Mason to Degen and Carragher. In the manager's opinion, Degen had intended to play the ball when he went in high on Dempsey, while Carragher had actually done so when he was penalised for bringing down Zamora, who was through on goal.
With Torres a lone striker supported by Andriy Voronin playing off him, and Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun working the flanks, the plan seemed an admirable one in the circumstances. Fulham were searching in vain for the ball and when they came across it they soon lost it again. Torres, sliding in to meet a low centre from Kuyt, just failed to make contact in the 18th minute, and three minutes later Benayoun met a long cross from Degen with a superbly struck volley on to the crossbar.
At that point, Fulham were still waiting to join the contest. In the end, they grew tired of waiting and took the lead without so much as a by-your-leave.
Liverpool seemed to have lulled themselves into a false sense of security when Diomansy Kamara found Damien Duff in space on the left. Duff's low cross should have been intercepted but found its way across the penalty area for Zamora to surprise Emiliano Insua with a blindside run before beating Pepe Reina with a low shot.
Not that Liverpool appeared fazed by the setback. Without Torres they might have suffered a serious psychological blow; with Torres it was a minor setback. Three minutes before half-time Benítez's team were level, the goal scored with the familiar panache. Voronin nodded the ball down near Fulham's 18-yard line and Torres found the net with an excellent shot on the turn.
Torres was always likely to be taken off, given his recent injury and the upcoming game in Lyon. So it was no surprise when he gave way to Ryan Babel just past the hour. No surprise either to see the Liverpool attack lose its cutting edge. The departure of an opponent of Torres's class will usually buck a team up and Fulham were no exception. Their football now had the greater urgency and they were creating chances at a greater rate.
The introduction of Nevland after half-time gave Hodgson's side more attacking options, and the quick-thinking Norwegian restored Fulham's lead in the 72nd minute after another substitute, Zoltan Gera, had nodded back Paul Konchesky's cross from the left.
After that, Liverpool simply moved from one embarrassment to another.
Whatever Benítez thought about it, both red cards seemed justified in the current climate, as Alex Ferguson would say. "If you do go in high and don't take the ball, you're going to get something happen to you," said Hodgson.
Fulham's third goal saw Dempsey exchange passes with Nevland at little more than walking pace before beating Reina. For Liverpool, Wednesday's game in Lyon could decide the fate of their season even more than the Manchester United match a week ago.