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Fulham go down fighting

last updated Saturday 10th November 2007, 11:20 PM
Antti Niemi
Antti Niemi pulled off
a number of saves

Liverpool 2-0 Fulham: Brave Cottagers fall at the last - soccernet

Fernando Torres returned to save Liverpool from another home disaster as brave Fulham had their hearts broken when they conceded twice in the final nine minutes to go down 2-0.

For long spells it looked as if Lawrie Sanchez's resolute side would escape from Anfield with a point.

But Rafael Benitez sent on Torres with 20 minutes to go, and he broke the deadlock with a stunning individual goal, before Steven Gerrard blasted home a late penalty after Peter Crouch had been tripped.

If Liverpool had slumped to yet another home draw - it would have been their fifth Premier League home stalemate - their title dreams would have been all but dead.

But Benitez paid £20m for Torres to score goals like this and in the end Fulham just could not cope with the quality that kept appearing from Liverpool's bench.

There was an understandable air of expectation from both crowd and home players that there should be more goals almost on command following the 8-0 thumping of Besiktas in midweek, but Sanchez's men were intent on showing it is never as easy as that.

Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy tested Jose Reina after just 14 seconds from 20 yards and the same player forced Reina into a diving save on 15 minutes.

Sami Hyypia forced Antti Niemi into a full-length save to his left and Gerrard saw a dipping 25-yarder flash over.

Danny Murphy
Danny Murphy fought well
for the Fulham cause

But Fulham were sharp and determined, and a lot better organised than Besiktas had been.

Aaron Hughes produced a fine last-ditch tackle to take the ball away from Crouch in the act of shooting and Liverpool were finding it hard to create clear openings.

Murphy and Steven Davis were allowing little room for Liverpool's midfield to work in, while Shefki Kuqi and David Healy tirelessly toiled in attack for the visitors.

Crouch came closest in the first period when he hit the crossbar with a looping header from a Fabio Aurelio free-kick seconds from the break.

Two minutes into the second half and Andriy Voronin forced Niemi into a low save to his right.

But Fulham's tackles and interceptions were still biting, and friendship meant nothing when Murphy tripped Gerrard from behind in full flow and was booked.

From the free-kick Aurelio saw his fierce effort clawed away by Niemi, with Voronin firing the rebound over the top.

Voronin then combined superbly with Crouch to burst into the box and see Niemi make another fine save.

Match Stats Liverpool Fulham
Goals 2 0
Possession 65% 35%
Goal attempts 21 5
On Target 12 3
Corners 8 2
Off-sides 5 3
Saves 5 11
Fouls 9 12
Yellows 0 2
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet

Fulham took off Healy and sent on Hameur Bouazza to fill in a left-sided midfield role to contest the flow from Yossi Benayoun and Aurelio down that flank.

Liverpool responded by sending on Ryan Babel for Riise on 62 minutes.

His first involvement was to find Benayoun in space, but Niemi made another fine save from the Isreal international's lob.

Benayoun's next touch was a fine pass into Voronin's stride, the Ukrainian's shot going just wide of the far post.

Voronin left the field soon after, a frustrated man after so many opportunities, to be replaced by Torres.

Fulham were now trying to hit on the break, attempting to turn an unlikely point into a miraculous victory.

Liverpool sent on Lucas for Javier Mascherano with 10 minutes left and within a minute the home side were finally ahead.

There was nothing pretty about the build-up, a 60-yard clearance from Reina's hands. But Torres took it down brilliantly, side-stepped his way into the box and cleverly clipped his shot inside Niemi's near post, leaving the 'keeper flat-footed.

Then, on 85 minutes, Liverpool got their second. Bocanegra tripped Crouch in the box and Gerrard crashed home the spot-kick.

Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez hailed Fernando Torres' stunning goal against Fulham and admitted he was looking forward to a selection headache.

Benitez said: 'It is good he is back fit, now I have the sort of problems I like with several fit strikers to choose from.

'It was important for Torres to be back and important that he can score goals like that.

'At the end I said well done to them all, not just Torres, his job is to score goals.'

Benitez had kept an unchanged side for the first time this season following the 8-0 win over Besiktas in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Benitez added: 'I felt it was right to give a side who score eight another chance, but you could see some were tired at the end, so I had to make changes. Would I do it again? Only if they score another eight goals.'

Striker Peter Crouch said: 'We were always on top. But they defended really well, and it was hard to break them down - so credit to them.'

'Thankfully, we got the goal - and I think we would have had a few more if we had gone on much longer.'

The arrival of Torres made the difference for Liverpool, and Crouch added: 'We have a lot of quality in the squad, and I thought all the boys did well today.

'But when Fernando came on he gave us a little bit different.'

As for the penalty, Crouch conceded the foul was close to the edge of the penalty area - but probably just inside.

'It is borderline - but I am almost through on goal, so it is a goalscoring chance,' he said.

Fulham boss Lawrie Sanchez said: 'I felt we were heading for a point, and so I think did 43,000 other people.

'But Liverpool brought a bit of talent off the bench and it changed the game. I actually felt that Torres mis hit his final shot, and that is what confused Hughes and Niemi. It was a soft goal in the end to concede.

'As for the penalty, I don't believe it was in the box, it wasn't a penalty.

'I felt we had kept them quiet, restricted them to shots from outside the box in the first half.

'It wasn't working for them. That is why they brought on three substitutes. One at £25m, one at £11m and one at £5m. I think there should be cap on the price of players you can bring on, maybe no more than £20m of players.'

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Hyypia, Aurelio, Benayoun, Mascherano (Lucas 81), Gerrard, Riise (Babel 62), Voronin (Torres 70), Crouch.
Subs Not Used: Martin, Finnan.

Goals: Torres 81, Gerrard 85 pen.

Fulham: Niemi, Baird, Hughes, Stefanovic, Bocanegra, Davies, Davis, Murphy, Dempsey (Kamara 69), Kuqi, Healy (Bouazza 60).
Subs Not Used: Warner, Smertin, Leijer.

Booked: Murphy (53,f), Dempsey (64,drg).

Att: 43,073

Ref: Steve Tanner (Somerset).

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