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Fulham 0-1 Liverpool: Cottagers in late defeat

last updated Sunday 05th April 2009, 12:05 AM

Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer
Fulham keeper
Mark Schwarzer
An injury-time goal from Yossi Benayoun gave Liverpool a 1-0 win at Fulham and took them to the top of the Premier League.

It looked as though the Reds were going to pay for missed chances until the Israel international midfielder blasted a right-footed shot past Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.

The win put Rafael Benitez's men two points clear at the top of the table - although second-placed Manchester United have two games in hand.

Four times Liverpool hit the woodwork. Through Fernando Torres and Xabi Alonso. And Andrea Dossena twice. They played some magical football, too, but try as they might they struggled to breach the iron curtain Fulham manager Roy Hodgson has draped around Craven Cottage this season.

Much is made of the importance of confidence in football and Liverpool have been stacking that commodity like beans in Tesco this past month.

They had scored 11 goals and conceded just one in their last three league games, a period which had also seen them dispatch Real Madrid from the Champions League.

Another huge Champions League encounter, a quarter-final against Chelsea, loomed on Wednesday and on other days Benitez might have had one eye on that match.

Not this day. Benitez fielded arguably one of his strongest sides, with the possible exception of midfielder Javier Mascherano who was left on the substitutes' bench.

And in that first 45 minutes, in particular, they looked world beaters.

Rarely can a side have dominated a football match quite so dramatically and gone in at half-time goalless.

Benitez's men began as if they were under orders to get the business end of the match over as quickly as possible so as to give their star performers a breather. In truth, Fulham should have been buried.

Match Stats Fulham Liverpool
Goals 0 1
Possession 39% 61%
Goal attempts 3 20
On Target 1 7
Corners 3 6
Off-sides 5 3
Saves 6 1
Fouls 9 10
Yellows 2 2
Reds 0 0
source: Soccernet
First, Dossena strode into space in the penalty area and his left-foot shot was tipped over the bar by Schwarzer.

From Gerrard's resulting corner Martin Skrtel thundered in another left-foot shot which flicked the head of Dossena before clipping the Fulham crossbar and bouncing to safety.

Schwarzer also produced a superb left-handed block to deny Torres when the red tide was threatening to overwhelm Fulham.

Alonso, outside the area, unleashed a thunderous right-foot volley which crashed against the Fulham crossbar.

Then it was Torres' turn after wonderful interplay with Gerrard had sliced open the Fulham defence, only demonstrating the threat of arguably the best striking partnership in world football right now.

Unfortunately, the Spain striker's angled shot come back off the post.

Incredibly, two minutes later the woodwork was trembling again. Gerrard again was the provider, swinging in a right-wing cross which Dossena threw himself at only to see his header come back off Schwarzer's bar.

Liverpool could have been excused for wondering if this was not to be their day in the week Benitez picked up the manager-of-the-month award.

Perhaps it was the organisation and imagination of manager Roy Hodgson, who has done wonders at Craven Cottage this past 18 months.

But in the 65th minute Benitez, seeing the possibility of crucial points being squandered, threw on Ryan Babel in place of Dossena.

And then Benayoun entered the fray for Kuyt to steal the headlines and more importantly for his side, the points.

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson was devastated after seeing his side fight so hard, only to lose out so close to the final whistle.

Hodgson said: ''It's a bitter blow to lose in injury-time after such a battling performance against an in-form team. That is frustrating and disappointing.

''We had dangerous situations. They had more possession but we dealt with things reasonably well. I cannot fault the players for their commitment.

''But when you can bring on players like (Ryan) Babel and Benayoun it is a great advantage. Benayoun's goal was a bit fortunate but he took it very well.''

Asked who he thought would go on to win the league, Hodgson said: ''They are two great teams and I have respect for both clubs and managers.''

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Murphy (Dacourt 76), Etuhu, Davies (Gera 79), Zamora, Johnson (Nevland 87).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Kamara, Kallio, Baird.

Booked: Pantsil (58,f), Gera (86,d).

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Alonso, Lucas, Kuyt (Benayoun 76), Gerrard (Agger 90), Dossena (Babel 65), Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Riera, Mascherano, Ngog.

Booked: Babel, Skrtel.

Goals: Benayoun 90.

Att: 25,661

Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).


Source soccernet
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