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Fulham 1-0 Liverpool: Cottagers in heaven

last updated Sunday 06th May 2007, 9:59 AM
Clint Dempsey
Clint Dempsey gets his first Fulham
goal and saves The Cottagers

Fulham substitute Clint Dempsey finished off a fine move in the second half to condemn Liverpool to a 1-0 defeat and put Lawrie Sanchez's side on the brink of Premiership survival

Dempsey combined with Liam Rosenior before sending the ball past Jose Reina in the 69th minute to snatch the victory that should be enough to keep Fulham in the top flight for a seventh successive season.

It was the perfect moment for the 24-year-old, signed from New England Revolution for £1.5million by former boss Chris Coleman in January, to open his account with the Cottagers sat perilously close to the drop zone.

Liverpool selected just goalkeeper Reina and winger Jermaine Pennant from the side that beat Chelsea in Tuesday's epic Champions League semi-final, but they still outclassed Fulham for most of the match.

Italian marksman Vincenzo Montella, who replaced Claus Jensen in the only change to the side beaten 3-1 by Arsenal, struck the woodwork with a deflected overhead kick, but otherwise Fulham hardly threatened until Dempsey's breakthrough.

The victory was the perfect way for chairman Mohamed Al Fayed to celebrate his 10-year anniversary since taking over at Craven Cottage and the players completed a march around the pitch to rapturous applause.

But there was one serious blot on their copybook, with skipper Michael Brown lucky to escape a red card after appearing to head-butt Xabi Alonso in an incident which left the Spanish midfielder with a bloody nose.

Liverpool created the first chance, with Mark Gonzalez picking out Bellamy, who struck first time but failed to connect cleanly.

Niemi came to Fulham's aid again in the ninth minute when Fowler sent Bellamy charging into space, but he was denied by the Finland keeper after pulling the trigger from a tight angle.

Liverpool were finding plenty of space in the opposition half, with their slick passing leaving the Cottagers trailing in their wake.

But Fulham squandered a great chance to take the lead in the 15th minute when Philippe Christanval lofted the ball to Brian McBride on the edge of the area.

The move caught the unmarked McBride by surprise and his first touch was poor, forcing the ball to bounce harmlessly away from danger.

Match Stats Fulham Liverpool
Goals 1 0
Possession 40% 60%
Goal attempts 8 9
On Target 5 5
Corners 4 14
Off-sides 4 5
Fouls 17 15
Yellows 2 2
Reds 1 0
source: Soccernet

Fulham had their tails up and struck the woodwork shortly after when an overhead kick from Montella was deflected onto the right post.

Alonso briefly left the pitch after his run-in with Brown and Brown was fortunate referee Steve Bennett missed the incident.

The lively play that had marked Liverpool's opening to the match was now missing, but Bellamy again went close on the 35th minute following a clever back-heel from Pennant.

Brown had a shot deflected by Gabriel Paletta and only a perfectly-executed tackle by Christanval prevented Bellamy from launching a counter-attack.

Liverpool fans were left shaking their head in disbelief moments before the interval when Fowler missed an open goal from just three yards out after Pennant had slid the ball across Fulham's defence.

The Reds veteran was involved once again as Liverpool probed down the left, with Bellamy racing onto his team-mate's pass and squaring, but there was nobody in support.

Montella was replaced by Dempsey in the 54th minute as Fulham caretaker-boss Sanchez attempted to breath some life into his fading team.

Papa Bouba Diop fired a free-kick straight into the arms of Reina and then the Spaniard had to show sharp reactions as McBride tried to force the ball in at the left post.

Then it was Niemi's turn to come to the rescue, blocking Bellamy's shot from point-blank range.

Play switched ends with increasing regularity and in the 69th minute Fulham took the lead.

Dempsey picked up the ball on the edge of the area and played a one-two with right-back Rosenior before sending the ball past Reina from eight yards.

Liverpool brought Harry Kewell on for his first appearance since the World Cup and then had the ball in the back of the net with seven minutes to go, but Paletta was rightly adjudged offside.

The Reds pressed for an equaliser, but Fulham, who had Diop sent off in injury-time for picking up a second yellow card, held firm to secure three priceless points.

Fulham caretaker boss Lawrie Sanchez:
"People tell me it's mathematically possible to be relegated so until it's proven we're safe I'll save the relief.

"But we took a big, big step today. It was a big ask of the players.

'The players proved they're good enough with two good halves and they did it front of their own fans.

'I was brought here to keep Fulham in the Premiership and we're close to that now.'

"Michael Brown said he and Alonso ran into each other, there was no headbutt. I believe my captain if he says that. He did say they clashed heads but added there was no intent."

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez on Brown's challenge on Alonso:
"You can use 20 referees, 2,000 cameras and a lot of electronic systems but if you don't want to see it you won't. Unbelievable.

"If the officials had seen it then it could have changed the game.

"Big money has been spent in the electronics system for the officials yet nobody could see anything."

Fulham: Niemi, Rosenior, Christanval, Knight, Bocanegra, Radzinski (Volz 90), Brown, Diop, Davies, Montella (Dempsey 53), McBride (Helguson 86).
Subs Not Used: Lastuvka, Routledge.

Sent Off: Diop (90,f, 2nd yel).

Booked: Diop (52,f), Brown (76,f).

Goals: Dempsey 69. Right-footed shot into the bottom-left of the goal from the right of penalty area. Assist, a cross, by Liam Rosenior from the right wing.

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Paletta, Hyypia, Insua (Finnan 75), Pennant (El Zhar 65), Alonso, Sissoko, Gonzalez (Kewell 77), Fowler, Bellamy.
Subs Not Used: Padelli, Hobbs.

Booked: Fowler, Arbeloa.

Att: 24,554

Ref: S Bennett (Kent).

Source soccernet
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