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Fulham 2-3 Liverpool Prem 26 1314 Mirror

last updated Thursday 13th February 2014, 8:48 PM
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Darren Lewis at The Mirror

Fulham (1) 2 Liverpool(1) 3

Twice they were staring down the barrel - now they are staring at the summit.

This crazy, pulsating, white-knuckle ride ended with Liverpool just four points off top spot and Fulham wondering just how they managed to end up with nothing.

It is also now anybody's guess what will happen next in this most incredible title race in the history of the Premier League.

Jose Mourinho's expensive thoroughbreds may yet have the pedigree to steal it from the front with Arsenal dropping points again across London.

But the way that Liverpool dug in and found a way to win here suggests they have the stamina to take it all the way to the wire.

It is hard too to disagree with Rodgers who admitted afterwards that Liverpool would probably have lost this game earlier in the season.

Fulham started superbly with a pressing game that put the Reds off their stride. But they failed to take their chances. Rene Meulensteen afterwards insisted his men should have at least taken a point and he did indeed have a point.

But he has to accept that when his side have the opportunities presented to them that they did in this match, they have to take them.

Kolo Toure handed the west Londoners a deserved lead when he inexplicably sliced Kieran Richardson's cross into his own net just eight minutes in.

This is the second time in three games that the Ivory Coast centre-back has suffered a loss of concentration that has cost his team after his aberration at West Brom to allow Victor Anichebe to score.

Here it gave Fulham the initiative and saw Meulensteen's men continue to pull the Liverpool backline apart.

Midfielder Ryan Tunnicliffe had already drawn a smart save out of Simon Mignolet. Defender Dan Burn headed over the Liverpool bar from a corner and Lewis Holtby shot wide after exchanging passes with William Kvist.

It was left to Sturridge to show them all how to finish, racing onto a sumptuous pass from Steven Gerrard and shooting beyond Fulham keeper Maarten Stekelenburg.

The goal was the England striker's seventh in as many consecutive Premier League appearances. Fulham only had themselves to blame.

Rodgers managed to rouse his side from their slumber during the break and Liverpool returned with a greater sense of purpose and more industry. They continued, however, to go to pieces at the back.

When Sascha Riether crossed in the 63rd minute, Martin Skrtel collided with Jon Flanagan and Richardson smashed the loose ball home.

The strike meant Liverpool have now conceded two or more goals in eight of their last 10 Premier League away matches.

With fifth-placed Spurs romping home up at Newcastle it also looked as though the Reds would end the night with the north Londoners just a point behind them.

Then, however, Meulensteen inexplicably took off Richardson who had tormented Martin Skrtel all night. Seconds later Coutinho curled in a deflected effort from just inside the box.

Even then a draw looked to be a fair result. Riether, however, upended Sturridge in a challenge on the left side of the box that he simply did not need to make.

Referee Phil Dowd pointed to the spot and the England captain had ice in his veins as he speared his spot kick home.

It was harsh on Fulham whose endeavours on the night were surely worth more. But Liverpool were determined to arrest the slide in away form that had seen them take only 16 points from a possible 36 before this match.

Last weekend we saw their silk with that performance of stunning virtuosity to sink Arsenal. Here we saw the steel as the Rodgers men showed that they have the character to last the distance.

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