A tale of two shins. John Paintsil’s diverted a muddled ball over his own goal-line; later Raul Mereiles’ sliced a powerful Hangeland header away from danger.
Liverpool scored early when Torres beat our offside line and slotted home. It was disallowed – wrongly – by the male linesman, a let off that Fulham made the most of. By 20 minutes or so, having survived the initial rush, we were on top. Danny Murphy was again dominating the middle of the field, Moussa Dembele seemed keen to dribble past every Liverpool player at least twice, Andy Johnson was racing around like a spaniel on red bull and Clint Dempsey was at his bustling best. Only Damien Duff seemed subdued.
We might have opened the scoring when Dempsey won the ball and scuttled into the area, but his hard shot from an increasingly difficult angle was at Reina. Then another chance, the ball squared just behind Dembele, all alone on the penalty spot, and again the shot found the Liverpool keeper. Dembele did well to retrieve the cross and get it on target, but a player of his quality could have taken a touch and rolled it into either corner easily enough. Big moment.
In the meantime, David Stockdale was earning his spurs: a Raul Mereiles header seemed certain to go in, but Stockdale, falling to his right, got a firm hand to it and palmed it away. Then he tipped over a Glen Johnson screamer. There’s something of David Seaman in the lad, and I’d like to see him keep his place for a while.
The Liverpool winner was a masterclass of misfortune and bungling. Dempsey passed loosely towards Baird but the ball was deflected by a harrying Liverpool player into the path of Torres. His shot clipped Hangeland’s heel and hit the post, from where it rebounded into the six yard box. Here came John Paintsil to the rescue, but my suspicion is that a prone Stockdale probably deflected the ball just as Paintsil went to volley clear, resulting in a dreadful mess of a clearance that went backwards into the net. What a way to ruin a good away performance.
Fulham dominated again, Johnson’s slipperiness proving hard for the Liverpool centre-backs to handle, Dempsey getting closer and closer (one flying volley felt like it belonged in his Confederations Cup collection) but then Dembele had the second big chance of the night: Dempsey soared, headed down, and Dembele volleyed at Reina from close range. Ouch. Should’ve scored. We had other chances, but none so good as that.
It felt like a cup tie as we charged onwards for an equaliser, but Liverpool held out. If Roy Hodgson was watching he might have raised an eyebrow or two. Liverpool certainly ran around more than they did on his watch, but this team still lacks something. Fulham should by now realise that there’s nothing to be afraid of away from home, and take confidence from a very good showing.