(Rich’s report was eaten by the internet, so here’s the next best thing: HatterDon’s View From South Texas)
Historic Victory for Fulham At Uninspired Liverpool
Ho-hum, yet another double by the Mighty Whites.
There’s a point to be made that Liverpool purposely fielded a weakened XI against Fulham Tuesday evening, since they have the FA Cup Final on Saturday. And Ian Darke made that very point 273 times during the 90+ minutes of his “commentating.” I’m sure there will be plenty of press decrying Liverpool’s makeshift side, and using this fact to denigrate Fulham’s victory. Truth be told, there was only one side showing any creativity out there and that was Fulham. Despite fielding Kuyt, Carroll, and Maxi, the three most creative players on the pitch were Dembélé, Dempsey, and Kacankifrei. Ably assisted by Danny Murphy who pulled the strings masterfully, Fulham basically played without being under sustained pressure for a moment. And the result? The fact that despite the typical crowd size, the “few Fulham supporters who bothered to make the trip” [this quote again from Darke] could be heard clearly. I especially loved the “Take Me Home, Al Fayed” and Moussa’s song.
Fulham fielded three ex-Reds, with Special K joining Riise and Murphy in the lineup. The young left winger looked very dangerous early on, and it was a neat combination play between him and Dempsey that resulted in the goal. Dempsey put Special K through and, with Pogrebnyak pressuring Liverpool’s defense, Martin Skrtel put into his own net off his shoulder. And that was pretty much that. Liverpool fired off a raft of shots, but the majority of them hit everything nowhere near Mark Schwarzer’s goal. They nearly scored after an unusual gaffe by the Fulham keeper, but Jonjo Shelvey’s weak shot was cleared off the line by the excellent Brede Hangeland.
Liverpool’s most threatening shot on goal came from the forehead of Andy Carroll, but Tha Big Aussie had little trouble with it. Most of the evening the local “faithful” groaned as pass after pass was misdirected. Initially, most of the interceptions came from and active alert defending up and down the pitch. In the end, though, Fulham scarcely had to move to gain possession as Liverpool players – out of original ideas – passed across the pitch to a wide open Fulham player time after time.
Fulham might have scored twice more. Dempsey set up Frei, who came on for Kacaniklic, and the youngster hammered a fierce shot that threatened to shatter Doni’s right hand post. Later, some brilliant close control by Moussa Dembélé put Dempsey through, but the Texan’s curler was met with a brilliant piece of goalkeeping by Doni. Skrtel attempted to screw up a back pass to his keeper and, possibly, open up yet another opportunity for Dempsey, but there was barely a foot between the two Liverpool players, and Clint was lucky to be able to put a boot on it.
How did Fulham look? Composed, controlled, a bit disjointed when the passing came to Pogrebnyak (The Russian received a pass from a teammate and passed it to another teammate in the 73rd minute. This was, to my knowledge, the only time this sequence occurred). Kacaniklic started off brightly and troubled the right side of Liverpool’s defense for about 15 minutes, but Liverpool’s Kelly soon figured him out and his contribution was reduced to dribbling too long and giving up possession. He is DEFINITELY a prospect. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the left wing position his by Christmas. Frei was a good substitute for Special K, and his pace and quick movement was also troubling. But after his wood-work adventure, Frei became less and less vital to the attack. He was, however, brilliant in defending Downing who came in to cause some threat from the Red right wing. Dembélé left with a knock, as did Pogrebnyak, but the Belgian should be giving several Liverpool players nightmares as he ran and juked through their side with the ball seemingly velcroed to his boot.
Fulham’s defense was very good. Except for a near suicidal 5 minutes from Aaron Hughes in the second half, the Liverpool attack didn’t trouble them much. The most enjoyable matchup was the Carroll v. Hangeland affair. The Houston-born Norwegian won most of the 50-50s, but Carroll was a creditable presence up front.
The best player on the pitch tonight was Clint Dempsey. The enigmatic Texan helped create both our goal and Frei’s near second. He also had a good shot beaten away by a superior goalkeeping effort.
HatterDon’s Man of the Match is Clinton Morrison Dempsey. A close second is Alexim Kacankifrei.
And so we have matched our points total from last season, and, with two matches left we’ve put three points between us and West Bromwich Albion. We’re equal on points with Liverpool, albeit 6 down in goal difference. We could pass them, though, as they have a couple of tough matches to come after their FA Cup Final against Chelsea. We’ll see.
On to Sunderland at the Cottage. COYW