Reina's mistake proves costly for Liverpool

 

SOCCER ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE: Fulham 1 Liverpool 0:A TIGHT contest could be settled only by a grand mistake. Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina mishandled Danny Murphy’s attempt in the 85th minute and Clint Dempsey knocked home the loose ball.

The midfielder had hit the bar five minutes earlier as Fulham thrived after the red card shown to the visitors’ midfielder Jay Spearing for an uncontrolled challenge on Moussa Dembele after 72 minutes.

Fulham began the evening a mere two points above the relegation places, even if this was their game in hand. There had been a single Premier League victory at Craven Cottage and while that 6-0 rout of Queens Park Rangers might have been cherished by supporters, Martin Jol’s squad need the sort of consistency on the domestic front shown in the Europa League, where Fulham are on the verge of progressing from the group phase.

There was endeavour here from hosts and visitors alike in a match pleasingly inclined towards adventure, even if goals hardly flowed despite the early attacks. With six minutes gone, Bryan Ruiz had fed Mousa Dembele with the striker’s effort blocked by the Liverpool goalkeeper Jose Reina.

Dalglish’s side arrived at Fulham with hopes of a fourth consecutive away victory in the league but openings were scarce for them before the interval although Jordan Henderson cut in from the left to bend a shot that came off the inside of the post before rolling along the line to safety in the 28th minute.

There has been sorrow over the long-term injury to Lucas Leiva, but little occurred in the opening 45 minutes to highlight the value of the absent defensive midfielder.

Fulham displayed purpose throughout and Clint Dempsey was industrious in the opening 45 minutes in which he kept Reina occupied if not overwhelmed.

Some attempts were dealt with and others ran a little wide, but the truly exceptional reaction demanded came from Dembele’s drive that was pushed to the left by the leaping goalkeeper after 17 minutes. However Liverpool had the greater intent to attack, or perhaps just the superior means to do so. Striker Andy Carroll had close support from Craig Bellamy and Luis Suarez, yet there were no overtones of the last encounter between these sides here, when Liverpool won 5-2 in May.

Liverpool’s intent was immediately apparent following the interval and so, too, was a trace of antagonism, with Craig Bellamy and Clint Dempsey booked after a confrontation.

The mood at Craven Cottage was heightened, too, when the home fans took exception to what seemed a dive by Suarez.

It still had the tone of a pseudo-controversy that kept onlookers occupied as they waited for some crucial deed. The home crowd were relieved when Philippe Senderos fouled Charlie Adam a fraction outside the area in the 59th minute. There was just a yellow card rather than a penalty.

Liverpool should have taken the lead in the 66th minute, but Suarez was wrongly deemed offside from Jose Enrique’s pass as he was neatly taking the ball away from Schwarzer to finish.

It had been a very tight call for the assistant referee on an occasion when there was little to separate the sides.

- Guardian Service

FULHAM:Schwarzer, Kelly, Hangeland, Senderos, Riise, Dempsey, Murphy (Gecov 90), Etuhu, Ruiz, Dembele, Zamora (Johnson 71). Subs not used: Etheridge, Kasami, Hughes, Frei, Briggs. Booked: Dembele, Dempsey, Senderos.

LIVERPOOL: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Jose Enrique, Henderson, Spearing, Adam, Bellamy (Downing 77), Suarez, Carroll (Kuyt 77). Subs not used: Doni, Maxi, Coates, Carragher, Kelly. Booked: Bellamy.

Referee:Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).