If we fail to win the title the 0-0 with Fulham earlier this season will be one of many draws at Anfield that will be sited as one of reasons for this. However, should we end up on the top of the table then perhaps this return game against Fulham might be seen as a turning point?
Once more we snatch victory from the jaws of disappointment. This time Benayoun in stoppage time, again. Many will look at this say we were lucky but whilst race horses were hitting timber at Aintree we were hitting our own woodwork – four times! Poor finishing or an example of how unlucky we were. Whatever the arguments none of this should disguise the fact that this was a thoroughly deserved win in a game which we dominated from start to finish. It was also a just reward for some positive, attacking play.
The fact that the winner was in stoppage time should not disguise this. Yes chances were missed chances we missed but it would be churlish in the extreme to criticise a team that’s scored thirteen goals in their last three games? We were professional to the end kept going and got the result. Phew! Middlesbrough, Man City, Wigan, Portsmouth and now this! I should say I can’t stand the pressure of all this last gasp stuff but I’m getting used to it now!
Rafa made three changes to the side partly because of international week. Mascherano, back from the exhausting altitude of La Paz, was benched meaning that he wouldn’t come up against Steve Bennett who sent him off last season at Old Trafford. Lucas filled in while Insua and Dossena replaced Riera and Aurelio. However any misgivings were soon dispelled as we began confidently by ripping into Fulham.
Dossena in a more forward role was the first to test Schwarzer who finger tipped his shot over the bar. The Italian was at it again from the resulting corner deflecting Srktel’s shot on to the bar with the back of his head. Schwarzer was busy again saving Torres’s shot and then recovering well to deal with the spill with Kuyt looming. Woodwork strike two came from Alonso with a powerful long range effort after Gerrard’s corner had been cleared. Next Torres who, after a good move with Gerrard, saw his placed shot trickle off the post. Alonso’s sweeping cross field ball was picked up by Gerrard on the right wing his cross was headed on the bar by Dossena. Again many might see this is a poor finishing but it emphasizes the positive attitude running through the team. It would have been easy to exercise caution, defend and try and pick Fulham off on the break as we have done in the past. However, we went out to kill the game from the off.
The second half saw more of the same. Gerrard’s cross saw three players desperately trying to get on the end it of it, none of them did. Gerrard slashed one across the face of goal which Benayoun managed to flick on. It had “goal” written all over it until it missed the post! Players took a little more time, just trying to make sure, only to give Fulham that vital extra second to snuff out the chance. Rafa’s twitches were now so numerous they could have been linked up to the national grid and powered the floodlights! However, good things come to those who wait.
It wasn’t our best move but Babel was forced sideways by a now “all hands to the defence” Fulham. Eventually he pushed it forward to Gerrard. The resulting tackle saw the ball squirm out to Benayoun on the right who finally smacked it home. A great strike under pressure from Fulham players and the circumstances of the game. Deliverance for us and back on top after two months. The crowd at the end chanted “we’re going to win the league”. Are we? Slightly premature, but for now, over to you Mancs!
Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Murphy (Dacourt 76), Etuhu, Davies (Gera 79), Zamora, Johnson (Nevland 87).
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Kamara, Kallio, Baird.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Alonso, Lucas, Kuyt (Benayoun 76), Gerrard (Agger 90), Dossena (Babel 65), Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Riera, Mascherano, Ngog.