Premier League - Fulham end Liverpool's run

Mon, 05 Dec 21:08:00 2011

Fulham brought 10-man Liverpool’s eight-game undefeated streak in the league to an end with a 1-0 victory in an exciting Monday night encounter at Craven Cottage.

Fulham 1 Liverpool 0

Clint Dempsey tucked home the only goal of the game five minutes from time after Pepe Reina had spilled a distance effort from home captain and former Liverpool player Danny Murphy.

Kenny Dalgish’s men hit the post once in each half thanks to quality efforts from Jordan Henderson and substitute Stewart Downing, but lost midfielder Jay Spearing 18 minutes from time for a two-footed lunge on Moussa Dembele.

The dismissal sparked a late surge from the Whites, with Dempsey hitting the woodwork himself in the 80th minute before finally clinching a win for Martin Jol’s side which pulls them further away from the relegation zone.

The two sides contested one of the choice games of last season in this very fixture back in May, and going down to a 5-2 home defeat will have played on the minds of the West Londoners and they looked determined to make amends from the outset.

Indeed, the first real chance of the game came the hosts’ way on six minutes when Bryan Ruiz’s through pass from the left put Dembele one-on-one with Reina.

But the goalkeeper timed his rush off the goal line perfectly and made himself big enough to block the Belgian’s strike, with Stephen Kelly closing down a Charlie Adam effort as Liverpool countered.

Two minutes later, it was the turn of Reina’s opposite number Mark Schwarzer to pull off a similar block to deny Andy Carroll from converting Luis Suarez’s low cross.

Dembele tested Reina again on 17, despite protests of a handball as he controlled before turning and unleashing a killer low 20-yarder to force a parry.

Jordan Henderson’s exquisite chipped finish off the outside of his boot on 28 minutes at the end of a dazzling dribble would have made many a goal of the month competition had it not come back off the far post with Schwarzer left stranded.

As the tempo remained breakneck, both sides looked as likely as the other to draw first blood and if it were not for a vital sliding block by Brede Hangeland, Carroll would have done just that from another fine Suarez centre.

Though the early stages of the second period could not hold a candle to the frenetic action of the first, the temperature went back up around the hour mark with counter after counter seeing Bobby Zamora and Craig Bellamy have shots closed down.

Suarez’s run to try and beat the offside trap on 66 was every bit as delightful as the chipped assist into the danger zone he met from the foot of Jose Enrique, only for the assistant referee to decide he had indeed strayed beyond Hangeland just before putting the ball in the Fulham net.

Six minutes later and the complexity of the game change, as despite Spearing winning the ball with his challenge on Dembele, his other leg came in dangerously behind the first causing him to virtually drop-kick the legs out from underneath the striker.

Referee Kevin Friend did not hesitate to reach for his red card, and the home side were presented with a golden opportunity to search for three points against their fancied opponents.

The best example of this came 10 minutes from time when Ruiz capped some majestic Whites passing with a short ball into the box on which Dempsey turned, faked Johnson into a red-faced stumble and chipped a wonderful finish onto the crossbar.

After Dembele had fired at Reina as well as wide within a matter of minutes, it was Downing’s turn to find the woodwork after breaking loose from a crowd of three defenders to curl onto the near post.

But 60 seconds later, a breakaway from Fulham led to a corner which found its way back to taker Murphy, who cut inside his man and saw his low drive atypically spilled by Reina.

Dempsey, a handful all game, was first to the loose ball and the struggling Londoners had the lead.

And despite late substitutions and an injury to Murphy dragging three minutes of added time out to six, Fulham cleared a late barrage of crosses into their box – and almost added some gloss to the scoreline through Andy Johnson – to hold on and earn a priceless three points.

Liam Happe / Eurosport

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