Barclays Premier League – November 10th 2007. Result.
Liverpool 2 Fulham 0
Liverpool left it late to beat Fulham at Anfield and turn what was heading for a draw into three points. As a result they moved into fourth place in the table, temporarily using up their game in hand on most teams around them in the league. Arsenal actually had a game in hand at that point, and were three points ahead of the Reds, but second-placed Manchester United were also only three points ahead, without a game in hand. However all that would be set to change the following day as fixtures delayed either for live coverage or due to UEFA cup ties meant most of the other teams still had a game to play.
Rafa Benitez had chosen an unchanged side, trusting the eleven that had beaten Besiktas 8-0 in midweek. It seemed as though Anfield expected the result to be unchanged too, but that wasn’t to be. A well-organised Fulham side didn’t want to be beaten, and almost succeeded. Liverpool created plenty of chances, but couldn’t put them away, sometimes seeming to panic. Eventually it was the introduction of Fernando Torres that saw the deadlock broken, the Spaniard having the composure to calmly slot his goal past Niemi on 81 minutes. Just four minutes later Peter Crouch was brought down, landing inside the box, and a penalty was awarded. He was clipped right on the edge of box, and even with replays it wasn’t quickly obvious whether contact was inside or outside the box. Referee Steve Tanner chose to award the penalty, which was put away by captain Steven Gerrard.
Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez: “It was good to see Fernando come back and score a really good goal. The idea was to keep him on the bench and if we needed something we knew he was there and the supporters would always be behind him. Fernando’s goal was very good, real quality. But when we signed him we knew he could do things like this.
“Goals like that are what you pay big money for, it was great quality and showed tremendous skill. It is what you expect from a player of his value. The other strikers did a good job, too. Voronin had three or four good chances and I was pleased with them.
“It is good he (Torres) is back fit, now I have the sort of problems I like with several fit strikers to choose from. It was important for him to be back and important that he can score goals like that. At the end I said well done to them all, not just him, his job is to score goals.
“I had confidence but we had some problems because we were pushing forward and it left spaces in the midfield. We had some chances but the problem was that they were very compact and we were trying to move the ball and attack in the wide areas because it is not easy playing between the lines. We had to be patient but we made a lot of chances and I am pleased that we scored two goals and won the game.”
Liverpool forward Peter Crouch: “We’ve got a lot of quality in the squad and I thought all the boys did well, but Fernando when he came on offered us something different. Credit to him, he got the goal and it all opened up. We had to be patient because of Fulham’s game-plan, they defended well and it was hard to break them down. But I felt we were always on top and they couldn’t keep it up. I think it would have been a few more if the game had gone on a bit longer.
“I don’t know if it (the foul for the penalty) was in or outside the box – it was borderline but I was ready to take a shot and no doubt that would have flown in! It was definitely a foul. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don’t, and thankfully Stevie tucked it away really well.”
Fulham Manager Lawrie Sanchez: “I felt we were heading for a point, and so I think did 43,000 other people, but Liverpool brought a bit of talent off the bench and it changed the game. I actually felt that Torres mishit his final shot, and that is what confused Hughes and Niemi. It was a soft goal in the end to concede. As for the penalty, I don’t believe it was in the box, it wasn’t a penalty.
“I felt we had kept them quiet, restricted them to shots from outside the box in the first half.
(Turning increasingly bitter): “It wasn’t working for them. That is why they brought on three substitutes. One at £25million, one at £11million and one at £5million. I think there should be a cap on the price of players you can bring on, maybe no more than £20million of players.” (Torres cost £18m, Babel £11.5m and Lucas £6m.)
“I thought we played better in the second half than the first – we restricted them to long range shots and Antti, when called upon, made some good saves. We kept Liverpool out of the area and then they introduced Torres and he got on to the end of a ball and does what he does. To be fair I think he’s miss-hit the ball and it was unsighted and sent Antti the wrong way. It was a reasonably soft goal at the end of the day.
“We thought Torres and Crouch might play and we know what Crouch is about and I thought we dealt reasonably well with it. As I said, I think the fact we restricted them to long range shooting in the second half showed it was working and you don’t bring on three subs unless it is working and that’s what they did.
“I thought we could have defended it slightly better than we did. Coming to a place like Liverpool is always difficult. They’re a massive club with tremendous quality and you have to fight extra hard. What is important is that I thought that we put in a good performance and we were in it all the way. Hopefully further down our development line we can come here and get to the 90 minutes and get a win. I thought our fans were terrific today. It’s a long journey for them and they’ve turned up in numbers and given us tremendous support which means a lot to myself, the staff and all the players.
Liverpool: 25 Reina, 17 Arbeloa, 23 Carragher, 4 Hyypia, 12 Aurelio, 11 Benayoun, 20 Mascherano (21 Lucas, 81), 8 Gerrard, 6 Riise (19 Babel, 62), 10 Voronin (9 Torres, 70), 15 Crouch
Unused subs: 40 Martin, 3 Finnan
Goals: Torres 81, Gerrard 85 (pen)
Fulham: 29 Niemi, 34 Baird, 18 Hughes, 6 Stefanovic, 3 Bocanegra, 25 Davies, 10 Davis, 27 Murphy, 23 Dempsey (11 Kamara, 69), 14 Kuqi, 9 Healy (24 Bouazza, 60)
Unused subs: 12 Warner, 8 Smertin, 37 Leijer
Bookings: Murphy 54, Dempsey 64
Stats: (Liverpool – Fulham)
Possession: 65% – 35%
Shots on target: 12 – 3
Shots off target: 8 – 2
Corners: 9 – 2
Fouls: 9 – 12
Referee: Steve Tanner
Last updated Sunday November 11th 2007.