FA Barclays Premier League – April 19th 2008 – Result
Fulham 0 Liverpool 2
Liverpool’s win sees them move pretty much to within a point of assuring fourth place and a spot in next season’s Champions League qualifiers.
With three games to go the maximum points fifth-placed Everton can get is 70, and the Reds are now on 69. Goal difference is in Liverpool’s favour, they’re now 15 goals ahead of Everton. That said, if Liverpool did only manage one point from the last three games, and Everton got all nine, maybe Everton could close that goals gap. The Reds travel to Birmingham next weekend, then the following week play host to City in the last home game of the season.
With one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final with Chelsea, Reds boss Rafa Benitez had rested key players. But Sami Hyypia had to leave the field at half-time after a clash of heads. Rafa said: “We have a problem with Sami. He has a knock in the head. He was dizzy so I asked him if he’d seen the third goal! He just looked at me!”
Midfielder Javier Mascherano, back from suspension was also a slight worry: “Mascherano has one or two knocks as well but I think they will both be okay for Tuesday.”
Steven Gerrard didn’t travel at all, due to a neck injury, but Rafa is hopeful his captain is fit for Tuesday night: “I was talking with the physios today and he is improving but it is still too soon. You always have to be careful with the neck. He’s been scoring a lot of goals with his head!”
The win means nobody can complain about Rafa resting the bigger guns against a team looking to avoid the drop. Rafa accepted that fourth place was looking pretty safe, but wasn’t counting on it: “I picked a team I believed could win the match. It’s clear we are nearly there, we now need just one point and Everton need to win every game. But this is football, we still must be careful.”
“Today it was important to do a good job. We scored two goals without Torres and Gerrard, so we have confidence. But Chelsea is a difficult team.”
As ever, reporters want to know Rafa’s thoughts on the ownership situation, but he deflects the questions better than a Frank Lampard shot: “We can completely focus on the game against Chelsea now. We’ve talked a lot about boardroom matters for a long time but for now I just want to speak about football, if that’s possible.”
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson has relegation worries rather than Champions League hopes, and his worries increased with Fulham now five points from safety with three games to play: “We matched them quite well but once they got their first goal we were chasing the game and when they got the second goal it put us out of contention.
“We can retain hope of staying up. The task gets harder because we have not recovered any points on the teams above us and we have lost another game and another opportunity. We have given a good account of ourselves but we do not have anything to show for it.”
Fulham: Keller, Stalteri, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Davies, Bullard, Murphy (Andreasen 78), Dempsey, Healy (Nevland 76), McBride (Kamara 81)
Unused subs Warner, Bocanegra
Liverpool: Reina, Finnan, Skrtel, Hyypia (Carragher 46), Riise, Pennant, Lucas, Mascherano (Alonso 72), Benayoun, Voronin (Aurelio 82), Crouch
Unused subs: Itandje, Torres
Goals: Pennant 17, Crouch 70
Referee: Martin Atkinson (West Yorkshire)