Fulham 2 – 3 Liverpool
It seems that at every single twist and turn, this Premier League season flatly refuses to stick to the script. Liverpool visited Craven Cottage on a storm-wracked February evening just days after ripping a gaping hole in the side of then-league leaders Arsenal’s title challenge with a 5-1 drubbing at Anfield. Meanwhile, Fulham sat rock bottom of the table, in spite of a thrilling 2-2 draw with Manchester United over the weekend. Surely Liverpool would have it all their own way?
As a matter of fact, they were lucky to escape with three points in the end. The encounter started miserably for the Reds, as in a moment of pure comedy the veteran Ivorian defender Kolo Toure scuffed the ball frantically into the back of his own net.
For much of the first half, Fulham’s 1-0 lead looked relatively watertight, as indeed it was until Liverpool and England skipper Steven Gerrard demonstrated his true class, sending a beautifully weighted pass into the path of Daniel Sturridge with the outside of his boot from the half-way line, putting the striker into a one-on-one position from which he seldom misses. Remarkably, this was Sturridge’s eighth consecutive appearance on the score-sheet in a Liverpool shirt. If the two players can link up in this way for England at the World Cup, we may be in with a better chance than we think…
Going into the second half at 1-1 it was all Liverpool, in spite of a sustained effort from Fulham, led by the outstanding Lewis Holtby (pictured above) in midfield. Suarez hit the woodwork with one particularly sweet effort, whilst his side persistently menaced the Fulham goal. But then the Reds were caught napping… After a weak Skrtel clearance led to a Fulham throw-in in the danger zone, the Reds’ defence wascaught napping, with Skrtel weakly diverting the ball into the path of Fulham striker Richardson in the 6-yard box. 2-1 to the home side. Had you packed Liverpool at this point with Coral football you would have had a nice surprise come the final whistle!
The joy for Fulham fans was to be short-lived however, with Liverpool’s playmaker Coutinho scoring a deflected goal soon after Richardson’s opportunistic strike. Fulham dug in admirably right into injury time, but a needlessly wild challenge on Daniel Sturridge in the penalty area set up a spot kick for Liverpool skipper Stevie Gerrard, who finished emphatically. The result: a ruthless 3-2 win for Liverpool which seals their credentials as dark horses for the title. Meanwhile, it’s more misery at Craven Cottage, although there was a degree of hope to take from this admirable performance.