Spearing sent off 72
Clint Dempsey pounced on a rare mistake by Pepe Reina to grab three precious points for Fulham in an entertaining Premier League match. However it was another controversial refereeing decision that proved to be the key moment of the game with Jay Spearing’s red card reducing Liverpool to 10 men for the final 20 minutes.
The combative Liverpool midfielder, booked just once in his previous 41 appearances, was dismissed by referee Kevin Friend on 72 minutes for a challenge on Moussa Dembele. Spearing thought he won the ball cleanly, but caught Dembele with his follow through and the referee reached for his red card immediately, much to the consternation of the Liverpool team.
The decision stopped Liverpool’s forward momentum at a point where they appeared to have taken the game by the scruff of the neck and allowed Fulham to find a way back into an extremely entertaining encounter.
The home side featured two former Anfield favourites, with John Arne Riise on the left hand side of a back four, and Danny Murphy who alongside Dickson Etuhu anchored the midfield, allowing Dembele, Brian Ruiz and Dempsey to support Bobby Zamora up front.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish continued his policy of rotation in the forward areas. He used Luis Suarez and Craig Bellamy to support Andy Carroll, finding no place for Maxi Rodriguez, who netted a hat-trick on Liverpool’s last visit to Craven Cottage. Spearing came into midfield for the unfortunate Lucas Leiva, who has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury.
The first-half started with a period of Liverpool domination, with chances falling to Charlie Adam and Carroll, the former Newcastle striker firing straight at Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal.
Fulham were finding it difficult to keep any prolonged possession of the ball, and they were lucky to go into the break level after Jordan Henderson struck the crossbar with an effort from the edge of the box.
The second half started with a confrontation between Dempsey and Bellamy, the Fulham man taking exception to Bellamy’s harrying and was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card after thrusting his head into Bellamy’s face. The Welshman was incredulous at receiving a booking himself.
Both sides struck the woodwork, Dempsey hitting the bar from the edge of the box with 10 minutes remaining before Downing saw his stinging drive from the edge of the box touched onto the post by Schwarzer.
That was a turning point as moments later Fulham grabbed the winner. Reina’s punch from a corner was neatly swept back out to Murphy on the left by Hangeland. The former England international stepped inside Glen Johnson before hitting a low shot which Reina spilled into the path of Dempsey, who fired home the decisive goal from six yards out.
Fulham (4-5-1): Schwarzer; Kelly, Riise, Hangeland, Senderos; Murphy (Gecov 90+4), Etuhu, Dempsey, Ruiz, Dembele; Zamora (A.Johnson 71)
Liverpool (4-3-3): Reina; G.Johnson, Jose Enrique, Agger, Skrtel; Henderson, Spearing, Adam; Suarez, Carroll (Kuyt 77), Bellamy (Downing 77)
Did you know… Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish once played in a 10-0 League Cup victory over Fulham, but failed to get on the score sheet.
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