|Saturday 5th February 2005
LIVERPOOL 3-1 FULHAM
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Liverpool 3-1 Fulham
Fernando Morientes scored his first Anfield goal as Liverpool eventually claimed victory against hard-working Fulham.
Liverpool have now put together three straight victories to see them into the Carling Cup final and right back into the race for a Champions League spot.
But Fulham gave them a severe examination. Andy Cole's headed equaliser in the first half gave the West Londoners belief and for a long spell they were more than a match for the Merseysiders.
But the consistency of performance that boss Rafael Benitez has been demanding seemed to have arrived when Sami Hyypia and Milan Baros scored goals in the last half hour to secure the points.
Benitez was able to name an unchanged side for the first time since the open week of the season following the win at Charlton in midweek. It meant that Dietmar Hamann, who has agreed a new one year extension to his contract, returned from suspension to a place on the bench.
Fulham, who have never won a league match at Anfield, brought in Carlos Bocanegra for the injured Moritz Volz at full back.
The visitors, far enough away from the relegation zone to feel reasonably safe, soon found themselves under heavy pressure and a goal down after just eight minutes.
And Morientes - who scored a cracker in that victory over Charlton - soon opened his Anfield account with a gem of a goal.
Luis Garcia flighted over a hanging cross from the right and Morientes rose high to send a stunning header powering into the far top corner of the net.
But Fulham responded well and Lee Clark saw a 20-yard shot rise over the bar and into the Kop. And on 16 minutes they were level. Luis Garcia lost possession in midfield, Luis Boa Morte crossed from the left and Andy Cole ducked low to send a header past Jerzy Dudek without a defender within five yards of him.
Liverpool were instantly deflated and Fulham clearly boosted. And they they almost scored again when Pembridge's corner curled into the box and former Everton man Tomasz Radzinski flashed a header inches wide of the far post.
Once again Liverpool's frailty in the air at the back was evident, while Pembridge, Clark and the awesome strength of Papa Bouba Diop made life pretty uncomfortable for Liverpool's midfield who found themselves hounded out of possession - particularly Luis Garcia, who was constantly dwarfed by the giant Diop.
Liverpool opened the second period intent on improving the service from the flanks, and almost immediately Luis Garcia's deep cross was headed back by John Arne Riise into the danger area and only a fine saving tackle by Zat Knight hooked the ball off Morientes' toes.
Diop found himself booked for a foul on Riise, after a long list of heavy challenges, Fulham being pushed back by sustained pressure. And when Steve Finnan hooked back a clearance, Gerrard spun to hook a volley a foot over the bar.
But Liverpool's error ridden play was frustrating their fans. Much of the flak aimed at Djimi Traore and Igor Biscan who seemed unable to touch the ball without making some sort of mistake.
But when Traore's attempt at a cross from the left was handled by Clark, Liverpool were able to reclaim the lead. Gerrard's free kick curled in and Hyypia rose to glance a towering header past Van der Sar for his first goal of the season.
A minute later it was no surprise to see Biscan replaced by Hamann, who was soon the victim of a late Pembridge tackle that cost the ex-Everton man a yellow card.
Luis Garcia was booked for a foul on Pembridge on 73 minutes and three minutes later Liverpool grabbed their third.
Traore, of all people, managed to rob Diop in midfield and charged forward before the ball was spun out to Riise. The pulled back cross was expertly drilled home from eight yards by Baros.
But Fulham were furious with referee Rob Styles for not penalising Traore for the challenge on Diop. Van der Sar was booked for dissent but the goal stood.
Diop needed treatment, as did Gerrard who had clashed heads with the Senegal star seconds before the incident with Traore. Gerrard returned to the action with his head heavily bandaged.
Traore, now a changed man, produced an excellent saving tackle to divert a Bocanegra cross away from Boa Morte in the six yard box, as Liverpool secured their second league win in a week.
Liverpool: Dudek, Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Traore, Luis Garcia, Gerrard, Biscan (Hamann 65), Riise (Warnock 89), Morientes, Baros (Smicer 82).
Subs Not Used: Pellegrino, Carson.
Booked: Luis Garcia.
Fulham: Van der Sar, Rosenior, Knight, Rehman, Bocanegra, Clark, Diop, Pembridge, Radzinski, Cole, Boa Morte.
Subs Not Used: Crossley, Legwinski, McBride, Jensen, Goma.
Booked: Rehman, Diop, Pembridge, Van der Sar.
Ref: R Styles (Hampshire).
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|Match Report filed: 11 Feb 2005|