Liverpool left their hopes of finishing in the top four in shatters today at Anfield, as all the reds could muster was a draw against a determined Fulham side. With Torres out of the squad with a knee problem and Kuyt and Lucas on the bench, all three scorers from the team that took Benfica apart in midweek were missing. Instead, it was left up to young French striker Ngog to shoulder the responsibility of bagging the goals. It was soon evident that it was going to be a tough afternoon for the Frenchman and his fellow team mates as Fulham set their stall out to be very tough to penetrate.
As this was to be the last game before 15th April, a minutes silence before kick off was impeccably observed in memory of the 96 people who lost their lives at Hillsborough 21 years ago this week.
Within the opening minutes Liverpool had already tested Schwarzer with Maxi and Aquilani going close. In the 23rd minute Liverpool made a great move into the Fulham box which seen Aquilani have his overhead kick saved. Moments later he latched onto a great Babel cross to head over the bar. It seemed like Liverpool were going to be knocking on the door of Fulham and keep testing their resolve. It looked like only a matter of time until Liverpool picked up a goal.
But Fulham had obviously come to park the bus in front of goal at Anfield as Liverpool heavily dominated the possession. As the first half progressed it was becoming a frustrating afternoon for the reds in the final third.
Second half started off in the same manner as the first. Liverpool trying to get the better of a tough wall of Fulham players. Aquilani again getting in on the action. In the 48th minute Aquilani was presented with a shot in the box. But his effort was weak and was easily dealt with by the Fulham keeper. Minutes later Ngog broke down to the byline and passed the ball inwards to Maxi, who then presented the ball to Aquilani on the edge of the box. He gave a crafted curl to his shot but again, Schwarzer was equal to it.
Liverpool continued to press Fulham in their own half but in the final third, for all the possession, Liverpool just couldn’t find the breakthrough. In the 63rd minute, Ryan Babal cut in from the left and drilled a great shot to the near post. It was on target but again, Schwarzer was on hand to keep the Fulham goal safe. But it was reds defender Kyrgiakos who was probably presented with the best chance of the match. As the ball was played into the area from Kuyt, Kyrgiakos found himself with a free header from five yards out, but the big man could only head his chance over the bar. It was looking more and more likely it wasn’t going to be Liverpool’s day.
The Liverpool performance wasn’t a bad one. There’s been plenty worse this season. But there just seemed to be that bit of drive or urgency missing. Although credit has to go to Fulham for coming to Anfield and doing a job of keeping the reds out in the final third, Liverpool lacked that bit of spark to catch them out or that bit of scrappiness to carve an opening out when the opposition box was congested.
When Liverpool disposed of Benfica on Thursday evening just gone, we had the Anfield crowd in full support, Kuyt on hand to score a scrappy goal, Lucas on board to break free and surprise the opposition and Torres on hand to be his ruthless self. Apart from Kuyt getting 20 odd minutes on the pitch in the second half and a forced change with Torres being out injured. All these things were missing against Fulham when perhaps they shouldn’t have been.
I am a little bit disappointed, normally when you control the game and have chances you can score. We know the fourth position is a little bit far away.
They were deep, they were well organised and we had to score. We had one or two chances, their keeper was good, but it’s not easy to find space when they have players behind the ball.
We needed to be patient and it was not easy to find the final pass in the final third.
I am disappointed because I feel that we had plenty of possession
LIVERPOOL: Reina, Johnson, Carragher, Kyrgiakos, Agger, Mascherano, Aquilani (Kuyt 64), Babel (Benayoun 71), Gerrard, Maxi, Ngog (Pacheco 78).
FULHAM: Schwarzer, Konchesky, Hangeland, Hughes, Baird, Duff, Murphy (Dikgacoi 75), Etuhu, Greening (Riise 82), Nevland, Zamora (Okaka 67).
Ref: Andre Marriner