Liverpool saw Jay Spearing sent off, and Fulham scored a late winner against ten man Liverpool on a frustrating night for the reds.
The reds, adapting to the season ending injury to Lucas Leiva, elected to bring Jay Spearing back to the job he did so well last season as the defensive midfielder. For the large part of the game the young midfielder put in a good shift but was harshly sent off towards the end of the game after appearing to cleanly tackle the ball.
With the sending off, and neither Henderson or Adam up to the job of providing enough midfield tackling, Liverpool ceded possession and a rare mistake from Pepe Reina, allowed Clint Dempsey to tap in an equaliser.
Before the game, Liverpool were looking for their 7th consecutive away win – a stat that has banished painful memories of just 12 months ago when Liverpool were soundly beaten almost week in week out away from home.
For the opening 70 minutes the game was relatively even and open, with chances at both ends. Fulham were electing to take long shots from outside the box, whilst the reds were attempting to walk the ball over the line. The reds had plenty of corners and free kicks, but the dead ball continues to give Liverpool problems – and is an area that needs to be drastically improved. Charlie Adam’s skills last season for Blackpool appear to have gone missing in this particular area.
Suarez and Bellamy were causing problems down either flank, but the final killer ball was proving elusive.
In the 28th minute, Henderson came in to the game with a driving run to the edge of the box. His shot beat Mark Schwarzer but the spin on the ball saw it hit the inside of the post and bounce out.
At the other end Fulham’s long shoots were causing Reina some difficulty as the keeper continued to prefer to parry and punch the ball away instead of catching it.
A fairly inocuous challenge from Craig Bellamy saw Dempsey rise up and angrily react – forcing his head in to Bellamy’s. Bizarrely both players were shown a yellow.
Liverpool also had a goal ruled offside from Suarez – replays suggested it was so close that the benefit should have gone with the attacker.
A great counter from Liverpool saw Charlie Adam brought down at the edge of the box by Senderos. The player was lucky not to be sent off for denying a goalscoring opportunity. Charlie Adam also should have passed to the free Bellamy who more than likely would have opened the reds scoring.
Senderos was lucky to stay on the pitch when he held Carroll back moments later.
The game changed when the referee sent off Jay Spearing in the 71st minute. The reds midfielder cleanly tackled the ball from Dembele – but was adjudged to have been dangerous in the follow through. It was a harsh decision. Jack Rodwell had his red card overturned for a similar tackle earlier this season – so the reds are duty bound to appeal against the decision – although no word has been received from Liverpool on this matter.
Without Spearing, Liverpool’s centre of Henderson and Adam looked soft and conceded possession to Fulham far too easily. Without an enforcer against them, Fulham grew in confidence and with only 5 minutes left they got their winner. It was a soft goal to concede.
Danny Murphy easily beat Glen Johnson and shot at goal. Pepe Reina simply pushed the ball in to the path of the oncoming Dempsey who tapped in from 4 yards. It was a cruel blow for Liverpool – and the end of what had been a promising run. The reds have still only lost one game this season with the full complement of players.
Typical of Liverpool they also had another shot pushed on to the post from Stewart Downing. Liverpool have been denied by the woodwork 12 times now – 10 more than any other Premier League team.
With a huge number of games ahead in the next 8 weeks, Liverpool will be hoping to begin another unbeaten run and desperately need to pick up a good collection of points this month – starting with QPR at Anfield on Saturday.