Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Match Report: Fulham 1 - 0 Liverpool

Fulham striker Clint Dempsey struck a late winner as Liverpool's outstanding form on the road ended during a controversial evening at Craven Cottage.

Dempsey stabbed home a long-range 85th-minute shot by Danny Murphy that had bounced off the arms of Jose Reina, to secure only Fulham's third Barclays Premier League win of the season.

However, a sense of grievance cloaked Liverpool's night after they were denied a strong claim to a penalty and a legitimate goal from Luis Suarez was disallowed for offside, before Jay Spearing was shown a straight red card.

Philippe Senderos hacked down Charlie Adam with referee Kevin Friend claiming the tackle was executed just outside the area in what was a desperately tight call.

Worse was to come when Suarez produced a brilliant finish after jinking his way clear, only for a flag to be raised even though the Uruguay striker was onside.

The final insult was delivered in the 72nd minute when Spearing, making his first Premier League start of the season, was shown a straight red card.

Spearing, who had replaced knee-injury victim Lucas Leiva in the starting line-up, caught Mousa Dembele with a sliding challenge, but only after cleanly winning the ball in what was a harsh call.

The result denied Liverpool a record-equalling seventh successive away win in all competitions as they endured their first defeat in 12 games.

They dominated long spells of the game yet their defence was unpicked with five minutes gone, Bryan Ruiz finding Dembele with a wonderful through-ball.

Dembele was through on goal but his first touch was disappointing, giving Reina the time to close down the space.

The lively start continued when Suarez picked out Andy Carroll only for the England striker to stab his shot straight at Mark Schwarzer.

Schwarzer was then forced to dive to his right to deny Adam following some inventive build-up play from Liverpool.

It was then Reina's turn to scramble across goal as Dembele directed a fine effort towards the bottom-left corner, and moments later Dempsey tested the Spaniard.

Liverpool were the more incisive side going forward, though they could ill-afford any lapses in concentration with Fulham showing flourishes in attack.

Jordan Henderson struck the right post having expertly glided his way into a shooting position and shortly after he combined with Carroll to set up a chance for Suarez that crept wide.

On two occasions Dempsey tried his luck from just outside the area, but Reina was alert to one while the second struck the advertising boards.

Suarez was hacked down on the edge of the area but Adam's kick was easily dealt with by Senderos.

Bellamy brought down Dempsey, resulting in a face-off between the two with Fulham's American forward the aggressor, though Friend booked both players.

Jose Enrique fired a dangerous shot that Schwarzer did well to palm clear of danger as Liverpool controlled the early exchanges of the second half.

Fulham were lucky to escape a penalty in the 59th minute when Senderos brought down Adam.

The initial tackle appeared to have been made just outside the line, but contact continued well inside the area.

Friend was well positioned and refused to award a penalty with Bellamy hitting the free-kick into the wall.

Carroll, Liverpool's £35million signing from Newcastle, saw a shot head towards the corner flag and was taunted with chants of "what a waste of money".

Suarez had his goal disallowed and Liverpool's frustration boiled over in the 72nd minute when Spearing was sent off for his challenge on Dembele.

Dembele had the bit between his teeth as Fulham pushed for the winner, going close on two occasions.

At the other end substitute Stewart Downing hit the left post as a frantic climax beckoned.

The killer blow landed with six minutes of normal time remaining, starting with Murphy pulling the trigger from well outside the area.

Reina failed to control the ball and the lurking Dempsey was able to convert from close range.

Dempsey Hails Important Win

Fulham goalscorer Clint Dempsey admits the dismissal of Liverpool midfielder Jay Spearing was crucial on Monday night as the Cottagers celebrated a 1-0 victory.

Dempsey's opportunist goal five minutes from time settled the Craven Cottage game in Fulham's favour, though they only came into the ascendancy after Spearing saw red for a challenge on Moussa Dembele 13 minutes previously.

The midfielder clearly won the ball but followed through recklessly with both feet and caught the Cottagers forward just above the ankle.

The net result of the decision was summed up by Dempsey, who told Sky Sports: "We had more space, more time on ball and we were able to open them up.

"We've not been able to score enough goals but we got one tonight and it's an important win."

The goal came when the United States international followed in after visiting keeper Jose Reina uncharacteristically spilled Danny Murphy's low shot.

And Dempsey said: "You've always got to take a chance. Danny did a good job getting the shot off and you've got to be in the right place at the right time. Sometimes you get lucky and it falls to you.

"Any points right now are big because the table's so tight. We're just happy to get the win."

Liverpool To Make Shock Move For Chelsea's Unhappy Duo

Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka and defender Alex have both been linked with a move to Liverpool after handing in transfer requests and telling manager Andre Villas-Boas that they want to leave the club.

The Portuguese boss has told the unhappy pair that they can no longer train with the first team and that the players can leave as soon as the January transfer window opens.

"The conversation was fair and direct with the players," replied Villas-Boas after being questioned on the duo's future. "They are top professionals and their professionalism and integrity is never in question but on recent results and form we have decided to try to get the group together and we have decided to assign different training times for them.

"The transfer requests were accepted but it doesn't mean it will happen and if it doesn't happen they will return to full training."

Liverpool have been linked with a move for Anelka as director of football Damien Comolli attempts to convince the striker to return to Anfield, nine years after a relatively unsuccessful loan spell.

The Reds are in need of another forward as they attempt to push for a top four finish and realise that they will be able to get the Frenchman for a nominal fee with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

Kenny Dalglish will certainly face plenty of competition for the striker with Russian sides Terek Grozny and Anzhi Makhachkala both desperate to land Anelka.

While the club is hoping to land Anelka, they are also reportedly interested in bringing Alex to the club as well. The Brazilian would bring plenty of experience and provide back-up for the likes of Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Jamie Carragher.

Liverpool also believe they can pick up the pair for a relatively low fee as Chelsea no longer see them as first team regulars.

Liverpool Enter Race To Sign Swiss Youngster

Liverpool have entered the race to sign Switzerland youngster Fabian Frei, but face competition from a host of European clubs such as Juventus and Schalke as interest intensifies.

Considered by many pundits as a hot prospect, Frei has established himself as full international since his step up from the Under-21 squad in the summer and remains an integral part of Basel’s squad though Swiss media are suggesting that his seven year stay at the Swiss Super League champions could be coming to an end if the interest from Liverpool is genuine which its believed is.

Kenny Dalglish is eager to add to his squad in January and has identified a midfielder as his top target with reports in Switzerland suggesting he has sent scouts to watch Frei who is thought to be eager to play in the Premier League.

Frei is thought to be valued by his current employer at £6 million, though with many of Europe’s top clubs interest, its thought that the fee could be as high as £9 million.

German Alerts Arsenal & Liverpool With Views On Bundesliga Exit

With Arsenal and Liverpool reportedly keen to swoop for the 95-cap German forward when the January transfer window re-opens at the end of this month, Lukas Podolski has reiterated that his future at FC Cologne is undecided.

The Germany international scored both goals as Cologne salvaged a 2-2 draw at Stuttgart yesterday and, speaking afterwards, implied that his future plans were far from settled.

"I will talk to Cologne before anybody else and see what they have to say," he told ZDF television.

"Of course I am getting plenty of offers and I expect more of them to arrive to me, to my agent or to my club in the coming weeks but, I repeat, I must first talk to Cologne."

Both Arsene Wenger and Kenny Dalglish - eager to add a cut-price goalscorer to their ranks as soon as possible - will have been interested by these new comments as they strive to mount a title challenge in the New Year.

Lazar Markovic Delivers Liverpool Snub By Revealing Chelsea Dream

Partizan Belgrade starlet Lazar Markovic has delivered a snub to Liverpool by revealing his ‘dream’ move would be to their Premier League rivals Chelsea.

The 17-year-old striker is being followed by a host of clubs across the world, and is largely recognised as one of the most exciting young prospects in Europe.

The Reds have previously been accredited with a keen interest in Markovic, who has six goals in 13 appearances this season, but the youngster has revealed he only has eyes for Stamford Bridge.

‘I really hope I can go to Chelsea, it's my dream,’ said Markovic.

‘I'm told there were 20 scouts from all over Europe in the VIP box when we beat Red Star.

‘But Chelsea is the place I want to play. I had all the pictures of the team on my wall at home back to when they had Gianfranco Zola.

‘And any time they are on TV I try to watch them. For me Chelsea are the best.

‘I want to go to the Premier League. It is the best league in the world.’

Dalglish: Liverpool's Revival Down To Hard Work And Team Spirit

Liverpool’s success this season has been built on a foundation of hard work and a strong team spirit, according to boss Kenny Dalglish.

The Anfield giants can move up to fifth in the Premier League with a convincing victory over Fulham on Monday night, and are unbeaten in five matches against Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea so far this term.

But in spite of this good form, Dalglish believes there is more to come from his team, and hopes their formidable work ethic is once again in evidence at Craven Cottage.

“We’ve beaten some good teams and we’ve deserved it on the day, but we are still a work in progress,” he told reporters. “We are plodding on, and how the players go about their work and their quality will give them their reward."

He added, “The fact is, even though they have gone about things the same way away as they have at home, we haven’t got the results our performances have deserved at Anfield."

“But away from home, maybe we’ve had that little bit of luck that helps you go over the line.

One player Dalglish feels embodies the attitude he is looking for is winger Maxi Rodriguez, who has scored 10 goals in his last nine appearances despite failing to command a regular first team place.

“Maxi is someone you admire,” the Scot added. “A lot of people can look and learn from him, and believe me, I’m tempted to play him in every game.

“He has a fantastic recent goalscoring record, he’s an intelligent footballer who must have been some player five years ago when he was in his prime."

He said jokingly, “He might be getting a bit towards my age now, but he is still a clever, intelligent footballer. He knows how to play and he knows how to finish.

Former Liverpool Defender Backs Reds To Maintain Top Four Chase

With all of Liverpool's rivals for the top four places picking up three points over the weekend the pressure is on Kenny Dalglish's men to continue the form and keep up with the pack.

Former Reds defender Dominic Matteo feels that it is matches against the likes of Fulham that are the must win games should Liverpool want to get back into the Champions League places.

Speaking exclusively to Sportsvibe.co.uk, he said: "Liverpool has been playing some really good football of late and you are beginning to see Kenny has put a good team together and the team spirit seem right.

"There have been a few hiccups to the newly promoted sides, they don't make it easy for you but they're really the games Liverpool have struggled with and not just this year but over the last couple of seasons now.

"I don't fear the bigger teams but it is the game like against Fulham that Liverpool should be beating if they want to challenge for the top four.

"There will be a bit of pressure on Liverpool as you don't want to fall too far behind the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham who are playing well, and we need to keep in touch with them."

Matteo who made 153 appearances for Liverpool during an eight year spell at the club between 1992 and 2000 believes Luis Suarez and Craig Bellamy will be the key figures in helping the Reds come away from Craven Cottage with all three points.

"Suarez for me has been fantastic and I love watching him play," the 37-year-old added. "If the Fulham defenders can't deal with him that will be key.

"Bellamy is also on a good run of form, I think Kenny did the right thing resting Bellamy after the news about Gary Speed and hopefully he will come back fresh tonight.

"Liverpool spent a lot of money on Andy Carroll and people expecting him to play more games but Bellamy has come into the side, he's got that electric pace and works hard for the team and at the moment on merit he deserves to be there."

Carra Goes Old School With Kit

Jamie Carragher returned to his old school to donate a footy kit on Friday.

The 33-year-old visited All Saints Primary in Bootle as part of an initiative launched by the Barclays Premier League and the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) to boost the sport at grassroots level.

All 20 top flight teams have donated £25,000 to create a £500,000 fund to provide schools and clubs with free kit and equipment.

Carragher said: "It's always great to come back. It's All Saints now but it was St James' when I was a lad.

"This is the area where I was born and brought up and I've got a lot of family and friends around here.

"People around here are very proud of what I've achieved at Liverpool. It's important to me that I come back and recognize them as well.

"Hopefully one day we will see another kid from Marsh Lane doing as well as I've done if not better. That's what we would all love to see."

The PFA's director of community John Hudson added: "The way the kids' faces lit up when Jamie walked in, you could see what it meant to them.

"The aim of the initiative is to give something back to grassroots football and get players to inspire children to achieve."

LFC Set For Africa - With Tony Blair

Liverpool Football Club will this week be heading for South Africa to discover whether the highly-acclaimed Tactics 4 Families initiative will scoop a prestigious Beyond Sport award.

The program has been nominated for the Sport Team of the Year accolade, and the club recently travelled to New York to showcase the scheme at the world famous Yankee Stadium as part of the Beyond Sport United summit during which LFC Family Officer Mark Chester delivered a presentation about Tactics 4 Families.

Each of the audience members at the conference had $50 to donate to the project they were most impressed by, with Tactics 4 Families picking up $3,050.

Having impressed in the Big Apple, LFC's Tactics 4 Families is now vying with Manchester City's 'Enterprise City' scheme, as well as programs from the Philadelphia Eagles and the Memphis Grizzlies for the prize.

The winner will be revealed at the end of the four-day summit in Cape Town.

Mark said: "It's a great privilege to be representing Liverpool Football Club at the Beyond Sport Summit.

"To be shortlisted for the prestigious Sport Team of the Year award for our Tactics 4 Families project is an honour and it reflects positively on the whole club.

"Tactics 4 Families is just one example of our many successful community projects through which we use the name, reputation and resources of the club to help people as they face life's challenges.

"We've been shortlisted alongside three other fantastic projects run by the Philadelphia Eagles, Memphis Grizzlies and Manchester City, so the competition is fierce - and any one of us would be a deserved winner. I am really looking forward to representing the club amongst so many of our sporting colleagues from all corners of the world."

A distinguished list of speakers will be at the Beyond Sport Awards summit, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Olympic legend Michael Johnson and former South Africa skipper Lucas Radebe.