Liverpool got Saturday's match underway in front of a full to capacity crowd at Anfield. Fulham impressed in the opening exchanges with their fluid passing play and were evidently full of confidence following back-to-back victories over Newcastle and Tottenham.
The first half was a fine footballing spectacle between two cultured teams and Fulham dominated possession early on. However it was the home side that created the first clear-cut chance of the game after four minutes of play.
A superb 40-yard cross-field ball by Agger from the half way line found Arbeloa on the right flank. Racing to the by-line the defender pulled the ball back to Kuyt but fortunately for Fulham the Dutchman failed to find his range inside the area and pulled his drive from 12 yards wide of Schwarzer's far post.
Opportunities in the final third were few and far between for Fulham but Hodgson's charges continued to impress with Bullard and Murphy winning the battle in the middle of the park. Fulham's midfield pair enjoyed plenty of space to control the tempo and flow of the game during the first half.
Liverpool's second attempt on target came after 21 minutes of play when Robbie Keane fired in a fierce 25-yard volley from a central position. Schwarzer was well positioned for the shot and collected with ease. Two minutes later Torres, always a threat with his blistering turn of pace, broke through Fulham's defence but Pantsil recovered well and produced a superb sliding tackle just outside the area to deny the Spaniard a clear route on goal.
After 26 minutes of play Fulham threatened when Clint Dempsey skipped clear down the right flank and fired in a low cross to the centre of the goal. Zamora raced into the area but was just shy of reaching the delivery before Liverpool cleared away for a corner.
Fulham also caused concern from a series of set pieces and corners during the first half. Liverpool were forced to concede three successive free-kisks outside the area down the left flank. Bullard sent in some fine deliveries but the Whites lacked a finishing touch.
Just before the half hour mark Robbie Keane was handed a glorious chance to open the scoring but was denied by a superb piece of athleticism from Mark Schwarzer. A through ball into Fulham's area inadvertently fell into Keane's path on the right hand side of the six-yard box. Schwarzer instantly raced across goal to reduce the angle and saved the striker's shot with his outstretched left arm. Superb keeping.
Moments later the home side's keeper was forced to produce a superb fingertip save to deny Jimmy Bullard. Bobby Zamora beat two players on a 40-yard sprint down the right flank before pulling the ball back to Bullard on the edge of the 18-yard box. Bullard fired in a fierce drive that looked destined for the far top corner before Reina intervened and saved brilliantly. Two first class displays of keeping at both ends in as many minutes.
As half-time approached Torres sent in a drive from the edge of the area but once again Schwarzer was faultless in both his positioning and handling. The home crowd were becoming increasingly frustrated by the stalemate and Fulham went into half-time by far the happier team. Liverpool's front-line always looked a threat but in the centre of the park Fulham dominated proceedings and were unfortunate not to be a goal to the good after Bullard forced Reina into one of the saves of the season.
Both sides remained unchanged for the second half and as expected Benitez' side moved up a gear from the off with Torres going close with two strikes on goal in the opening five minutes of play. Despite creating all the chances the home side could not find a way past the outstanding Schwarzer who produced another outstanding save from close range.
Fulham were forced to soak up Liverpool's offensive and did so with aplomb. At the other end Bobby Zamora was once again providing a fine outlet in attack and his sheer effort was warmly appreciated by the travelling army of Fulham supporters. Zamora hunted down every ball upfield and retained possession with some fine footwork.
The stalemate saw Rafa Benitez made the first substitution of the game just after the hour mark, introducing playmaker Alonso for the more defensive minded Mascherano.
Ten minutes later it seemed Liverpool's pressure had told but once again Schwarzer produced another moment of brilliance. Reira crossed from the left and Kuyt sent the ball searing towards the top corner. Schwarzer pounced to push the ball over the bar and Fulham's fans breathed a sigh of relief.
Fifteen minutes from time Benitez made his second change of the game with Babel replacing Reira. Moments later Zhar replaced Kuyt. Liverpool threw everything at the Whites but Hodgson's men coped admirably. Fulham were forced to defend in numbers and soak up the pressure in the final ten minutes of the game and it was a tense ending for Fulham's supporters.
Roy Hodgson replaced Dempsey with Gera five minutes from time and seconds later Bobby Zamora produced a half chance for Andy Johnson to snatch a dramatic win. Johnson's shot was on the turn from eight yards was on target but Reina collected the strike with ease. After the Fourth Official had indicated four minutes of added time Roy Hodgson replaced Jimmy Bullard with Chris Baird.
Liverpool continued to press during the final minutes but Roy Hodgson's side held firm and were rewarded for an outstanding team performance with a draw from Saturday's clash. Fulham have now taken seven points from their last three Premier League games and will now turn their attention towards next weekend's contest at Villa Park.
Competition: Barclays Premier League
Date: Saturday 22 November 2008
Venue: Anfield, Liverpool
Referee: Mark Halsey
Team line-up is not available.
Team line-up is not available.
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|20||West Bromwich Albion||14||11|