Following Thursday night’s historic victory over Wolfsburg in Germany, Roy Hodgson made two changes for Sunday’s Barclays Premier League encounter against Liverpool at Anfield.
Zoltan Gera and Simon Davies were unavailable for selection due to injury so Hodgson opted for Erik Nevland and Jonathan Greening respectively. The big news for Liverpool was the absence of the injured Fernando Torres from Rafa Benitez’ starting line-up.
A moving minute’s silence was held prior to kick-off in memory of the 96 lives lost at Hillsborough on the 15th April 1989.
Liverpool got Sunday’s game underway and almost took the lead after just three minutes of play. A Steven Gerrard corner fell to Ngog six yards from goal but Bobby Zamora was alert to the danger and cleared the ball to safety before the striker could capitalise.
Ngog had the best of Liverpool’s opportunities early on but Fulham reduced the home side to speculative attempts from distance, which posed no real danger.
By the 15 minute mark Liverpool had enjoyed a sustained period of pressure, winning several corners and free kicks down the flanks. Greening was booked after 18 minutes as Fulham battled hard to readdress the balance.
After 22 minutes Mark Schwarzer made two crucial saves in the space of a minute to deny Liverpool the opening goal of the game. First the Australian international saved Aquilani’s impressive overhead kick from close range before denying Rodriguez’ low drive from inside the area.
Jamie Carragher was booked for a blatant handball after Bobby Zamora beat the defender with an exquisite turn inside Liverpool’s half. Whilst Zamora had no opportunities on goal during the first half, his hold-up play once again impressed the watching masses.
Dickson Etuhu enjoyed a fine game in central midfield on Sunday. Following his exceptional performance in Germany on Thursday night the Nigerian international performed his duties superbly at Anfield. His tough tackling and high energy levels were crucial to keeping the Red tide at bay during the first half.
Just after the half hour Mark Schwarzer produced a stunning save to deny Mascherano’s equally impressive thirty-yard volley from finding the corner of the net.
Jonathan Greening received his last warning from Referee Marriner after 35 minutes following a body check on Johnson. The remaining ten minutes of the first half was played out in relative comfort for Fulham. In fact, before the break Hodgson’s side turned the tables on the home side an applied some late pressure.
Fulham would have certainly gone into the break by far the happier team after a good, professional first half performance.
Both sides retained the same line-ups for the second half inside a subdued Anfield.
Fulham had Mark Schwarzer to thank for keeping the score level five minutes into the second half after the keeper pulled off another world class save to deny Aquilani’s stinging volley from twenty yards.
Liverpool looked to make headway down the flanks during the second half but as the hour mark approached Fulham soaked up the Red pressure with relative ease, although Babel’s drive from twenty yards was most certainly heading inside the near post before Schwarzer intervened.
Babel’s openings and opportunities were few and far between largely due to Chris Baird’s faultless performance at right back. It was another composed and assured performance form the Northern Ireland international on Sunday.
There were three substitutions in quick succession with twenty minutes remaining. Rafa Benitez made the first change, introducing Kuyt for Aquilani. Roy Hodgson followed suit shortly afterwards, bringing on Okaka for Zamora before Benayoun replaced Babel for the home side.
Danny Murphy picked up a booking following a heavy challenge on Gerrard and just a few minutes later Murphy was replaced by Dikgacoi. Fulham’s captain received an outstanding ovasion from all corners of the ground as he left the pitch.
After 76 minutes Kyrgiakos wasted arguably the best chance of the game. A short corner by Liverpool was delivered to the far post and the defender, unmarked at the far post, sent his headed effort blazing over the bar.
With 12 minutes remaining Benitez replaced Ngog with Pacheco in attack. Roy Hodgson made the final change of the game, replacing Greening with Bjorn Helge Riise as the game entered the final ten minutes.
During the final stages of the game it was Hodgson’s side that looked the more likely to grab a late winner at Anfield on Sunday. In fact, Duff’s stinging drive two minutes from time almost beat Reina but the keeper just managed to parry the ball away to safety.
After three minutes of added time Referee Marriner called time on Sunday’s game and Fulham headed back to SW6 with a well-earned Barclays Premier League point.