René Meulensteen felt his Fulham side were unfortunate not to get anything from their encounter with Liverpool on Wednesday evening at Craven Cottage.
The Whites twice led against Brendan Rodgers’ men, but a stoppage time Steven Gerrard penalty following a foul by Sascha Riether earned the visitors a 3-2 victory.
Fulham were more than a match for the Reds, and when asked if his team deserved at least a point from the fixture, Meulensteen said: “Yes, I definitely think so. If you look at the game, we got our noses in front and we actually played quite well. We were organised and didn’t really let them get into a rhythm but then Gerrard showed the quality he’s got and [Daniel Sturridge] stuck it in the back of the net, and we have to start again, which we did.
“We took the chance that fell for us to go 2-1 up but then we did what most teams do in that position, try to hold on more than build on it, [and] you drop a little bit deeper. With the [Philippe] Coutinho goal he was given too much space to come inside and then, again, it’s a deflection which meant that Maarten [Stekelenburg] couldn’t react to it.
“The third one was just a silly challenge that shouldn’t have been made by Sascha. The first thing he admitted when he walked in the dressing room was that he shouldn’t have done it. When you lose 3-2 it’s very hard to take, and with the effort that the boys put in they should definitely have earned a point I think.”
It was another positive display by Fulham following their draw at Old Trafford on Sunday, and Meulensteen feels his side are not far away from turning a corner.
“I think you can see that there is definitely improvement,” he said. “The new players are definitely making a difference within that. If we’d got a point I would have been very pleased, but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be.
“You have to take it game by game. I think the energy is good, the spirit is good and some of the displays were excellent. It’s just [we need] to get that break, to get those three points on the board, and build from that.”
Liverpool arrived in South-West London having emphatically seen off Arsenal 5-1 in their previous outing, but if they were expecting a similar result against bottom-of-the-table Fulham then they were sorely mistaken.
“I thought our tactics worked brilliantly in the first half by stopping them getting a rhythm and stopping Gerrard spraying all those key passes,” Meulensteen stated. “I thought we kept them at bay quite well in the first half.
“The second half they made a few changes and pushed people forward which means that other people drop further back. We went 2-1 up and then it was a case of holding onto it and we really tried to.
“There was a moment where they really put us under pressure and I thought that if we can get out of this [period of pressure], then we probably will be fine, but then obviously Coutinho scored for 2-2 and as soon as they equalised they pressed for another one, and they got it.”
There were concerns for the wellbeing of Stekelenburg after the goalkeeper was withdrawn from the action after Luis Suarez caught him in the face with a stray foot.
“He got the boot right in his eye so it’s swollen up straight away,” Meulensteen clarified. “How bad the damage is, we have to assess. But it was that big that he couldn’t carry on. He’s fine but it’s a big swollen black eye.”
Our Head Coach was also asked for an update on the progress of Konstantinos Mitroglou in his post-match press conference, after the Greek striker struck a brace during an hour’s run-out in the Under-21s’ 5-3 victory away to Aston Villa earlier in the day.
“We’re working hard to get him fit and get him up to speed,” he explained. “That’s why we thought it was a good exercise for him to get some playing minutes with the Under-21s. It was a late shout and a late decision but it worked well for him.”