Rafa's tactics torn to shreds
Degen and Carragher both dismissed in Halloween horror show
By Peter Fraser. Last Updated: 31/10/09 5:53pm
Benitez: Sixth defeat in seven games
Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is set to face renewed speculation regarding the security of his job after his much-changed side lost 3-1 against Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Fulham took the points as goals from Erik Nevland and Clint Dempsey secured the win after Fernando Torres had cancelled out Bobby Zamora's opener in the first half on the banks of The Thames.
However, Benitez will receive the intense scrutiny after deciding to substitute Torres as an injury precaution early in the second half with the score at 1-1 before then withdrawing the influential Yossi Benayoun after Liverpool had again fallen behind.
To make matters worse for Liverpool, who have lost six of their last seven games in all competitions and travel to Lyon for a must-win UEFA Champions League game in midweek, Philipp Degen and Jamie Carragher were shown red cards in the closing stages.
This was a match which only demonstrated that Torres - who was a hero in last weekend's win over Manchester United, now a blip in the form guide - cannot do it all by himself after a number of his team-mates were missing through injury and illness.
He cannot keep producing the only quality in a Liverpool team which, without the injured Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson, looks bereft of ideas and creativity.
Next Wednesday Liverpool travel to Lyon for a match which could see them effectively knocked out of the Champions league in the group stages. After this result they might just be out of the Premier League race, too.
The pressure is building on Benitez. And with the Reds faithful once more booing his substitution of Benayoun the steam is hissing all around him.
Bizarrely, it was a match in which Liverpool enjoyed the majority of the possession. A match in which they pressed forward with lots of effort, often against a wall of white shirts. But a match in which for vast swathes they struggled to supply the quality to go with their industry.
They must have wondered, however, quite how they found themselves behind after 24 minutes.
Fulham had not had a single shot on Jose Reina's goal. They had barely crossed the half-way line.
But shortly after Benayoun had produced an acrobatic volley which rattled the Fulham crossbar the home side broke away.
The ball came to Damien Duff on the left and that trusty left foot curled in a raking cross which cut the Liverpool defence and allowed Zamora to tap home from close range.
The problem for Liverpool was that while they continued to press forward they struggled to produce the high tempo and urgency they had demonstrated against Manchester United last Sunday.
And when the equaliser came they could hardly put it down to rhythm and style. Instead it was fashioned out of nothing, but by the predator supreme.
There appeared to be little danger for the Fulham defence when the ball came to Andriy Voronin. His header was weak and misdirected but it cannoned off a Fulham defender and arced into the hitting zone of Torres.
He needed no more invitation. The Spaniard simply swivelled and swung his right boot and a fabulous volley from the edge of the box scorched past Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
It was Torres' 10th league goal of the season and only demonstrated once more his value to Liverpool.
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson made a double substitution at half-time, bringing on Zoltan Gera for Diomansy Kamara and Nevland for Duff due to injury.
The Cottagers might have re-taken the lead on the hour mark when Zamora fired over a cross and Gera swivelled and shot but unfortunately for the home side straight at goalkeeper Reina.
They did take the lead, however, after 74 minutes and once more it was against the run of play.
This time Paul Konchesky surged down the left-hand side and Reina could only parry his cross. The ball was headed back across goal by Gera and there was Nevland to slide the ball into the net.
It got worse for Liverpool four minutes later when Swiss defender Degen was sent off for a reckless lunge on Dempsey.
Incredibly three minutes later Liverpool were down to nine men when Carragher brought down Zamora as the last man and also, correctly, received a red card.And to wrap up an afternoon to forget for Benitez, Dempsey rolled in the third for Fulham as Liverpool disintegrated.
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|6||Shots on Target||1|
|4||Shots off Target||5|
Barclays Premier League
Sat 31st Oct
Arsenal3 - 0Tottenham
Portsmouth4 - 0Wigan
Bolton0 - 4Chelsea
Sunderland2 - 2West Ham
Fulham3 - 1Liverpool
Everton1 - 1A Villa
Stoke City2 - 2Wolves
Burnley2 - 0Hull City
Man Utd2 - 0Blackburn
Barclays Premier League
|15||West Bromwich Albion||15||15|
|17||West Ham United||15||13|