Fulham claim Anfield first
Liverpool's miserable home form continues against Cottagers
Last Updated: 01/05/12 10:08pm
Fulham claimed their first-ever victory at Anfield as a much-changed Liverpool side were beaten 1-0 following Martin Skrtel's early own-goal.
Reds boss Kenny Dalglish clearly had Saturday's FA Cup final with Chelsea on his mind as he rang the changes, only for the players he selected to blow any chance they had of forcing their way into his Wembley plans.
The only goal of the game came with just five minutes on the clock when the impressive Clint Dempsey released former Reds favourite John Arne Riise down the left, with his driven cross flicking off Alex Kacaniklic before being diverted beyond Alexander Doni by Skrtel.
With manager Martin Jol absent from Merseyside as he continues to battle a chest infection, the visitors came close to doubling their advantage when substitute Kerim Frei rattled the post, while Dempsey was denied by Doni after Skrtel's late error.
Andy Carroll worked tirelessly up front for Liverpool but the Reds failed to regularly trouble Cottagers goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, and when Jonjo Shelvey's low shot beat the keeper in the first half, Brede Hangeland was on hand to clear off the line.
Liverpool were without the likes of top scorer Luis Suarez, captain Steven Gerrard, Daniel Agger, Craig Bellamy and goalkeeper Jose Reina.
But the absent players only enhanced their reputations as their team suffered back-to-back home defeats - having lost to West Brom last time out - and a fourth loss at home.
They have now dropped an astonishing 30 points at Anfield in the current campaign, having won just five times in 18 matches.
Prior to the game Dalglish had insisted cup final places were up for grabs but on the evidence of this performance only Skrtel and Carroll stand a chance of starting.
Liverpool's problem has stemmed from dominating games but not scoring goals but they did not even have the chance to get into their stride before they were behind.
It was a goal created by two former Reds as Riise crossed to ex-youth team player Kacaniklic, who deflected the ball on to captain-for-the-night Skrtel who diverted it past Doni.
Dempsey and Damien Duff were Fulham's brightest players in the opening exchanges and when the former chipped the ball forward the latter poked in a shot which the Liverpool goalkeeper turned behind.
It took until midway through the first half for the home side to get going with Maxi Rodriguez shooting well over before Dirk Kuyt volleyed wide from Carroll's lay-off.
They would have equalised in the 28th minute had Hangeland not Jonjo Shelvey's shot on the goal-line.
Carroll, returning after a minor groin complaint kept him out of the weekend win at Norwich, looked fresh and did well to make his aerial threat count in the first half, although it was mainly in providing knock-downs for team-mates.
He proved equally adept with his feet in sending Shelvey through the inside-left channel but the midfielder curled a shot wide of the far post.
Carroll had one headed chance of his own just before the interval and although his effort was straight at Schwarzer, the Fulham goalkeeper almost made a mess of it before collecting his fumble.
The second half brought a change with Stewart Downing replacing Jordan Henderson and the England winger was soon into the action firing a long-range shot just wide.
Liverpool's tempo also increased but it was the visitors who created the first real chance after the break.
The woodwork, struck 30 times, has been Liverpool's nemesis this season but it rescued them just past the hour when substitute Frei's shot hit the post with Doni at full stretch.
Carroll was continuing to put himself about up front and a great side-step beat Hangeland in the penalty area. But, with the ball on his weaker right foot, Aaron Hughes did enough to deflect his shot behind.
The introduction of 17-year-old reserve-team prodigy Raheem Sterling with 15 minutes to go gave the crowd a lift but they were holding their breath when Frei cut open the defence only for Doni to deny Dempsey with a sharp save low to his left.But there was no sign of a rousing finish as Liverpool signed off before Wembley with a whimper.
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||4|
|15||Shots off Target||4|
|62.8||1st Half Poss.||37.2|
|55.6||2nd Half Poss.||44.4|
Barclays Premier League
|16||West Bromwich Albion||16||15|
|17||West Ham United||16||14|
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