Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez explained his decision to substitute Fernando Torres in the defeat at Fulham by insisting he was not prepared to risk long-term damage to his star striker.
The Reds crashed to a calamitous sixth defeat in seven games in all competitions when Erik Nevland and Clint Dempsey wrapped up a win for Fulham in the second half after Bobby Zamora's opener had been cancelled out by Torres.
Benitez made the shock tactical change of replacing Torres with the score still at 1-1 early in the second half, as last weekend's hero against Manchester United was still carrying the groin injury which has plagued him over recent weeks.
The Spain international appeared to shrug his shoulders when Benitez made the change, but the Liverpool boss, who takes his side to Lyon on Wednesday for a must-win UEFA Champions League game, has defended his decision.
He said: "We decided to play Fernando against United which was a difficult decision because he wasn't 100 per cent fit.
"After this game he needed four days to be ready again but he still isn't 100 per cent fit, so we had to decide if he could start today or use him for part of the second half. We decided to start with him but I have to protect the player.
"We decided to take him off just after the hour because I want to protect him and don't want to lose an important player like Fernando for one month. We had options in attack when he came off."
Philipp Degen and Jamie Carragher were both shown red cards in quick succession late on in a horrible second half for Liverpool, the former for a challenge on Dempsey and the latter for bringing down Zamora when the last man.
Benitez plans to appeal against both dismissals and believes going down to nine men did have an impact on the game, despite the fact that the Reds were already 2-1 behind at the time of referee Lee Mason's decisions.
"For me, the first one with Degen was a yellow card, and with the second one it was clear that Carra was kicking the ball and not Zamora," he added. "I watched the replay and it is clear.
"We will try to appeal against both red cards because for me it's very clear that Carra was kicking the ball and the other one Degen was not kicking the player.
"It was difficult to take but it was a good response from the nine players who worked hard, but always it's very difficult to come back against 11 players."
With regards to the defeat, Benitez said: "Always it's hard to take any defeat but especially this one because we were in control of the game.
"I was really surprised because the first half was a one sided game. We made one mistake when we conceded a goal but after Fernando scored we were in control.
"I don't know the percentage of possession we had but it was unbelievable to concede in the first half after controlling everything.
Benitez, whose side had been decimated by fitness problems and illness, added: "We now have a difficult game against Lyon. My concern now is we have too many injuries and we have to analyse which players will be available for Wednesday.
"All the managers want to win games and when you are not winning you have to analyse why, and we are doing this.
"Everyone saw the game against United and you saw we have confidence and we can do it. It's a question of taking your chances when you create them and don't make massive mistakes like today and give a lift to the other team.
"We have to be calm, keep working hard and find solutions."