Liverpool fell to a late defeat at Craven Cottage on Monday night after the home side grabbed a winner courtesy of Clint Dempsey. Liverpool by no means deserved to lose and after a frustrating battle with rotten luck and some questionable refereeing decisions the Reds found themselves gutted by the end of the 90 minutes.
Dalglish chose to play Jay Spearing in the gap left by the injured Lucas Leiva and it was Henderson and Bellamy selected for the wings. Dempsey and Dembele did start in the end after doubts over there fitness and Jol went with Zamora as his front man.
Before i get into the swing of things I'd just like to point out from the onset that i am not making excuses, I'm not blaming the referee, I'm just going to be highlighting the fact that Liverpool were seriously unlucky. On another day, decisions would have been different and the soddin bar and post would have moved an inch! Anyway...
It was a lively start from both sides at the Cottage with Dembele getting things underway for the home side, forcing Reina into a save just 5 minutes in. For Liverpool it was Charlie Adam creating play and a few chances for himself but Schwarzer like Reina kept the early effort out.
Clint Dempsey along with Dembele was probably looking the most threatening for Fulham but for the majority of the first half it was Liverpool maintaining possession and creating more chances.
Arguably the best chance of the first half fell to Jordan Henderson who neatly curled a shot round Schwarzer, everybody thought he'd beaten the goalkeeper only to watch the ball agonisingly clip the inside of the post and roll away from danger.
Things really started to liven up in the second half. Just three minutes in and Dempsey had shoved his face in to Bellamy's.
Now maybe I'm being bias, I'd like to think I've kept a calm head on this though (ahem unlike Dempsey) but in all seriousness, the last time i checked you simply can't push your forehead into another player, I've seen players sent off just for looking like they're "about to" push their head into the opposition. In my eyes Dempsey should have been off and i must say, if Bellamy went down, he probably would have been. I'm a big fan of Dempsey's but he didn't half annoy me yesterday!
Dempsey and Bellamy were both booked, still no idea why Bellamy was but there we go.
Dempsey continued to find spaces through the centre of the Liverpool midfield. Although i thought Spearing put in a good stint (whilst he was on the pitch) it was clear there hadn't been enough time to work on the areas that were missing due to the lack of a certain Brazilian.
A lot of people still don't appreciate what Lucas does for our side but i hope that some people realised after that performance the amount of work he puts into his role. The effort required to constantly create that link with calm distribution from defence to midfield, whilst patrolling the midfield like a man possessed is truly something.
Strangely, due to the spaces opening up in the centre of midfield, Liverpool weren't really having to deal with play coming in from the wings, meaning that if play was intercepted, the Reds could get the ball out to Bellamy or Henderson in good time.
Bellamy i thought was fantastic, he immediately makes decisions, there's no thought when he receives the ball because he already knows where everybody is, where he's going and what he's going to do. Add to this his pace and you're looking at a real problem.
The only thing he didn't do was score, which unfortunately was the same story for Carroll and Suarez, but then we have the next incident...
Luis Suarez was another player on the pitch working hard to find his side a goal and despite not getting on the score sheet, he did put the ball in the net.
A lovely ball from Enrique allowed Suarez to put the ball in the back of the net in "Messiesque" style as the commentator described but his effort was flagged as offside. Looking back at the replays however it appears the Fulham defender's back foot is playing the Uruguayan onside, just another indicator of Liverpool's bad luck.
Martin Jol brought on Andy Johnson just before the 70 minute mark for an ineffecitve Bobby Zamora. And shortly after Liverpool would end up needing a substitution or two of their own after the whole game changed.
Jay Spearing was given a straight red card for a challenge on Dembele. I couldn't believe it! Looking back at the challenge, for a starters Jay gets the ball, secondly, he does not enter the challenge two footed and thirdly where was the malicious intent? In my eyes that was a bad decision by Kevin Friend, the only thing i can say to try to back him up is that because Spearing came out of the tackle two footed, he could have been misled, but it just isn't good enough.
Now down to ten men and still creating chances but not looking like grabbing a goal, Liverpool had to change their action plan. Kuyt replaced Carroll and Downing replaced Bellamy. Bellamy for me was our best player but with a yellow card and tempers fraying it was a good decision i think by Kenny to remove him.
Clint Dempsey sunk the hearts of the travelling fans just before 85 minutes. The American had already had 3 or 4 shots in the minutes beforehand and was growing in confidence throughout the 90 minutes despite his tiff with Bellamy.
A lapse in concentration perhaps from Pepe Reina and Glen Johnson saw the ball come back out to an awaiting Dempsey after a Danny Murphy free kick, Dempsey slotted the ball home from close range.
I've been gutted at conceding many a goal, but this one hurt. I honestly don't feel like we deserved to lose but i also take note that Fulham played well and created chances themselves, they acted on their luck, it's just a shame Liverpool didn't have a bit more luck of their own floating around yesterday.
Add to this the fact that Schwarzer pulled out what could be his save of the season to deny Stewart Downing, well it was just never going to be our day was it?
I can't round up this fixture, I'm still just so frustrated as I'm sure Dalglish and the boys are. I do agree however that we appear to have a lack of instinct in attack at the moment, Carroll was unlucky early on with his shot saved by Schwarzer and Suarez was unlucky with his offside goal but at the moment neither of them are playing like the proven goalscorer we're after and i still think both of them can get bags of goals but the only way that is going to happen is by sticking at it.
Bellamy for me is our main threat in attack at the moment, i feel if he was played up front yesterday (though i understand why he was deployed on the wing) then he would have got the Reds a goal.
For the next clash at home against QPR, I personally would start Bellamy up front with Suarez. But I'm fully expecting that game to be another difficult one for the Reds.
We're going ok though, we're still a working progress, we're picking up some steady points and can come out against the big boys, have been good on our travels. As far as I'm concerned, fixing home form and games against smaller teams should be easier than doing the opposite.
I'm sure Dalglish and the lads will be out all guns blazing next week!