to benefit of doubt
By Peter Walsh - Daily Post
Well, I asked for some Saturday entertainment and I
But I wanted it in the afternoon and not when I arrived
home to catch the end of Ant and Dec's Saturday Night
Takeaway in a slightly-inebriated state.
It may seem harsh to bemoan a lack of enter-tainment
from a match that saw the woodwork clattered three
times, a penalty saved and numerous chances blocked,
stopped or missed at both ends.
And there were some superb defensive performances from
Stephane Henchoz and Jamie Carragher as well. But this
Liverpool side has long since forfeited the right of
being given the benefit of the doubt.
In patches the match was okay, both sides at least
trying to play the ball to feet. But overall it was
another lacklustre Liverpool performance with the
failings that have proved costly all season.
A lack of creativity, lack of finishing prowess and the
now obligatory missed penalty. At least us Owen
first-goalscorer backers did not have to sit
buttocks-clenched as a nice cash bonus went down the
The usual suspects who should be winning these games for
us were simply not up to the job. And surely their time
at Anfield is coming to an end.
How Bruno Cheyrou starts, nevermind starts ahead of the
livewire Milan Baros, is as mystifying to me as Andy
Townsend's footballing views. And if substitutes Emile
Heskey and El Hadji Diouf were the cavalry coming to
save us, it was time to brush up on your Native
For once Steven Gerrard was a bit off-form, but after
his displays this season he is allowed one below-par
performance. If only the same could be said for the
majority of his team-mates.
Anfield is now host to torment not triumphs
By Len Capeling - Daily Post
Nothing gets broadcast faster in these desperate days
than news of another afternoon's anguish at the torture
chamber formerly known as Anfield.
Long before its victims have dragged themselves away
from the scene of another shambles, the mobile phones
have sprouted in shaking hands and messages of misery
are spinning across the airwaves.
Most of what I heard after the feeblest of fights
against Fulham was intended only for those with
industrial-strength sensibilities and double-weight
Yet even the most benign of the departing faithful found
it impossible to report anything that wasn't laced with
The best anyone had to say was, well, it wasn't as bad
as the Charlton game.
Or, put another way, having a finger chopped off is
preferable to losing your whole leg in a bandsaw.
Nevertheless, whichever way you sliced this one -
amputated finger or leg - the fact remained that
Liverpool looked much closer to grim than to greatness.
Once again they were brought to heel by the simple
expedient of crowding bodies behind the ball, scrapping
for every bit of possession, and relying on the odd
intervention of the goalkeeper.
They also helped Fulham achieve their limited
objectives, by playing the despairing Michael Owen up
front on his lonesome, and asking bit-part players Bruno
Cheyrou and Vladimir Smicer to make late bids for the
Eight men will need to go down with this creaky tub if
the navigator is to swim to shore, and Vlad and Bruno
are left scrambling for nonexistent lifebelts with the
decks already awash.
To be fair to Smicer, he showed some good touches -
including an early surge and a shot - but like too many
of this class of 2003-4, he looks painfully lightweight
in a league where mental strength plays such a crucial
Steven Gerrard once more showed the desire lacking in
too many of his team-mates - and the ultra-reliable
Jamie Carragher wasn't far behind him. But after that,
Long, pained silences from the Kop until they realised
that booing time had come round again.
The stoniest of stony faces from major shareholder and
chairman David Moores, who looked as though he was
witnessing a city - or a dream - go up in flames.
Amid the scruffiness of the play, what was he thinking?
About his failing manager? About his failing team? About
the tens of millions squandered on toys that broke after
Clutching at cheese straws, perhaps.
Clutching at a missed penalty by Gerrard for a harsh
handball against Bobby Peta. Clutching at a decent
chance to Owen that went astray, at a post struck by the
largely anonymous Harry Kewell?
Conveniently forgetting that an unadventurous Fulham
might also have scored twice. And that Liver-pool hardly
ever created any flow. Or at least one that wasn't
wrecked by lack of control or too heavy a touch on the
Inept, snapped one fan on his mobile.
His manager didn't quite stoop to that, although his
voice trembled under the strain of re-working
increasingly threadbare excuses.
Like the supporters, he can't wait for the season to be
gone. It's been a nightmare, and no amount of spin will
alter that. Nor should it.
Torment can never be dressed up as triumph.
Not to supporters raised to believe they hold the
patents for invincibility, rather than worry beads.
This latest test of their faith would have done little
but reinforced their doubts about the Houllier way.
That's unfortunate for the French coach whose obsession
with making Liverpool legendary again has taken a toll
on his health.
But Liverpool are greater than any indvidual. And there
comes a time when settling for less in order to avoid
uncomfortable decisions is no longer an option.
That time is now.
Houllier: We had enough chances to win
By Steve Hunter - LFC Official website
Gerard Houllier believes that Liverpool were very
unlucky not to win the game against Fulham and feels the
Reds had enough chances to take the three points.
The Reds manager said the players are obviously
downhearted with the result but said he couldn't fault
them for effort which he termed was 'fantastic', and
Houllier also had high praise for the defence.
Houllier said: "The boys are disappointed with the
result and are down but we had enough chances to sneak a
goal. We were better than what we were against Charlton
and pushed to get a goal.
"The last 10 minutes was extremely nervous as we forgot
about our defensive duty but I am pleased with the
defence and they were strong and solid.
"I made substitutions to change the game and it nearly
paid off. They hit the bar in the first half and we hit
the bar and post second half. Michael also had a good
chance near the end.
"We were a bit nervous and there was anxiety after the
Charlton game. The effort was there and it was fantastic
but the missed penalty wasn't missed, the keeper guessed
right. Penalties have been a bad story for us this
Houllier revealed that it was decided on the pitch that
Steven Gerrard would take the spot kick.
Houllier said: "To me Michael was due to take it but he
didn't fancy it. It's down to the players to find a
solution to that. You can't blame Stevie for missing
"Fulham were always a threat with their pace but we
defended well and I am pleased with the defence.
"We were poor against Charlton but not today. That's my
feeling anyway. It's not all over and we'll keep
misery for Reds
Steven Gerrard does not deserve to be branded as the
player who cost Liverpool their Champions League dream.
He has worked incredibly hard for the Anfield men now
for months as Liverpool's terrible season has unfolded.
But his missed spot kick early in the second half -
Michael Owen clearly not keen on the duties anymore -
will go down as one of the darkest moments of his and
It was the one lifeline they should not have spurned as
the battled to overcome a defiant Fulham who stopped
Gerard Houllier's men in their tracks much the same way
as Charlton had done on Easter Monday.
It has left Liverpool with just one point from their
last three games and Anfield gripped in misery and
The fans were so stunned at the end they could barely
raise a voice to boo off a team who may now have gifted
fourth spot to Newcastle.
However hard Liverpool tried, and they were at least
better than they were against Charlton, they just could
not breakthrough and Fulham had the likes of Ian Pearce
and Alain Goma to thank for much of their defiance.
Vladimir Smicer and Bruno Cheyrou came in for El-Hadji
Diouf and Emile Heskey, Houllier's attempt to improve
the invention and passing quality after the Charlton
disaster on Easter Monday.
Twice in the opening minutes Steed Malbranque created
space for Collins John, the youngster's pace exposing
Stephane Henchoz and Sami Hyypia, and seeds of doubt
spread around the stadium like wildfire.
Smicer had a long range effort and a six yard box effort
charged down, while Owen almost took advantage of a
Gerrard pass in the box and a 20 yarder that flashed
wide. Dietmar Hamann also fired wide, but Liverpool's
work was predictable and unsure.
The game quickly became a carbon copy of the Charlton
match. Fulham sat deep, looking to catch Liverpool on
the break while the home side toiled and fretted,
searching for a way through.
One of those Fulham breaks saw Moritz Volz get away, and
his edge of the box effort deflected onto the bar by
Cheyrou's wanderings frequently left Owen on his own
against three defenders, Ian Pearce, Alain Goma and
Carlos Bocanegra, and when his runs were spotted the
delivery was just not good enough.
Fulham were unfortunate not to take the lead twice
before the break. First when Luis Boa Morte turned
Hyypia and blazed in a 25 yarder that Jerzy Dudek
initially looked like he was shaping to catch, but it
clearly moved in the air and the Polish 'keeper opted to
deflect it over the bar.
Malbranque then broke on the right, found John unmarked
and Liverpool had to thank Dudek for a point blank save
and then John Arne Riise for getting in the way of
John's follow up on the line.
Liverpool then wasted a lifeline four minutes into the
second half. Bocanegra was penalised for fouling
Cheyrou, and then booked for kicking the ball away, the
free kick being moved 10 yards nearer the box by referee
When Gerrard's free kick fizzed into the box it was
hacked clear, and, in Bennett's eyes, then handled by
Bobby Petta just inside the box. Bennett pointed to the
spot and up stepped Gerrard to take the kick.
But Gerrard's low drive was saved by Van Der Sar and
hacked away from Liverpool skipper's toes as he tried to
make amends. John was booked in the resulting turmoil
for more dissent.
On the hour Cheyrou was hauled off to allow Milan Baros
into the front line alongside Owen.
Gerrard's next corner caused chaos in the box and Harry
Kewell's close range hook was deflected for another
corner as Liverpool started to fight for their lives,
Baros' pace and running caused immediate problems and he
won another corner. The ball was cleared to Jamie
Carragher and his misplaced drive went straight to
Kewell, who saw his effort crack into the near post.
Goma was the next booked for dissent on 72 minutes
before Fulham brought on ex-Everton striker Brian
McBride and Junichi Inamoto for John and Bocanegra while
Liverpool sent on Diouf and Heskey for Smicer and
Kewell, Houllier searching desperately now for some sort
of inspiration up front.
By now it was Gerrard inspiring a barrage. He sent Baros
charging away with a 30 yard pass, and the young Czech
laid the ball back for Owen, whose eight yarder was
deflected wide by a desperate Volz block.
Pearce blocked a Heskey hook right on the post, amid
more appeals for a penalty for hand ball.
Malbranque got away on the left and created a chance for
Petta, who managed to hook over from six yards.
Baros had another effort blocked by Pearce and Riise
fired over from 20 yards, but Liverpool could not force