After The Match 


LIVERPOOL-FULHAM 0-0                        Sat April 17.         Premier League
Team: Dudek, Carragher, Riise, Hyypia, Henchoz, Gerrard, Hamann, Smicer, Cheyrou, Kewell, Owen
Subs: Baros (Cheyrou 60), Diouf (Smicer 76), Heskey (Kewell 76)
Not used: Luzi, Murphy
Yellow: Bocanegra (49), John (51), Goma (71)
Red: None
Referee: Steve Bennett (Kent)
Attendance: 42,042

                                                             FIXTURES & RESULTS
Shots on target: 10-7
Shots off target: 8-4
Fouls conceded: 16-10
Corners: 14-7
Yellow: 0-3





"Penalties have been
a bad story for
us this season."

                Gerard Houllier

1904: Losing right to benefit of doubt
1904: Anfield is now host to torment not triumphs
1704: Houllier: We had enough chances to win
1704: More misery for Reds

Losing right to benefit of doubt

By Peter Walsh - Daily Post

Well, I asked for some Saturday entertainment and I got it.

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 drain.

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 American.

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 asbestos ears.

Yet even the most benign of the departing faithful found it impossible to report anything that wasn't laced with the inflammatory.

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 limelight.

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 role.

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, what?

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 a week?

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 pass.

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 season."

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 though.

"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 fighting on."

More misery for Reds

Sporting Life

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 Liverpool's season.

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 condemnation.

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 Hyypia.

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 Steve Bennett.

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, belatedly.

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 a winner.

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Thor Zakariassen