Clint Dempsey’s late winner gave Fulham victory against 10-man Liverpool in the Premier League and ended the visitors’ hopes of a seventh away win in a row.
The visitors saw Jay Spearing dismissed after 71 minutes when he won the ball but then clattered into Moussa Dembele.
Liverpool were punished in the 85th minute as Dempsey finished after Jose Reina spilled Danny Murphy’s strike.
Earlier Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing hit the woodwork for Liverpool, with Dempsey doing the same for Fulham.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing’s shots against the woodwork meant that Liverpool have hit it 12 times this season – at least fives times more than any other Premier League team
- Jay Spearing became the third Liverpool player to see red this season in the Premier League – with all having been in London
- Exactly half of Fulham’s 14 Premier League matches this season have been goalless at half-time, more than any other club.
- Fulham had failed to win any of their last seven Premier League matches in which the half-time score was goalless.
The sending off was crucial to the outcome and was a controversial one as Spearing got the ball. However, he followed through and caught Dembele, meaning that the Liverpool midfielder was always in danger of getting a red card.
His dismissal meant that a game that had been even swung in favour of Fulham and Liverpool’s resistance was broken when Reina made a bad error, having produced several important saves beforehand.
The result meant that Fulham won for only the second time in nine league games at Craven Cottage, moving them up to 13th in the table, and it did little to change Liverpool’s reputation as a side that unduly struggles against lesser sides.
The visitors were facing up to life without their influential defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva – ruled out with a knee injury for the rest of the season – and Spearing was the man drafted in to replace him.
Both goalkeepers were forced into early saves with Reina the first to be called into action as he saved Dembele’s side-footed effort before Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer kept out a 10-yard snapshot from Andy Carroll.
Reina was then forced to keep out long-range efforts from Dembele and Dempsey, but Henderson’s quick thinking almost gave Liverpool a 28th-minute lead as he cut inside and unleashed a curling strike that struck a post.
Luiz Suarez fired wide for the visitors but Fulham finished the first half strongly as Dempsey again tested Reina from distance before firing a shot off target.
Any points now are big because the table is so tight. For the goal, Danny Murphy got a good shot in. Sometimes you get lucky. After the red card, we had more space and got the goal so we’re excited.
The momentum swung again after the break as Liverpool piled on the pressure with a Jose Enrique volley from 30 yards being palmed out by Schwarzer.
Kenny Dalglish’s side had a penalty appeal denied after a brisk counter-attack ended with Charlie Adam being brought down by Philippe Senderos, but the Swiss defender was adjudged to have been outside the box when he pulled back the Scottish international.
Liverpool kept pushing hard. Craig Bellamy dragged a shot wide from Glen Johnson’s pass and Suarez had a strike ruled out for offside, but the Merseyside club’s hopes took a huge blow when Spearing was shown his straight red on 71 minutes, playing the ball first but then making heavy contact with Dembele.
Dempsey was inches away from scoring in the 81st minute, hitting the bar after cutting inside in similar fashion to Henderson earlier, and Fulham gained late momentum, with Dembele forcing a save from Reina and also shooting wide.
Liverpool could have snatched a goal themselves as Downing surged forward and forced Schwarzer to push the ball on to the post, but the away side were cruelly sunk with five minutes to go.
Murphy beat Glen Johnson on the edge of the 18-yard box and Reina embarrassingly spilled the midfielder’s low shot.
Dempsey reacted quicker than Daniel Agger and won the game with a simple, close-range finish.
Fulham manager Martin Jol: “We dropped points at home against Everton when we were the better team – we were pretty unlucky. Tonight we had the rub of the green.
“We weren’t the better team but it was even. Mark Schwarzer is one of the best in the business and he saved us.
“I think it was a bad tackle [by Jay Spearing]. His ankle was there and I think it was a sending-off.”
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish: “We didn’t play as we have been but we did enough to come away with something from the game.
“But we didn’t and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. Even when we went down to 10 men we kept pressing, and I can’t fault that.
“Jay Spearing won the ball, but upset the referee with the follow-up. Sometimes it’s a red, sometimes it’s not.”