By Jonathan Carroll
Liverpool came away from Craven Cottage empty-handed after dominating a game they had in control up until Jay Spearing’s straight red card on 71 minutes.
It was a game littered with strange refereeing decisions from the ever controversial Kevin Friend, although this performance should have been seen coming since his diabolic showing at Fratton Park in February of 2010. The referee also failed to afford Luis Suarez any sort of protection from opposing defenders, something Kenny Dalglish labeled “scandalous” (see Dalglish’s press conference video at the end of this article). The first half was notable for plenty of possession by Liverpool but only having Jordan Henderson’s effort off the post to show for it. Fulham’s Moussa Dembele had a great opportunity to open the scoring for Fulham but shot square at Pepe Reina. A lead for Fulham would have been more than they deserved. Fulham were slow in possession and short of creativity up until they had an extra man following Spearing’s sending off.
The second half saw a much more open game with both sides utilizing space left from failed attacks. Luis Suarez was his creative best all game and continues to receive a good old-fashioned center half kicking every time he gets the ball. The Referee Association seem to have bought into Alex Ferguson’s media phishing scheme that Suarez “dives all over the place“. This claim is in itself laughable considering the manager involved had players such as Cristiano Ronaldo and currently has Nani on the books at Manchester United. Both players would do swan lake justice with their attempts to win free kicks. Suarez however continues to work on helping Liverpool anyway he can, without the protection of referees. A bizarre string of events followed Craig Bellamy’s foul on Clint Dempsey in midfield. For some unknown reason Dempsey took exception to Bellamy’s tackle and proceeded to square up and butt heads with Bellamy, an action which can see players dismissed in the Premier League. Referee Friend proceeded to astonish once more with his unreasonable decisions and booked both players. Charlie Adam led a counter attack mid way through the second half and before he could get a shot off, Philippe Senderos chopped him down on the eighteen yard line. On the line means inside but yet again Kevin Friend left supporters dismayed and only awarded a free kick which came to nothing.
An innocuous looking challenge by Jay Spearing on seventy-one minutes left Moussa Dembele riding in pain on the ground. The tackle at first look seemed harmless but replays showed Spearing’s studs on Dembele’s ankle. It wasn’t a particularly bad challenge but the way Spearing went into the tackle and the height at which he did so, made the referee’s mind up for him. The sending off was the signal for both teams to press on and try to secure three points. Dempsey hit the bar for Fulham while Senderos crudely pulled down Andy Carroll as he attempted to support an attack, a second bookable offence which went unpunished by the referee who had suddenly found tolerance for mindless fouls. Luis Suarez finished superbly following a magnificent ball from Jose Enrique but the linesman wrongly ruled him offside as video replays proved he was level. At the other end, Liverpool’s inability to clear a Fulham corner left Danny Murphy to out pace Glen Johnson to squeeze in a shot which Pepe Reina was unable to hold on to and spilled it into the path of the waiting Dempsey who duly dispatched the gift. The goal coming from a player who should not have been on the pitch following his confrontation with Bellamy earlier in the game.
Kenny Dalglish will know that when his team create so many chances and hit the woodwork twice they will still need to find a way to win the game. Dalglish and assistant Steve Clarke will also preach about the importance of taking a game such as this out of the hands of the referee. Liverpool were clearly the better team but Jay Spearing gave the referee a chance to make a big decision and this led to downfall in the end, up until the sending off Liverpool’s pressure was at breaking point on the Fulham back four. Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez have hit somewhat of a dry patch and that will need to be rectified this weekend at home to Queens Park Rangers.