Fulham 1 Liverpool 0: Dempsey nets winner after Spearing sees red
Clint Dempsey was on hand late on to fire home from close-range as Fulham beat Liverpool after Jay Spearing was sent off
Clint Dempsey scored a dramatic late winner to clinch victory for Fulham over 10-man Liverpool at Craven Cottage.
Dempsey fired home with five minutes left as he capitalised on a Pepe Reina mistake after the Reds had struck the post twice either side of the break.
Fulham’s cause was helped by Jay Spearing’s controversial red card in the second half, while Luis SuÃ¡rez had a goal disallowed before the home side’s American midfielder snatched the winner.
In an open first half, Fulham were first to manufacture a chance when Moussa Dembele played in Bryan RuÃz but the Costa Rican’s effort was blocked by an alert Reina.
Liverpool were on the attack moments later as Charlie Adam’s raking pass found SuÃ¡rez on the right in space. The Uruguayan’s cross found Andy Carroll but the striker’s tame shot was comfortably saved by Mark Schwarzer.
Kenny Dalglish opted to switch to a 4-3-3 formation for the trip to Craven Cottage but the visitors struggled to adjust and Fulham found space in front of Liverpool’s goal as Dembele and Dempsey both forced Reina into saves.
Lucas Leiva’s season-ending injury provided Jordan Henderson and Spearing the chance to impress in midfield – and Henderson came closest in the first half as he ducked past two Fulham defenders and unleashed a curling shot which clipped Schwarzer’s post and rebounded to safety.
Liverpool looked dangerous on the counter-attack with the pace of Craig Bellamy and SuÃ¡rez a constant cause for concern for Martin Jol’s side – but it was Fulham who finished the half in the ascendancy as Dempsey’s swerving shot forced Reina into a smart save.
The visitors emerged from the break with a renewed sense of vigour as they launched an onslaught on Schwarzer’s goal, winning three corners in quick succession with JosÃ© Enrique coming closest, forcing the Fulham goalkeeper into a low save.
SuÃ¡rez, who was keeping referee Kevin Friend preoccupied, collapsed in a heap in the Fulham area after colliding with Brede Hangeland – but the official was unmoved by the forward’s protestations.
Friend was left with an easy decision minutes later as Philippe Senderos hauled down Adam on the edge of the box with Bellamy in space to the midfielder’s right. The Swiss defender was booked and Bellamy’s set-piece effort was deflected narrowly wide by Stephen Kelly.
Liverpool continued to exert pressure on the creaking Fulham rearguard and SuÃ¡rez thought he had spectacularly broken the deadlock when he met EnriquÃ©’s chipped pass and cunningly outsmarted Schwarzer, volleying into the net- but he was denied by the linesman’s flag.
The momentum of the game changed when Friend sent off Spearing for a thunderous challenge on Dembele – the Liverpool midfielder won the ball but caught the Belgian forward with the follow-through.
Dempsey took advantage of the numerical advantage moments later – Dembele’s backheel released RuÃz and the South American teed up Dempsey who’s lifted shot beat Reina but rebounded off the crossbar.
Next it was Liverpool’s turn to be denied as substitute Stewart Downing unleaded a 20-yard strike which appeared destined for the top corner, only for Schwarzer to stretch out a hand and push the ball wide.
Despite an open and pulsating encounter, the game seemed to be heading towards a stalemate but an uncharacteristic Reina error allowed Dempsey to snatch a winner in the 85th minute.
Danny Murphy managed to squeeze an effort past a congested Liverpool defence which the Spanish goalkeeper could only parry into the path of Dempsey, who applied the finishing touch.
It sealed Martin Jol’s first career victory over Liverpool, lifting the Craven Cottage outfit into 13th place while Dalglish’s side remain seventh and five points off a Champions League spot.
Fulham: Mark Schwarzer, John Arne Riise, Brede Hangeland, Stephen Kelly, Philippe Senderos, Dickson Etuhu, Danny Murphy (Marcel Gecov, 94), Clint Dempsey, Moussa DembÃ©lÃ©, Bryan Ruiz, Bobby Zamora (Andrew Johnson, 71).
Liverpool: JosÃ© Reina, Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, JosÃ© Enrique, Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson, Jay Spearing, Andy Carroll (Dirk Kuyt, 77), Luis SuÃ¡rez, Craig Bellamy (Stewart Downing, 77).