Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hull 1-3 Liverpool

Again, my idol Steven Gerrard is not playing as he's not yet recovered from his injury. Liverpool maintained their title hopes with a win at relegation-threatened Hull who finished the game with 10 men.
Xabi Alonso powered in a thunderous strike after his initial free-kick was blocked to put the visitors ahead.
On the hour, Caleb Folan was sent-off for kicking out at Martin Skrtel, whose mis-timed shot was headed in by Dirk Kuyt to make it 2-0.
Geovanni slotted in to revive Hull's hopes of a draw but Kuyt hit his second when Alvaro Arbeloa's shot fell to him.
Hull were left aggrieved by some of referee Martin Atkinson's decisions but their performance should give manager Phil Brown optimism that they can avoid relegation.
The last time these teams met the Tigers drew 2-2 at Anfield on 13 December to pick up their 27th point and sit comfortably in the top half of the table.
But in 16 games since then they have won just once and earned just seven points, leaving them hovering precariously above the bottom three.
Fernando Torres had a 10-yard angled sidefoot tipped over by keeper Boaz Myhill but having survived that early scare Hull quickly set about their task.
They snapped into tackles as they closed Liverpool down with an urgency and passion.
The in-form Yossi Benanyoun was one of the few Liverpool players able to keep possession and he went close when he curled a strike on to the roof of the net.
Hull responded with a Geovanni piledriver that flew past the angle of Jose Reina's goal and a Liverpool defence that has conceded eight goals in their last two matches was looking shaky.
Benitez unhappy with Hull's 'terrible' pitch
And Arbeloa had to clear a goalbound Dean Marney header as Liverpool continued to give Hull plenty of reason for optimism.
At the other end, Hull had a discipline and organisation that Liverpool were struggling to break through.
Alonso is renowned for his ability to pick a pass but was continually frustrated as he tried to pick a way through the Hull's defence.
In the end, it was not the Spaniard's guile and vision that breached the Tigers defence but pure power after the Reds were awarded a dubious free-kick for a George Boateng challenge on Javier Mascherano.
Alonso's initial effort was blocked by the wall but he half-volleyed the rebound unerringly into the bottom corner.
Hull's cause was not helped when Folan - being blocked from chasing a backpass by Skrtel - kicked out at the centre-back and was deservedly red-carded.
It got worse when Benayoun's cross was only cleared to Skrtel, whose shot was diverted past keeper Myhill by Kuyt's header.
Hull were clearly unhappy with the performance of referee Atkinson and felt there had been a handball by Lucas Leiva in the build up to Liverpool's second goal.
But the home side kept fighting and were rewarded with Geovanni's goal from Daniel Cousin's cross to set up a frantic finish.
Torres stuck the woodwork with a header before Hull's hopes were ended when Kuyt struck his second to briefly move Liverpool top on goal difference ahead of Manchester United's 5-2 victory over Tottenham.
Hull boss Phil Brown: "We were having to pick players up at half-time after an injustice was done.
"We knew it was going to be tough and somebody has let them off the hook. I cannot see a free-kick there.
"I have no excuses for the sending off. I feel it was justified and it will be dealt with in-house. That killed us, 10 against 11, and Caleb made it a little bit easier for them."
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez hailed Dirk Kuyt: "Everybody is very pleased for him.
"Kuyt is a fantastic professional and is always working hard to score. He was very positive and we are really pleased for him.
"We were working very hard and we have to be satisfied. We were nervous because the pitch was terrible and difficult to pass on."
Hull: Myhill, Ricketts, Zayatte, Turner, Kilbane, Fagan (Mendy 62), Boateng (Manucho 79), Marney, Geovanni, Barmby (Cousin 62), Folan.Subs Not Used: Duke, Hughes, Garcia, Halmosi.
Sent Off: Folan (59).
Booked: Marney, Barmby, Fagan.
Goals: Geovanni 72.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Kuyt (Dossena 90), Alonso, Mascherano (El Zhar 84), Benayoun (Agger 87), Lucas, Torres.Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Riera, Aurelio, Ngog.
Booked: Arbeloa.

Goals: Alonso 45, Kuyt 63, 89.
Att: 24,942
Ref: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Liverpool 4-4 Arsenal

Liverpool returned to the top of Premier League after an Anfield classic against Arsenal - but Andriy Arshavin's remarkable four-goal haul delivered a serious blow to their title ambitions.
Rafael Benitez will no doubt praise Liverpool's spirit and ambition, as he did after a similar scoreline in the Champions League at Stamford Bridge last week, but defensive weaknesses fatally undermined a vibrant attacking display.
Liverpool's point puts them ahead of Manchester United on goal difference, but Sir Alex Ferguson's reigning champions now have a potentially crucial two games in hand.
Arsenal's much-maligned keeper Lukasz Fabianski was Liverpool's tormentor in the first half, but he showed signs of strain after the break as the home side threw caution to the winds backed by a wall of sound from The Kop.
Arshavin provided a lethal spearhead for Arsene Wenger's side, who were under siege for long periods but demonstrated a stunning ability to strike Liverpool on the counter.
The Russian put Arsenal ahead from Cesc Fabregas' cross nine minutes before the interval, but Fernando Torres and Yossi Benayoun, with a brave far post header, struck early in the second half to give Liverpool the advantage.
But as Liverpool tried to capitalise on their supremacy, the lavishly-gifted Arshavin struck twice in the space of three minutes midway through the second half.
He took advantage of Alvaro Arbeloa's hesitation to flash a finish past Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina and then scored from close range after Fabio Aurelio's poor clearance.
In a tumultuous Anfield atmosphere, Torres scored on the turn to put Liverpool level again before Arsenal swept forward after defending a corner for Arshavin to drive an emphatic finish past Reina from substitute Theo Walcott's pass in the dying seconds.
Benayoun scrambled home during five minutes of frantic stoppage time to give Liverpool hope of a remarkable win, but Arsenal's only remaining alarm was a shout for handball against Abou Diaby that was ignored by referee Howard Webb.
The players left Anfield to a standing ovation - but Liverpool's over-riding emotion will be frustration at failing to turn up the pressure another notch on United.
This may not have been a game for the coaches or tacticians, but for any lover of football this was an outstanding spectacle, liberally strewn with errors but also with outstanding talent.
Also a game watched by joint Reds owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett, who were tellingly sat next to each other.
Arsenal may be under-strength and out of the title race, but on this evidence they still have the capacity to emerge as a real wild card as the season reaches its climax, with games against Manchester United and Chelsea still to come.
Arsenal keeper Fabianski had been heavily-criticised for his display in the FA Cup semi-final defeat against Chelsea at Wembley - but he produced an inspired first 45 minutes to keep Liverpool at bay.
Torres was an early victim of Fabianski's heroics, first blocking a powerful drive and then saving superbly from a rising angled drive as Liverpool pressed for an early advantage.
Arsenal, despite spending most of the early exchanges on the back foot, still posed a threat and a mix-up between Daniel Agger and Reina presented Fabregas with a chance, but he volleyed wide.
Torres was setting the tone for Liverpool's display with the absence of the inspirational captain Steven Gerrard, and Fabianski was called into action again on the half-hour after the Spanish striker's turn left Kolo Toure trailing in his wake.
And Fabianski's defiance took on greater significance when Arsenal took the lead nine minutes before the interval, courtesy of Arshavin.
Javier Mascherano was caught in possession, allowing Samir Nasri to feed Fabregas - who provided the perfect cross for Arshavin to slam in a powerful finish off the underside of the bar.
Liverpool mounted an instant response, but Fabianski was the barrier once more as he dived to his left to palm away Benayoun's shot from the edge of the area.
It was vital Liverpool struck early after the break - and inevitably it was Torres who provided the priceless equaliser after 49 minutes.
Kuyt was the creator, crossing at the second attempt for Torres to climb and power a downward header that even Fabianski was powerless to stop.
Liverpool were overpowering Arsenal and seven minutes later Benitez's side were ahead thanks to a brave header from Benayoun - a move started when Fabianski played Kieran Gibbs into trouble in the penalty area.
Kuyt gathered possession and found Benayoun at the far post, who threw himself forward ahead of Bacary Sagna to send a looping finish beyond Fabianski, who clawed the ball out but it was comfortably behind the line.
Arsenal were being penned in their own territory almost permanently, and Wenger decided they needed to release the pressure, sending on Walcott to replace Denilson after 65 minutes.
And two minutes later Arsenal were level as Arshavin robbed Arbeloa to send a stunning drive across Reina from 20 yards.
Liverpool were let down by defensive frailties again as Arsenal regained control of what was becoming a classic encounter with 20 minutes left.
Nasri's cross was routine, only for Aurelio to slice his clearance straight to Arshavin, who gratefully slammed a finish beneath the exposed Reina.
Arsenal's lead lasted only two minutes, and once more Torres came to Liverpool's rescue with a turn and finish that Fabianski again touched but could not keep out.
Torres almost claimed a treble of his own with eight minutes left, but Kieran Gibbs was ideally placed on the post to scramble his header off the line.
And then, as Liverpool pressed forward with understandable urgency, they were hit by the sort of sucker punch Arsenal always looked capable of producing as Arshavin grabbed his fourth.
Liverpool were caught from their own corner, as Walcott swept forward to set up Arshavin to hammer his fourth past Reina.
It looked all over for Liverpool, but Benayoun set up the prospect of another final twist in this remarkable tale by scrambling home in a crowded penalty area.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Alonso, Mascherano, Benayoun, Kuyt (El Zhar 86), Riera (Babel 74), Torres.Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Lucas, Ngog, Skrtel.
Goals: Torres 49, Benayoun 56, Torres 72, Benayoun 90.
Arsenal: Fabianski, Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Arshavin, Song, Fabregas, Denilson (Walcott 65), Nasri, Bendtner (Diaby 90).Subs Not Used: Mannone, Eduardo, Vela, Ramsey, Eboue.
Booked: Sagna.
Goals: Arshavin 36, 67, 70, 90.
Att: 44,424
Ref: Howard Webb (S Yorkshire).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool (agg 7-5)

Chelsea survived a huge scare before drawing one of the most entertaining Champions League games of recent times to seal a 7-5 aggregate win over Liverpool and book a semi-final against Barcelona.
Guus Hiddink's team led 3-1 after the first leg at Anfield but Fabio Aurelio's free-kick after an awful misjudgement from Petr Cech and Xabi Alonso's penalty put Liverpool in control at the break.
Jose Reina parried Didier Drogba's deft touch into his own net and Alex's thunderbolt free-kick levelled the scores on the night with two goals in six dramatic second-half minutes.
The inspirational Frank Lampard put the Blues 3-2 ahead, slotting home Drogba's intelligent cross.
The tie looked finished but Liverpool were not done yet and Lucas Leiva's deflected strike was quickly followed by Dirk Kuyt's near-post header.
It was 4-3 to Liverpool with seven minutes of normal time remaining and Stamford Bridge was stunned, while the Reds required just one more goal to complete a sensational victory on away goals.
But Lampard converted Nicolas Anelka's pass to level at 4-4 in the final dramatic action of a truly memorable game of football.
Liverpool were without their skipper Steven Gerrard because of an injury but came close to pulling off a memorable victory without their inspirational leader.
Liverpool gave the hosts an early warning when a delightful touch from Yossi Benayoun after 13 minutes created a clear opening for Fernando Torres, who failed to hit the target with his left-foot strike.
It was a poor miss and Liverpool's slim hopes were almost completely extinguished a minute later but Lampard narrowly missed the target with a free-kick.
Then came the moment that embarrassed Cech and handed Liverpool a lifeline, as Aurelio smashed his free-kick into the bottom corner.
Chelsea had only bothered to put one man in the wall and Cech was so focused on dealing with a floated ball into the congested area that he neglected the possibility of a low shot at goal.
Even so, it was a terrible error as the Czech keeper was caught completely out of position and scrambled across goal in vain.
Buoyed by their goal, Liverpool suddenly found an incisiveness and rhythm to their play, while Chelsea, with suspended skipper John Terry watching from the stands, looked uncharacteristically brittle.
The Blues defensive unit struggled to cope with the passing and movement of an attacking line that had struggled so manifestly at Anfield eight days earlier.
And the Reds doubled their lead through Alonso's unstoppable penalty after the Spaniard had been fouled by Chelsea's first-leg hero Branislav Ivanovic.
Chelsea boss Hiddink withdrew Salomon Kalou and brought on Anelka after 35 minutes.
And his bold decision was vindicated when the Frenchman's low cross from the right shortly after the restart was deflected by Drogba past Liverpool keeper Reina, who could only divert the ball into his own net.
Drogba was inches away with a free-kick as Chelsea found the attacking menace that had almost completely eluded them in the first-half and it came as no huge surprise when they did draw level, Alex drilling home his long-range free-kick.
Liverpool now needed to score twice more but Michael Ballack should have put the result beyond doubt after Drogba broke down the right and picked out the unmarked German with a precise low cross. Ballack, however, shot tamely and Reina dived to his left to save.
Torres, an increasingly marginal figure, went close from distance but it was Chelsea who were in control now and Lampard put his team ahead with a close-range finish from Drogba's cross.
The tie seemed to be dead and buried before Lucas' deflected strike after 81 minutes was quickly followed by Kuyt's bullet header from substitute Albert Riera's cross.
Suddenly it was only the visiting supporters who could be heard but the final goal of a pulsating match fell to Lampard, whose strike went in off both posts.
There was hardly any time remaining but the fragile Cech still managed to fumble a cross that David N'Gog drilled towards goal, forcing a superb headed clearance from Michael Essien.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Carvalho, Ashley Cole, Kalou (Anelka 36), Ballack, Essien, Lampard, Malouda, Drogba (Di Santo 90). Subs Not Used: Hilario, Mikel, Deco, Belletti, Mancienne.
Booked: Ivanovic, Carvalho, Ashley Cole.
Goals: Drogba 52, Alex 57, Lampard 76, 89.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa (Babel 85), Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio, Lucas, Mascherano (Riera 69), Alonso, Kuyt, Torres (Ngog 80), Benayoun. Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Agger.
Booked: Benayoun, Arbeloa.
Goals: Aurelio 19, Alonso 28 pen, Lucas 81, Kuyt 82.

Agg (7-5)
Att: 38,286
Ref: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Spain).

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Liverpool 4-0 Blackburn

Liverpool kept up the pressure on title rivals Manchester United with a commanding home win over Blackburn without my idol, Steven Gerrard even playing in the match.
Fernando Torres put them ahead with a brilliant swivel and volley into the corner after controlling on his chest.
Torres was in irresistible mood and headed in a Xabi Alonso free-kick as the home side dominated proceedings.
Daniel Agger fired in a ferocious 30-yard strike late on before David Ngog nodded in from point-blank range to round off the impressive win.
There had been a poignant build up to the last match at Anfield ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy in which 96 fans died during Liverpool's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest.
A minute's silence was impeccably observed and it was a significant occasion as well as a significant game - one which Jamie Carragher had called the most important league match of his career as Liverpool chase a first title since 1990.
Carragher gathered the Reds players in a huddle before kick-off to deliver a rallying call and duly backed up his words with actions.
He flighted a ball to Torres, who controlled it with his back to goal before unleashing an unstoppable strike into the far corner past keeper Paul Robinson's despairing dive.
It was a goal of the highest quality and one which Javier Mascherano should have added to after a swift counter attack.
The Argentine had a one-on-one after being played in by Dirk Kuyt only to sidefoot too close to keeper Paul Robinson, who blocked the ball away.
Torres blazed the rebound high but the Reds were in inspired form and were zipping the ball about with confidence and purpose.
Emiliano Insua and Albert Riera, in particular, were combining to penetrative effect down the left flank as Blackburn were left chasing shadows.
Insua whipped in an inviting cross for an unmarked Kuyt, who failed to capitalise on the chance by heading straight at Robinson.
But Liverpool did not have to wait long to double their lead as Torres again showed his finishing prowess by nodding in Alonso's free-kick.
Blackburn afforded the hosts far too much time and space, which was a surprise considering their precarious position in the table, although injuries to a number of key players did not help.
Riera went close with a couple of shots as Liverpool continued to cruise, although Blackburn centre-back Christopher Samba nearly made the home side pay for not being as ruthless in the final third during the second half.
The ball fell to him at the far post but the makeshift striker slipped as he got his shot away and Jose Reina saved in a rare moment of action on his 200th appearance for Liverpool.
The home side eventually increased their lead when Agger delivered a piledriver into the top corner and Ngog added the fourth in injury time after Lucas headed across goal as the Reds moved top of the table before Manchester United's game against Sunderland at 1500 BST.
Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez:
"We had confidence and were always in control. The first goal was very important, it opened the game up and we were able score.
"My only concern was that we did not score more. Goal difference will be very important if this title race goes to the wire.
"After what happened in midweek against Chelsea, that was the perfect response. We have done our side of the job, the pressure is on Manchester United now."
Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce:
"I think there was a little bit of fear in the team. We should have got tighter, instead we just let them play their game plan.
"They are certainly capable of winning the title, even if Manchester United have a game in hand. "If Liverpool keep playing like that and continue with that pace and confidence, it is possible they can win it.
"There will be a lot of twists and turns yet and they certainly believe they can do it."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Liverpool 1-3 Chelsea

Chelsea took command of the Champions League quarter-final against Liverpool as Guus Hiddink's side stunned Anfield with an exhilarating attacking exhibition.
Fernando Torres looked to have put Liverpool on course for another glorious European night when he fired Rafael Benitez's in-form European specialists ahead after only six minutes.
But Chelsea responded in style to run out emphatic winners of an enthralling encounter, in which Liverpool played a full part until they were eventually overpowered.
Branislav Ivanovic was Chelsea's unlikely hero, heading goals either side of the interval to put Chelsea ahead - twice taking advantage of Liverpool's familiar Achilles heel, wretched marking at corners.
Didier Drogba, who wasted two excellent opportunities to score before Ivanovic levelled six minutes before the interval, was on target after 67 minutes when he turned in Florent Malouda's left-wing cross from eight yards as Liverpool suddenly collapsed under the weight of Chelsea's pressure.
The only black mark on Chelsea's night was a second-half booking for captain John Terry for a challenge on Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina that rules him out of next week's second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool have specialised in comebacks against the odds in the past, but it is hard to see how Benitez - who will have been left exasperated by his side's defending - can navigate a route out of this one against a Chelsea side who have been rejuvenated by the veteran Hiddink.
In the previous Champions League meetings between the sides it has been almost impossible to separate them, but Chelsea have never adopted such a positive approach before and Hiddink reaped a rich reward.
Hiddink pleased with 'deserved' win
Anfield was left subdued apart from a defiant rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the final whistle - all Liverpool's hopes dashed by Chelsea after the optimism sparked by Torres' early goal.
Chelsea's fans, in contrast, celebrated wildly after a victory that was almost beyond their wildest expectations.
Liverpool's recent resurgence has been characterised by high-tempo openings that have put opponents under instant pressure - and they were at it again in the early stages at a vibrant Anfield.
Dirk Kuyt almost gave Liverpool the perfect start after two minutes when his powerful shot on the turn was deflected inches wide off Ivanovic, but the Kop did not have long to wait to celebrate.
This time Kuyt was the creator with a clever flick that released Alvaro Arbeloa on the right-flank, and when he delivered an inviting cross Torres was on hand to sweep a comprehensive finish low past Petr Cech.
Chelsea, with a chequered Champions League history at Anfield, wasted the opportunity to respond immediately when Salomon Kalou sent Drogba clear in the area, but Liverpool keeper Reina raced out to make a vital block.
Hiddink had pledged to send out his side in attacking frame of mind, and Chelsea were as good as their coach's word, with Malouda then firing inches wide with Reina beaten.
Torres was an electrifying presence once more, and he was too quick for Frank Lampard when he swooped to rob the England man after 25 minutes, only to send a curling effort just off target.
It was a remarkably open game, with both sides committed to attack, and Drogba was guilty of another miss when he should have restored equality.
The Ivory Coast striker got on the wrong side of Jamie Carragher as Michael Ballack played a ball into the area, but after stumbling and then regaining control Drogba blazed wildly over the top with only Reina to beat.
Chelsea got the equaliser, and the away goal, they deserved, six minutes before the interval when Liverpool's long-time weakness at defending set-pieces surfaced again.
Malouda's corner was a routine affair, but Ivanovic was able to escape from the attentions of three Liverpool defenders to turn a header beyond Reina.
Second leg will be very, very difficult - Benitez
Kuyt should have scored Liverpool's second immediately, but Cech came to Chelsea's rescue as Liverpool looked poised to regain their advantage.
The second half began as an explosive first ended, with Carragher making a desperate clearance off the line from Drogba and Torres shooting just over the top after finally breaking the shackles of Chelsea's defence.
Terry was then ruled out of next week's return leg for a clumsy challenge on Reina - but it was the last piece of bad news for Chelsea.
They swiftly delivered two deadly blows to take a stranglehold on the tie and leave Anfield, so used to success on these nights, collectively stunned.
Ivanovic could barely believe his luck when he was given time and space in the penalty area once more to head another corner, this time from Lampard, powerfully past Reina.
And five minutes later Chelsea were in dreamland when Drogba finally hit the target, sliding home Malouda's cross from close range past a badly-exposed Reina.
Chelsea continued to threaten on the break as Liverpool pressed to little or no effect - and the final whistle brought confirmation of success for Hiddink's tactical masterclass and bitter disappointment for Anfield.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio (Dossena 75), Kuyt, Lucas (Babel 79), Alonso, Riera (Benayoun 67), Gerrard, Torres. Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Hyypia, Agger, Ngog.
Booked: Aurelio.
Goals: Torres 6.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Alex, Ashley Cole, Kalou, Ballack, Essien, Lampard, Malouda, Drogba (Anelka 79). Subs Not Used: Hilario, Carvalho, Belletti, Mancienne, Mikel, Deco.
Booked: Kalou, Terry.
Goals: Ivanovic 39, 62, Drogba 67.
Att: 42,543
Ref: Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fulham 0-1 Liverpool

Liverpool moved top of the Premier League with a dramatic injury-time winner from Yossi Benayoun at Fulham.
The Reds, now above Manchester United by two points having played two games more, struck very late after hitting the woodwork four times in the match.
Andrea Dossena hit the bar twice - each time with a header, Xabi Alonso volleyed against the bar and Fernando Torres dragged a shot against the post.
But on 92 minutes, Benayoun drove in from 12 yards to snatch victory.
Benyoun's strike was met with wild celebrations on the touchline as Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez and his staff released pent-up emotions after they had been frustrated viewers for more than an hour-and-a-half.
It had looked as though Liverpool would fail to win a game they had dominated, particularly in the first half, and that would have seriously harmed their chances of winning their first league title since 1990.
But instead, they have applied maximum pressure on United, who play Aston Villa on Sunday.
Benitez's players were right to show their relief having cut through their opponents time and again only to be frustrated by the frame of the goal.
Typically, Steven Gerrard and Torres were involved in most of Liverpool's best moments.
The Spain striker set up Dossena for Liverpool's first chance but the make-shift left winger saw his shot tipped over.
From that corner, Martin Skrtel's shot was flicked on by Dossena's head and the ball bounced off the top of the bar.
Fulham looked a different side - despite an unchanged line-up - to the one that beat Manchester United last time out, offering nothing in attack as strikers Andrew Johnson and Bobby Zamora were cut adrift from their team-mates.
Additionally, Fulham's defensive plan of denying Gerrard the space to work between the defence and midfield lacked execution. It was the England midfielder who played in Torres, but Mark Schwarzer was equal to the striker's low shot.
Schwarzer was beaten soon after when Alonso cracked a thunderous volley from 25 yards but again the bar came to the keeper's rescue.
There was a sense of deja vu when Gerrard and Torres combined again - an excellent one-two cutting open the defence - only to see the Spaniard's shot come back off the post.
And incredibly, Liverpool were denied by the woodwork once more when Dossena met Gerrard's superb cross with a diving header and it smacked back off the bar.
Surprisingly there was little urgency on show from Liverpool after the break.
Fulham's doggedness - which has seen them take points off all the top four sides this season - was again in evidence and seemed to be carrying them to a share of the points.
A weak Torres header was all Benitez's side could produce in the first 25 minutes after the interval.
Then an injection of pace from substitute Ryan Babel - on for Dossena - almost unlocked Fulham, but the Dutchman's cross-shot was cleared by John Pantsil.
Late goal 'bitter pill' for Hodgson
It seemed to wake Liverpool from their lethargy and Schwarzer did well to push away Gerrard's low cross as a host of attackers queued up to add a finishing touch.
And after a goalmouth scramble, Benayoun - who had been on the pitch for only five minutes - flicked a heel at another Gerrard cross and the ball went only inches wide.
Benayoun created another chance for himself in the final minutes, but his near-post shot went wide.
But the Israeli was fortunate to get a chance at redemption and he took it when the ball came his way in the box and he arrowed a shot into the top corner.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Murphy (Dacourt 76), Etuhu, Davies (Gera 79), Zamora, Johnson (Nevland 87). Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Kamara, Kallio, Baird.
Booked: Pantsil, Gera.
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Alonso, Lucas, Kuyt (Benayoun 76), Gerrard (Agger 90), Dossena (Babel 65), Torres. Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Riera, Mascherano, Ngog.
Booked: Babel, Skrtel.
Goals: Benayoun 90.

Att: 25,661
Ref: Steve Bennett (Kent).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Gerrard downplays Zidane praise

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has played down the view of former France captain Zinedine Zidane that he is the best footballer in the world.
The 28-year-old England midfielder told BBC Radio 5 Live: "I was flattered, but took the comments with a pinch of salt.
"I'm really happy with my form but I don't think I'm the best; not at all."
Zidane made the claim after a Gerrard brace helped dump the Frenchman's former club, Real Madrid, out of the Champions League.
The 5-0 aggregate defeat of the nine-time European Cup winners prompted the World Cup-winning playmaker to lavish praise on the player he described as an "inspiration".
"Is he the best in the world? He might not get the attention of [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo but, yes, I think he just might be," Zidane said.
"He has great passing ability, can tackle and scores goals, but most importantly he gives the players around him confidence and belief. You can't learn that - players like him are just born with that presence."
Liverpool's progress to the Champions League quarter-finals prompted further victories in domestic competition, in which Gerrard again played a prominent role.
Is he the best in the world? Yes, I think he just might be
French great Zinedine Zidane
He scored in the Reds' 4-1 defeat of Premier League title-rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford, before bagging a hat-trick in a 5-0 rout of Aston Villa at Anfield.
Despite such scintillating form and his position as second-highest scorer in the division with 13 goals, the Whiston-born international said there are many rivals for the title of the world's best player.
"I think it's difficult to say who is the best, I like watching players like Messi, Ronaldo. We're lucky to have so many top players who are a pleasure to watch, so it's difficult to put your finger on one," he said.
However, one criticism levelled at Gerrard throughout his career is that, despite proving a world-class performer for his club, he has often failed to translate such form onto the international stage with England.
"I am aware that I do need to be consistent for my country and to try and reproduce my Liverpool form. But I think since the new manager has come in my form has improved," he said.
"It was frustrating to miss the last two games but I scored in my last outing and helped set up a couple of goals, so I was pleased.
"It's very important to perform well for both this club and England - the idea is to finish the season strongly with Liverpool and then to be successful as we go into the World Cup year.
"Hopefully we'll qualify as I'd love nothing better than to have a fantastic World Cup and to perform on such a stage."