Liverpool Leave It Late to Return to the Top of the Table

Jon FeatonbyCorrespondent IApril 4, 2009

Fulham 0-1 Liverpool

Liverpool returned to the top of the Premier League thanks to an injury-time winner from Yossi Benayoun at Fulham.

The Merseyside club piled the pressure back on reigning champions Manchester United, who face Aston Villa tomorrow. Liverpool are now two points clear of United having played two games more.

Liverpool had been thwarted several times during the game by Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer, and when they had beaten him, the woodwork built to the frustration.

Fulham, coming of the back of a 2-0 victory over Manchester United last time out, had a chance to once again influence the destination of the Premiership trophy. However, they failed to provide the same attacking threat, despite fielding an unchanged side.

At times, it appeared that in trying to deny Steven Gerrard space to create danger in between the midfield and defence, forwards Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora were left isolated from their team-mates.

The first near-miss on the Fulham goal came when Fernando Torres shielded the ball excellently on the edge of the Fulham box before playing in Andrea Dossena, only for the Italian to see his shot tipped over the bar.

Fulham failed to deal with the resulting corner, but Martin Skrtel's shot was flicked onto the top of the bar by Dossena's head.

Gerrard then found some time in front of the Fulham back-four and played through Torres. The Spaniard hit the ball across the goal, but Schwarzer made a great double save—first from the initial shot and then to smother the rebound away from Dirk Kuyt's feet.

Liverpool continued to apply the pressure as the first half progressed, with Xavi Alonso hitting the bar with a dipping volley shortly afterwards.

Gerrard once again fed Torres, who got in behind the defence. His shot beat Schwarzer but Liverpool were denied by the frame of the goal for the third time.

As the half drew towards a close, Gerrard was becoming more and more influential. After finding space on the Liverpool right flank, he whipped in a fantastic cross along the six-yard box, only for Dossena, incredibly, to head against the bar.

The interval seemed to work against Liverpool, and for much of the second-half, they failed to regain their earlier momentum.

While Fulham were still unable to fashion a meaningful attack of their own, they limited their opponents to only one real opening—a tame header from Torres who was back peddling at the time.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez was visibly getting increasingly frustrated as the hour mark passed and soon afterwards he made his first change, Ryan Babel replacing Dossena.

The Dutchman—making his 23rd substitute appearance of the season—seemed to add some pace to Liverpool's attacks and was one of the few players wearing red happy to commit defenders.

And shortly after coming on it was Babel who almost opened the scoring, his shot cleared by Fulham defender John Pantsil.

Liverpool's second substitution followed with Benayoun replacing the disappointing Kuyt, and the Israeli international nearly opened the scoring.

More good work from Gerrard down the right flank resulted in him driving a ball across the six-yard box. Benayoun got a heel to the ball but then watched his flick roll agonisingly the wrong side of the post.

Fulham seemed to have earned a share of the points after Benayoun fashioned himself another chance but could only shoot into the side-netting.

But two minutes into injury time, the ball broke to Benayoun inside the 18-yard box, and his well-hit shot beat Schwarzer to the delight of the traveling fans.