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  • January 26, 2011
  • • 3:00 PM
  • • Anfield, Liverpool
  • Referee: L. Probert
  • • Attendance: 40466
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Liverpool 1-0 Fulham: Pantsil Own Goal Seals Dalglish’s First Anfield Win As Reds Go Seventh In Table

Liverpool 1-0 Fulham: Pantsil Own Goal Seals Dalglish’s First Anfield Win As Reds Go Seventh In Table

Reds hold on despite second half pressure from Cottagers

Kenny Dalglish was gifted the first home win of his second spell in charge of Liverpool as an own goal from Fulham’s John Pantsil sealed a 1-0 victory for the Reds.  In a tight match both side had good chances to win the game, but it was Pantsil’s error early in the second half that was the difference and moves the Reds up to seventh in the Premier League table.

Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish made just one change to the side who beat Wolves at the weekend with Steven Gerrard returning to the side to replace Lucas after serving his suspension following his red card against Manchester United in the FA Cup third round. The Reds also made one change to the substitutes bench as Danny Wilson replaced Sotiris Kyrgiakos.

Fulham boss Mark Hughes gave recent signing Steve Sidwell his first start for the club in place of Dickson Etuhu who was picked up a hamstring injury in the defeat against Stoke City. Aaron Hughes was also withdrawn against Stoke City but he recovered in time to make the starting line-up as the Cottagers went in search of their ever first victory at Anfield, having failed in their previous 29 attempts.

The home side began the game on the front foot and were unlucky not to be ahead after six minutes when a Fernando Torres strike was wrongly ruled out for offside. Raul Meireles picked the ball up in between the Fulham midfield and defence before playing a through ball into Torres, the Spaniard got in front of his marker and calmly slotted past David Stockdale only for the assistant to raise his flag for offside. However from the replays the striker had clearly timed his run perfectly and Liverpool were denied a perfect start to the match.

Four minutes later Fulham were under pressure again, the Cottagers defence failed to clear the ball and it found its way to Martin Kelly who delivered a pinpoint cross from the right wing onto the head of Meireles. The Portuguese midfielder had ghosted into the penalty area and was able to guide his header towards the bottom corner only for Stockdale to make an excellent save down to his right.

The visitors took were struggling to get into the game and were defending resolutely against constant Liverpool pressure, and in the 25th minute Stockdale was called into action again. Glen Johnson received a pass on the left touch line before cutting inside John Pantsil and striking a fierce right footed shot from the edge of the penalty area, but the Fulham keeper made another good save to tip the ball over the bar.

Fulham finally tested Pepe Reina for the first time four minutes later and they did it twice in a minute, and really should have opened the scoring through Mousa Dembele. The first chance came from a neat from Dembele inside the Liverpool half, the ball ran to American Clint Dempsey who won a 50-50 challenge with Kelly and broke into the penalty area, but his shot was saved by Reina.

Thirty seconds later the visitors had an even better chance to open the scoring, Andy Johnson took on Martin Skrtel down the left edge of the penalty and cut his cross back behind Daniel Agger and into the path of an unmarked Dembele but from six yards out he shot straight at Reina.

Both sides were now comfortable in possession and looking to create chances with every attack and the best opportunity came in the last minute of the first half for the home side. Kelly was released down the right wing by Gerrard, he steadied himself before chipping a cross into the penalty area where Torres rose above his marker, but headed wide and the half finished goalless.

Midfield battle| Debutant Sidwell challenges the lively Meireles

Liverpool began the second half attacking the Kop end and they were gifted the opening goal of the game in the 52nd minute. Clint Dempsey gave the ball away to Torres who turned his marker and unleashed a shot from the edge of the area. The Spaniard’s strike sent Stockdale the wrong way due to a deflection off Brede Hangeland, but the ball struck the post, however the loose ball was bundled towards goal by Meireles and then in an attempt to clear the ball Pantsil sliced the ball into his own net.

Rather than knock the visitors back the goal seemed to bring them to life and seven minutes later Dempsey had an excellent chance to level the scores with an acrobatic volley. Pantsil received the ball on the right wing and delivered a cross into the middle of the penalty area, Dempsey managed to get in front of Martin Skrtel, but his strike was easily saved by Reina.

Fulham were given another opportunity in the 66th minute as Liverpool gave away a free kick 25 yards out from goal. Former Reds midfielder, and Fulham captain, Danny Murphy fired the ball over the wall at pace, but his effort had too much curl on it and Reina was able to watch it sail wide of his right hand post.

And the chances kept coming for the visitors. Ten minutes later Dempsey showed excellent strength to roll away from Skrtel midway inside the Liverpool half. The American brought the ball under control but was unable to keep his right foot strike down and the ball sailed over the bar.

The hosts were having to deal with some heavy pressure from Mark Hughes’ men and were grateful to the positioning of Meireles at a corner in the 82nd minute. Hangelend rose above his marker to meet a right wing corner but his powerful header was cleared off the line by the Portuguese international with Reina beaten.

With time running out all the home side began to show their nerves and following a foul by Meireles on Murphy Fulham had another chance to level the score.  The midfielder fired a cross into the penalty area where Dempsey was able to head the ball back across goal but Dembele was unable to put the ball away from six yards and Reina was able to dive on the ball and ensure the victory for the home side, much to the relief of their fans.

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