Fulham 3 Liverpool 1: On the brink! Reds in need of Fernando Torres to avoid trophy wipeout

By Simon Cass Last updated at 2:32 AM on 02nd November 2009

These are truly desperate times for and Liverpool. Six defeats in their last seven games, way off the pace in the league, out of the Carling Cup and should they lose at in the Champions League, they can kiss goodbye to that competition, too.

At least their involvement in the FA Cup has yet to commence. And if anyone still harboured any doubts about 's over-reliance on , surely this sorry defeat at the hands of Fulham provided the final piece of evidence. Without the international, Liverpool are toothless in attack.

They are none too impressive in other areas of the team, either. Yes, Benitez had a swathe of injuries to cope with at Craven Cottage. But this is the squad Benitez has built and without Torres and to drive the team forward, even their status as a top four team looks under serious threat.

Jamie Carragher looks amazed as Lee Mason gets ready to send him off

Not me, ref: Jamie Carragher looks amazed as Lee Mason sends him off

Having come within four points of the title last season, Liverpool have gone into reverse and with all of the financial problems the club are facing, failure to qualify for the Champions League will have catastrophic consequences.

STAT ATTACK

Much more of this and the unwavering support Benitez has enjoyed from the majority of Liverpool fans will surely begin to evaporate. For the moment, Benitez has little option but to deal with the here and now, hence the decision to withdraw Torres in the 63rd minute against Fulham with the score 1-1.

Benitez's argument for replacing Torres with was simple enough. 'The question is, if you don't play Torres from the beginning you will be talking about why he is not playing, so it's a difficult decision,' claimed Benitez.

'We decided to start with him because he could do a warm-up, but we know we need to take him out at certain moments so we decided it was 60 minutes because last time, with 80 minutes, he needed four days to be fit.'

Such a lay-off cannot be risked as Torres will be vital to Liverpool's chances of winning against Lyon on Wednesday. But the only way Liverpool were going to beat Fulham was with Torres on and the speed with which he scampered from the pitch did not suggest he was too troubled by his groin injury.

Neither did the fact that he took part in a post-match warm-down with his team-mates. Even if it was too much of a risk to leave Torres on, the fact Benitez has to manage his injury does little to counter the argument that the Spain striker is one half of a two-man team, the other being Steven Gerrard, who is struggling to be fit to face Lyon.

Fulham's Clint Dempsey (left) scores his sides third goal

That Clint-ches it: Fulham's Clint Dempsey (left) scores his side's third goal

And the fact his squad do not have a suitable understudy for Torres can only be blamed on the manager.

EURO WATCH

LYON (v Liverpool, Wednesday): Lyon go into it on the back of a 4-1 thumping at Nice, their first away defeat of the season, and two points behind leaders Bordeaux.

True, a virus for £20million midfielder and injury to £18m did not help the cause, but it is questionable what effect the duo would have had when Andriy Voronin, Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel failed to provide any kind of threat.

By the time Philipp Degen was sent off for a lunge at Clint Dempsey, the home side were ahead.

Liverpool's Fernando Torres

All too much: Fernando Torres with head in hands

's dismissal for bundling over , even though the Fulham striker conceded he had got a toe on the ball, allowed Fulham to seal the win.

Benitez felt neither challenge deserved a red card from referee Lee Mason and will appeal against both. He may have an argument, but it was difficult to defend his assertion that his team had controlled the game.

Liverpool had an astonishing 74 per cent of possession, but there was always a feeling that one swift counter could do the trick. So it transpired when Diomansy Kamara found on the left, the winger picking out Bobby Zamora, untracked by Emiliano Insua, to finish from close range.

It needed a solitary mistake from Aaron Hughes and a stunning finish from the edge of the box from Torres to bring the visitors level shortly before the break.

Fulham's second-half adventure was rewarded when substitutes Erik Nevland and Zoltan Gera combined to see the Norwegian punish more poor Liverpool defending from close range.

Nine-man Liverpool's misery was complete when, after exchanging passes with Nevland, Dempsey stroked home after 87 minutes.

Nevland admitted he had expected a tougher workout, saying: 'They weren't scaring the life out of us. We had the game under control. It didn't feel like you were on the edge of your seat. In the second half I thought we were the better team.'

MATCH STATS

Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer 6; Pantsil 7, Hughes 6, Hangeland 6, Konchesky 6; Dempsey 7, Baird 7, Greening 7 (Etuhu 86min), Duff 6 (Nevland 46, 7); Zamora 7, Kamara 6 (Gera 46, 7). Booked: Baird.

Liverpool (4-2-3-1): Reina 6; Degen 5, Carragher 6, Kyrgiakos 6, Insua 4; Mascherano 5, Lucas 6; Kuyt 6 (Ayala 85), Voronin 5, Benayoun 6 (Eccleston 78); Torres 7 (Babel 63, 5). Sent Off: Degen, 79, Carragher 82.

Man of the Match: Bobby Zamora.

Referee: Lee Mason

Roy Hodgson expressed sympathy for Benitez having to juggle the demands of domestic and European football. But Fulham, just four points behind Liverpool with a game in hand, appear to be making just as good as job of it.

Benitez knows Liverpool must resume winning - and right away. 'I think we have to approach every game thinking about how to win,' he said. 'First it is Lyon. After that we have to think about Birmingham.

'The level of this competition is not easy. This league will be difficult but you can see all the teams can lose points. Normally you try to progress in both competitions.'

Doing so is looking an increasingly slim possibility for Liverpool.

 


 

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What a position this manager has brought us to.I noted last wk that the manc games aren't a concern,it's all the others that cause the problems.What my problem with Rafa is, is that have things ever been any different? - NO!How many times have we looked on with utter disbelief at the team sheet,the formation,the round pegs in square holes syndrome,the far too cautious tactics (i.e. 1 lone striker at HOME!) or the not wanting to lose rather than go for the win mentality!!Consider the players he has offloaded,mainly because he couldn't manage them when compared to the dross that has remained.We all know that LFC totally rely on 2 players - name 1 other player who would loosely be described as a striker? Alonso,Crouch,Keane,Finnan,Hyppia - what current players would keep these guys out of our team? Em..no I can't name one either.£20m on a player with a history of injury & who is out realistically until near Christmas!Whatever the situ,after 5 yrs we should be far better than this.YNWA

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The team-sheet says Voronin was playing, but I have examined the whole game carefully I think there must be some mistake. I did get a brief glimpse of a bloke with a horrific, blonde, pony-tail but I think he must have been a steward or something as nobody was taking any notice of him and he seemed to be lost in private meditation.

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