Fulham 0-1 Liverpool
Saturday 4th April 2009
The Reds were a point behind Manchester United in the title race, having played one more game, going into this crucial clash at Craven Cottage towards the end of the 2008/09 campaign. A win was paramount for Rafa Benitez and his side.
Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard started together in attack, while Lucas was preferred to Javier Mascherano in the Reds midfield.
Left-back Andrea Dossena, playing on the wing instead of Albert Riera, was in the thick of Liverpool‘s attacking play early on, testing Fulham ‘keeper Mark Schwarzer before seeing his header hit the crossbar soon after.
It was Xabi Alonso’s turn to hit the woodwork next, as the Spaniard saw his thunderous long-range effort come back off the bar. Liverpool were battering the hosts, but simply couldn’t find the net. Torres saw his effort hit the post after good link-up play with Gerrard.
Unbelievably, the woodwork was hit for a fourth time shortly after. An inch-perfect cross from Gerrard was met by the arriving Dossena, but the Italian saw his header ricochet off the bar. Benitez’s side were playing superbly, but getting absolutely no luck whatsoever.
A frustrating second-half saw Liverpool create less chances and the home side grow in stature, and a couple of disappointing dropped points began to look inevitable.
As the game wore on the Reds did begin to go up a gear, but they continued to be thwarted. A couple of crosses went straight across the face of Fulham’s goal, while Yossi Benayoun, on as a 76th-minute substitute, saw his flick go agonisingly wide.
With the game drifting into stoppage time, arguably the most important moment in Liverpool‘s season at that point occurred.
Ryan Babel, also brought on by Benitez, found Gerrard in the box, and the ball fell to Benayoun in space on the right-side of the penalty area. The Israeli took a touch before firing home a terrific effort to send Liverpool‘s players, fans and coaching staff wild with joy.
What had looked like a damaging draw was now suddenly a monumental victory, and the celebrations proved it. The win took Liverpool two points clear of United at the top of the Premier League, with two games extra now played.
The following day, United’s late victory over Aston Villa proved to be a huge moment in the title race in itself, and had they dropped points that day there is every chance Liverpool would’ve won the title that season.
As it was, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side prevailed, but Liverpool finished in a highly impressive second place with 86 points. On most occasions that would’ve been enough to be crowned champions.
Goals: Benayoun 90
Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Skrtel, Insua, Alonso, Lucas, Kuyt (Benayoun 76), Gerrard (Agger 90), Dossena (Babel 65), Torres
Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey, Murphy (Dacourt 76), Etuhu, Davies (Gera 79), Zamora, Johnson (Nevland 87).