We saw a high-tempo contest at a cold Craven Cottage with both sides having multiple goalscoring chances but ultimately it was the sending off of Reds youngster Jay Spearing, who had replaced the injured Lucas Leiva in midfield, with just under 20 minutes remaining which proved the difference.
The ball was there to be won and although Spearing did arrive first, he made plenty of contact with Moussa Dembele as both feet were off the ground, prompting referee Kevin Friend to brandish a red card leaving the visitors a man down.
Fulham took advantage of that and netted the only goal of the open affair with five minutes remaining when Danny Murphy edged past Glen Johnson on the left side of the Fulham penalty area and forced Pepe Reina into a low save which he could only parry as far as Clint Dempsey who used his predatory skills to turn it home for his fourth of the campaign.
Reina was solid earlier with a strong save from Dembele’s 5th minute attempt before he was later tested by the Belgian who struck a sizzling shot from range, forcing the Spaniard to use a diving hand. He was involved moments later when Dempsey hit a dangerous curving volley and the USA international managed to test Reina again late in the first half with a swerving shot.
Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer was also kept very busy and produced a number of vital saves, namely when Andy Carroll hit his 8th minute close range shot too straight before the Australian did well to hold onto Charlie Adam’s lash from outside the area which took a couple of deflections on the way through.
Jordan Henderson was desperately unlucky prior to the half-hour mark when he curled the ball around Schwarzer from just inside the area on the left channel but was denied by the inside of the far upright before the Cottagers was again called on early in the second half when Jose Enrique hit a goalbound volley after a corner as the attacking continued at both ends.
In the final ten minutes, Dempsey was again agonisingly close when he took an early shot from just inside the area which curled onto the crossbar with a very similar look to Henderson’s earlier brush with the woodwork moments before Dembele hit his close range attempt straight at Reina in what was a huge let-off for the Reds.
Dembele was just wide of the upright when he dazzled the visiting defence before Liverpool almost stole the show when Schwarzer made a fantastic save onto the woodwork from substitute Stewart Downing’s curving effort but in the end it was Dempsey’s 85th minute finish which enabled the Cottagers to jump to 13th as Liverpool remained 7th with their first non-winning result away from Anfield in four matches.
TRIBAL ASKS: Are Fulham good enough to push into Europa League contention? Was Jay Spearing’s sending off too harsh?
Red card: LIV - Jay Spearing 72’