An injury-time penalty from Steven Gerrard secured Liverpool a potentially massive three points after the visitors had twice come from behind against Fulham at Craven Cottage. The spot kick, struck home after Daniel Sturridge had been brought down by Sascha Riether, in the box means Liverpool move to within four points of Chelsea at the top of the Premier League.
Such a lofty position seemed a distant prospect for much of the encounter in West London. A bizarre own goal from Kolo Toure got the evening off to a bad start for Brendan Rodgers's side as the Ivorian lashed the ball into his own net. Liverpool responded before the break through Daniel Sturridge, but were behind once more just past the hour mark from Kieran Richardson’s close-range finish. With 18 minutes remaining Philippe Coutinho produced an equalizer after a deflected shot before their pressure told with a late winner.
For Fulham, who profited from an injury-time equalizer against Manchester United at the weekend, the goal came as a bitter disappointment to their hopes of getting out of the drop zone. In contrast, Liverpool’s prospects this season look increasingly lofty. It would have been a significant reality check had Saturday’s thrilling 5-1 win over Arsenal been followed up by a continuation of their poor away record this season. Instead, having shown the fortitude to dig out a victory, their fans, if not their manager, will now surely be openly discussing a potential title challenge. With both Arsenal and Chelsea dropping points and Manchester City suffering a recent blip, they now have to be at least put in the conversation.
If they are to continue to push the teams ahead of them in the table, then their away record will be crucial. Last time out on the road, Toure had handed West Brom a costly equalizer and the Ivorian defender was at his reckless worst once more early on. In just the eighth minute, Richardson was released down the left by Lewis Holtby’s fine pass and put what looked to be a harmless ball across the six-yard box. But, admittedly not helped by some noticeable bobbles off the questionable surface, Toure swiped at the ball and sent it behind him and past his own goalkeeper.
In contrast, it was a goal of real quality that got Liverpool back into the game four minutes before the interval. Gerrard was the orchestrator as he split Fulham’s center-backs with a wonderful pass with the outside of his foot. Sturridge darted onto the end of it and took a couple of touches to compose himself before placing the ball past Stekelenburg.
Liverpool came desperately close to taking the lead for the first time after the interval when Luis Suarez struck the post for the second game running. Instead, minutes later more poor defending let Liverpool down to allow Fulham to go back in front. A lack of communication and awareness saw Martin Skrtel stretching desperately for a cross from the right and the Slovakian could only deflect the ball across the face of goal, where Richardson arrived unchecked to finish past Mignolet.
For all their endeavors it was not to be Fulham’s day as they remain rooted to the foot of the table. First Coutinho received Sturridge’s pass 20 yards from goal and moved across the edge of the box to find space for a shot that took a helpful deflection off Johnny Heitinga. And, with tiring legs appearing to be a factor, Riether made a reckless lunge that brought down Sturridge in the box. Gerrard coolly converted from the spot to send the traveling fans into jubilation and dreaming of what might yet be this season.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.