A stoppage time penalty conversion from Steven Gerrard has Liverpool within four points of first, with goals from Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho helping the Reds to a 3-2, comeback win at Craven Cottage. Responding after a Kolo Touré own goal and Kieran Richardson tally gave Fulham leads in each half, Liverpool extended their unbeaten streak in to nine games, simultaneously keeping the Cottagers at the bottom of the table.
Touré’s shanked clearance from the edge of Liverpool’s six-yard box gave Fulham an unlikely lead in the eighth minute, an advantage Sturridge was able to pull back four minutes before half time. The Cottagers rebuffed Liverpool’s early second half pressure to go up through Richardson in the 63rd only to see Coutinho give the Reds their second equalizer in the 72nd minute. Just before the end of regulation time, Sascha Riether was judged to have slid through Sturridge in the right of the area, clearing the way for Gerrard’s stoppage time winner.
For Fulham, the result keeps them five points away from safety, with only 12 rounds remaining for the relegation-embattled Cottagers to carve a way to Premier League survival. Had they held either of their two leads, Fulham would have vaulted Cardiff City to claim 19th place.
And for fourth place Liverpool, the result sees them gain two points on the top of the table, with Chelsea having stumbled at West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday. With Arsenal’s 0-0 draw against Manchester United keeping the Gunners second, the Reds are only four points back of the league-leading Blues.
While Fulham made early noise by forcing three corner kicks in the first four minutes, Liverpool quickly settled into they type of control you’d expect from the teams’ recent performances. But that control was rendered meaningless in the eighth minute when a ball rolled across the top of the six by Richardson was shanked into the Liverpool goal by Touré, with the Reds’s defenders right-footed clearance looping into Simon Mignolet’s net to open the scoring.
For most of the first half, the lead held up,with Liverpool initially unable to put a shot on Maarten Stekelenburg. Though the Cottagers did not play as conservatively as they did Sunday at Old Trafford, the team still sacrificed possession in favor of organization, a plan Liverpool tried to undo by playing balls behind the Fulham defense from high. For most of the half, strong defending from the Cottagers was able to preserve their one-goal lead.
In the 41st minute, however, Liverpool’s approach paid off, with a long ball from Gerrard from just inside his own half finding Sturridge behind a high Fulham defensive line. Dribbling into the right side of the penalty area, the Liverpool striker put his equalizer off Stekelenburg’s far post and in, sending the teams into halftime tied, 1-1.
Liverpool started the second half seemingly destined to claim the lead, continuously breaking through Fulham’s left side as the game began to be played almost entirely in the Cottagers’ defensive third. In the 61st minute, Luis Suárez rattled Stekelenburg’s upright with a shot from 19 yards, foreshadowing Liverpool’s apparently inevitable go-ahead goal.
Moments later, however, Fulham had an unlikely lead, with a speculative cross off a throw in deep on Liverpool’s left leading to Richardson’s goa;. On a 63rd minute ball targeting Darren Bent at the far post, Reds defender Martin Skrtel elected to extend his right leg to try to play the cross, leaving him no option but to knock the ball back across goal. Hit back toward the near post, the ball bounced out of the reach of Mignolet, falling for Richardson for an easy finish from three yards out.
Nine minutes later, Coutinho had Liverpool back even. Allowed to cut across the top of the area and onto his left foot, the Brazilian attacker let go of a shot from 20 yards out, his effort getting through the right hand of Stekelenburg and into the Cottagers’ goal.
While Liverpool pressed for a winner, full time approached with the match having leveled off. The Cottagers has nearly bled out their draw. In the 90th minute, however, Riether was adjudicated to have brought Sturridge down in the far right of the penalty area. Seconds into stoppage time, Gerrard blasted his penalty kick off the left post, pulling Liverpool within four points of first place.
Fulham: Stekelenburg (Stockdale 76′); Riether, Heitinga, Burn, Riise; Tunnicliffe, Sidwell, Kvist, Richardson (Kacaniklic 71′); Holtby, Bent
Goals: Touré (o.g., 8′), Richardson (63′)
Liverpool: Mignolet; Flanaga, Skrtel, Touré, Cissohko; Gerrard, Henderson, (Agger 91′), Sterling (Teixera 82′), Suárez, Sturridge
Goals: Sturridge (41′), Coutinho (72′), Gerrard (91′)