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Fulham 3 Liverpool 1: Reds in need of Torres to avoid trophy wipe-out

02 Nov 2009 02:32:45

Fulham 3 Liverpool 1: Reds in need of Torres to avoid trophy wipe-out

These are truly desperate times for Rafa Benitez 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 Lyon 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 Liverpool's over-reliance on Fernando Torres, surely this sorry defeat at the hands of Fulham provided the final piece of evidence. Without the Spain 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 Steven Gerrard to drive the team forward, even their status as a top four team looks under serious threat. 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. 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 Ryan Babel 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. 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 thumpingat Nice, their first away defeat of the season, and two points behindleaders Bordeaux. True, a virus for £20million midfielder Alberto Aquilani and injury to £18m Glen Johnson 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. All too much: Fernando Torres with head in hands Jamie Carragher's dismissal for bundling over Bobby Zamora, 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 Damien Duff 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 STATSFulham (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.  The Jamie Redknapp report, extra: Liverpool in crisis! Fans faith in Rafa Benitez will not last foreverLiverpool boss Rafa Benitez claims you don't have to win trophies to be a successLIVERPOOL FC


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