Rafael Benitez grimaced on the touchline as nine-man Liverpool were given a mauling in a humiliating 3-1 defeat at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
Liverpool defenders Philipp Degen and Jamie Carragher were sent off for reckless fouls and by the end the Fulham crowd were chanting “Easy, easy” as Liverpool resembled a shambles.
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Goals from Bobby Zamora, Erik Nevland and Clint Dempsey gave Roy Hodgson’s side a deserved victory with Fernando Torres grabbing the one consolation for Liverpool.
But this was a match which only demonstrated that Torres cannot do it all by himself.
He cannot keep producing the only quality in a Liverpool team which, without the injured Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson, looks bereft of ideas and creativity.
We had wondered what the significance was of that stirring victory over Manchester United last weekend.
Well, now it looks a one-off. A lone bright spot in a season which could get even darker next Wednesday when Liverpool travel to Lyon for a match which could see them effectively knocked out of the Champions league in the group stages.
After this result they might just be out of the Premier League race, too.
The pressure is building on Benitez. And with the Reds faithful once more booing his substitution of Yossi Benayoun the steam is hissing all around him.
Bizarrely, it was a match in which Liverpool enjoyed the majority of the possession.
A match in which they pressed forward with lots of effort, often against a wall of white shirts. But a match in which for vast swathes they struggled to supply the quality to go with their industry.
They must have wondered, however, quite how they found themselves behind after 24 minutes.
Fulham had not had a single shot on Jose Reina’s goal. Let’s be honest, they had barely crossed the half-way line.
But shortly after Benayoun had produced an acrobatic volley which fairly rattled the Fulham crossbar the home side broke away.
The ball came to Damien Duff on the left and that trusty left foot curled in a raking cross which bisected the Liverpool defence and allowed Zamora to tap home from close range.
A bit of a downer that, especially as Liverpool wags have been known to direct the following ditty in Zamora’s direction, to the tune of ‘Amore:’ “When the ball hits your head and you’re sat in Row Z, that’s Zamora.”
Well, now they know different. Zamora is lethal from six yards.
Benitez, however, must have been scratching his head, such was Liverpool‘s dominance.
The problem was that while Liverpool continued to press forward they struggled to produce the high tempo and urgency they had demonstrated against Manchester United last Sunday.
And when the equaliser came they could hardly put it down to rhythm and style. Instead it was fashioned out of nothing, but by the predator supreme.
There appeared to be little danger for the Fulham defence when the ball came to Andriy Voronin. His header was weak and misdirected but it cannoned off a Fulham defender and arced into the hitting zone of Torres.
He needed no more invitation. The Spaniard simply swivelled and swung his right boot and a fabulous volley from the edge of the box fairly scorched past Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer.
It was Torres’ 10th league goal of the season and only demonstrated once more his value to Liverpool.
Fulham manager Roy Hodgson made a double substitution at half-time, bringing on Zoltan Gera for Diomansy Kamara and Nevland for Duff.
It was an attempt to push Liverpool back and stem the pounding and it had some success. In fact, Fulham might have re-taken the lead on the hour mark when Zamora fired over a cross and Gera swivelled and shot but unfortunately straight at goalkeeper Reina.
Torres was then taken off on 63 minutes but didn’t seem to have an injury.
The did take the lead, however, after 74 minutes and once more it was against the run of play.
This time Paul Konchesky surged down the left hand side and Reina could only parry his cross. The ball was headed back across goal by Gera and there was Nevland to slide the ball into the net.
It got worse for Liverpool four minutes later when Swiss defender Degen was sent off for a reckless lunge on Dempsey.
Incredibly three minutes later Liverpool were down to nine men when Carragher brought down Zamora and also received a red card.
And to wrap up an afternoon to forget for Benitez, Dempsey rolled in the third on 87 minutes for Fulham as Liverpool disintegrated.