Friday 22 September 2017

Dalglish's understudies fail to shine in spotlight

Liverpool 0
Fulham 1

If there is a Roy Hodgson appreciation society in hiding anywhere in England, it really is party time. His former club Fulham triumphed against those stains on the new national manager's CV, Liverpool, in the same way as his current employers, West Bromwich Albion, a fortnight ago.

For the second successive Anfield fixture, Hodgson's name chimed from a section of the ground. And for the second successive Anfield fixture, it was emanating from the away end. An own goal from Martin Skrtel signalled yet another humiliating defeat for a side which has forgotten how to win at home.

As Liverpool prepare for a visit to the venue they dub 'Anfield south', restoring a touch of impregnability to Anfield north wouldn't go amiss.

Liverpool are more vulnerable at home than a Trojan when a wooden horse arrives at the door. Manager Kenny Dalglish was seeking the victory that would give him the same number of wins on home soil as QPR and Blackburn.

protected

Given a more pressing engagement in London at the weekend, Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard and Daniel Agger were given the night off. Even Pepe Reina was protected, presumably to remove the possibility of another Wembley ban, with Alexander Doni handed another start.

Hodgson's fan club could point at Brede Hangeland's goal-line clearances and give a knowing nod, recalling how the centre-half was plucked from Scandinavian obscurity and made the lynchpin of a side which stopped flirting with relegation.

Others looked at Fulham winger Alex Kacaniklic -- an Anfield makeweight in the deal which reunited Paul Konchesky with Hodgson at the start of his ill-fated reign -- and present an alternative perspective on the England manager's eye for talent.

Predictably, Kacaniklic was involved in Fulham's somewhat comical opener after just five minutes, an own goal by Skrtel, Liverpool's captain for the evening. John Arne Riise, the former Liverpool left-back, made the kind of overlapping run familiar to the home fans.

His vicious cross was flicked on by Kacaniklic, striking the shoulder of the Slovakian defender before bouncing past Doni. The ongoing absence of Fulham manager Martin Jol, at home due to a chest infection, was not proving detrimental as the visitors sought a second.

Doni had to be alert to push aside a Pogrebynak volley in the 15th minute. When Hangeland was forced to clear a Jonjo Shelvey shot off the line just before the interval, a subdued crowd finally found its voice.

After 36 games, Dalglish patience with Jordan Henderson finally reached its snapping point at half-time, the midfielder's substitution for Stewart Downing unlikely to be protecting him for Wembley. Briefly, there was a response. Maxi Rodriguez was denied a goal by a late Hangeland tackle, the Norwegian seemingly gliding through against a lightweight attack. It didn't signal a shift in momentum.

Instead, Fulham sub Kerim Frei was the width of the post away from doubling the lead and Doni had to deny Riise after an hour. It needed an even more acrobatic save from Liverpool's Brazilian 'keeper to prevent Clint Dempsey continuing his goal run. Dalglish sent on 17-year-old Raheem Sterling with the manager's hopes of surpassing the worst Liverpool home performance of the season rapidly extinguishing.

"There's only one Roy Hodgson," bellowed the Fulham fans. There are some ex-managers who are ghosts on the wall. Liverpool must feel like they're being haunted by a poltergeist dressed in a smart new England blazer. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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