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Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Saturday, 22 November 2008

Liverpool 0-0 Fulham

By Russell Barder

Fernando Torres is challenged by Fulham's John Pantsil
Fernando Torres looked lively for Liverpool on his return from injury

Liverpool endured a frustrating afternoon as they were held to a goalless draw by Fulham at Anfield.

The best chance of an even first-half fell to Robbie Keane, but the Republic of Ireland striker shot straight at keeper Mark Schwarzer from eight yards.

Fulham were not just content to soak up pressure and Andrew Johnson and Jimmy Bullard both tested Pepe Reina.

Liverpool dominated the second half but failed to capitalise and remain second behind Chelsea in the table.

If Rafael Benitez's side harbour serious ambitions of challenging for the Premier League title this season, however, then they will need to perform better than they did against the Cottagers.

Before Saturday's encounter the visitors had collected just one point on their travels but they turned in a disciplined and confident performance and for the first half at least, looked capable of adding three more to that total.

'Bad day' for Benitez at Anfield

Liverpool were boosted by the return of striker Fernando Torres, but Steven Gerrard was ruled out because of the the injury that also saw him miss England's win in Germany on Wednesday.

With his inspirational captain absent it was a surprise to see Benitez bring in Lucas Leiva in to sit alongside Javier Mascherano in midfield, with Xabi Alonso left on the bench.

Alonso has enjoyed a good start to the season and after a lacklustre opening 35 minutes, with Liverpool looking sluggish and devoid of creativity, the home supporters were calling for the Spaniard's introduction.

They had started brightly enough as Dirk Kuyt shot wide when well placed, but it was another 15 minutes before Keane forced Schwarzer into his first save.

Fulham were rarely troubled and enjoyed plenty of the ball themselves as Bullard and former Anfield favourite Danny Murphy pulled the strings in midfield.


Reina had to be alert to save Johnson's effort after Bullard's hooked through ball and Schwarzer was out bravely to block Keane's shot at the other end.

The action swung back and forth and once again it was Reina's turn to prevent his side from going behind, brilliantly tipping Bullard's fine 20-yard effort wide after Bobby Zamora had cut the ball back.

Liverpool were much brighter after the interval and looked to pin Fulham back in their own half.

Stalemate is like a win - Schwarzer

Torres was always a threat and after beating John Pantsil on the left, he cut inside before unleashing a shot at Schwarzer's goal that the Australian parried away.

Fulham dug in to frustrate the home side and the biggest cheer of the day came as Alonso replaced Mascherano with 25 minutes to go.

It was Alonso's Spanish team-mate Albert Riera who set Kuyt up for Liverpool's next chance, but Schwarzer was on hand to turn his dipping effort over the bar.

Kuyt then blazed wide after a good ball from Jamie Carragher as Liverpool laid siege to Fulham's goal.

Lucas saw a shot deflected wide in the final minute, and the game ended after Daniel Agger's header from the resulting corner drifted harmlessly over.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez:
"It was a bad day, we did not have enough energy and we did not pass the ball well enough.

"And then when we got back into the dressing room we discovered that Chelsea had drawn and Arsenal had lost.

"Those results would have been good for us had we won this one. I would assume Chelsea feel the same way about our result and Arsenal's defeat."

Fulham manager Roy Hodgson:
"The game was even particularly in the first 45 minutes.

"The longer the game went on the more they started to throw the kitchen sink at us.

"A 0-0 score is a good result at Anfield and I am really happy with it. We are getting stronger and are starting to gel with every passing week."

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Carragher, Agger, Aurelio, Kuyt (El Zhar 81), Leiva Lucas, Mascherano (Alonso 64), Riera (Babel 78), Keane, Torres.
Subs Not Used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Hyypia, Benayoun.

Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Dempsey (Gera 84), Bullard (Baird 90), Murphy, Davies, Johnson, Zamora.
Subs Not Used: Zuberbuhler, Nevland, Gray, Stoor, Kallio.

Att: 43,589

Ref: Mark Halsey (Lancashire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Liverpool's Fernando Torres on 7.46 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Premier League as it happened
22 Nov 08 |  Premier League
Saturday's football photos
22 Nov 08 |  Football

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