Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez endured another day to forget after his side were beaten 3-1 at Fulham and had two men sent-off at Craven Cottage here on Saturday.
Defenders Philipp Degen and Jamie Carragher were both shown straight red cards in the space of two second half minutes as the good work the Reds achieved in reviving their Premier League title challenge during last week’s win over Manchester United was undone.
Bobby Zamora had given Fulham the lead but Liverpool had no idea of what was to follow when Fernando Torres volleyed an equaliser.
Substitute Erik Nevland’s cheeky flick put the home side back in front and Clint Dempsey wrapped up the victory once Liverpool were down to nine men.
Benitez is famed for changing his line-up whatever the previous score and, given that the 2-1 defeat at Arsenal his side had suffered in midweek was in the League Cup, Saturday was no exception.
The Spaniard opted to give forward Andriy Voronin a rare Premier League start – his first of the season – as he sought to solve the problem of Steven Gerrard’s continuing absence.
The England midfielder is making a slow recovery from a groin injury that may yet require surgery.
Voronin fired in an early free-kick from the left that Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer opted to punch away and the Australian was then involved in a collision with Torres as he gathered a ball into the box.
There was no question of a penalty and referee Lee Mason made the same decision when Lucas Leiva went down in the box under Brede Hangeland’s challenge.
Dirk Kuyt’s ball across the box from the right just eluded Torres in front of goal as Liverpool continued to dominate the opening exchanges.
But Fulham took the lead in the 24th minute.
Damien Duff was the architect with a ball behind the Liverpool defence from the left that Zamora had anticipated perfectly and he made no mistake from close range.
Liverpool’s confidence sagged after that setback but Torres volleyed them level three minutes before half-time.
Fulham captain Aaron Hughes managed to block Voronin’s header but the rebound went straight to the former Atletico Madrid man, whose first-time shot from the edge of the penalty area gave Schwarzer no chance.
The home side replaced Duff and Diomansy Kamara with Zoltan Gera and Nevland at the break and Emiliano Insua did well to stop Dempsey sending Nevland clear.
Chris Baird was shown a yellow card for barging Lucas over and the Fulham fans were angry not to be awarded a penalty soon afterwards when Zamora and Carragher tussled as they ran towards the Liverpool goal.
The Liverpool defender lost his footing first and fell across his opponent, toppling him too. Referee Mason was some way away and ruled play on.
Torres was replaced by Ryan Babel for the final 25 minutes, with Benitez perhaps wanting to keep him fresh for Wednesday’s all-important Champions League game in Lyon.
But Nevland netted a cheeky poacher’s goal to put Fulham back in front.
Konchesky fired over a cross from the left that Reina could only flap away and when Gera headed the ball back into the six-yard box the former Manchester United man was there to flick it home.
Zamora blasted a chance to clinch it over the bar before Degen was shown a straight red card in the 80th minute for lunging in on Dempsey.
Last-man Carragher followed him two minutes later for hauling back Zamora.
The nine men were under intense pressure and Dempsey made it 3-1 with three minutes remaining.
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