LIVERPOOL manager Kenny Dalglish insisted the controversial dismissal of Jay Spearing was the decisive factor in his side’s damaging defeat at Craven Cottage last night, as Clint Dempsey’s late goal helped Fulham move a healthy five points clear of the relegation zone.
A contest which Liverpool had largely controlled swayed in Fulham’s favour when Spearing was sent off by referee Kevin Friend with 18 minutes remaining for a dangerous tackle on Moussa Dembele.
And less than a minute after Mark Schwarzer had diverted Stewart Downing’s 25-yard strike onto the post, the home side broke up the other end stole all three points when Pepe Reina fumbled Danny Murphy’s shot into Dempsey’s path and the American made no mistake from close range.
“Jay won the ball,” said Dalglish. “He probably upset the referee with his follow-through but it’s not his fault there’s somebody standing there.
“You see them sometimes get a red card, other times they get away with it. The problem everybody has is the level of interpretation – that’s not consistent.
“I think we would have taken something if we’d been left with 11 men.”
While Dalglish was left to count the cost of a defeat which leaves his side five points adrift of the Champions League places, Fulham manager Martin Jol was able to celebrate the biggest win of his tenure to date.
After an encouraging draw against Arsenal the previous week, victory was another step in the right direction, but Jol’s joy was tempered by an ankle injury which could rule skipper Murphy out for a fortnight at least.
“I think it’s a bad one,” he said after seeing the midfielder hobble off in the closing stages.
“His ankle is swollen up and I don’t think he will play in the next match, or couple of matches. First we will celebrate the win and then we will have an assessment tomorrow, but I think it’s a bad one.”