Facundo Sava scored twice as Fulham stunned Liverpool by registering their first league win in six matches and winning a five-goal thriller at Loftus Road this afternoon.
The Argentinian striker grabbed the headlines with a superb centre forward’s display but Sean Davis delivered a commanding display at the heart of Fulham’s midfield – returning to make an immediate impact after spending a frustrating five weeks watching from the stands having fractured his toe. The England under 21 international, the first player to play in all four divisions for Fulham, not only set up Sava’s opener but scored himself to give Jean Tigana’s side a crucial two-goal cushion before half time.
Liverpool came roaring back once Gerard Houllier sent on Steven Gerrard and Milan Baros at half-time. Dietmar Hamann struck a superb free-kick just after the hour, but Fulham responded superbly with Sava finishing excellently from the edge of the box and the Whites survived Alain Goma’s sending off and an 86th minute strike by Baros to claim an impressive – and vital – victory.
Houllier’s side, who topped the table by a considerable margin just a few weeks ago, have now won just two of their last seven fixtures in all competitions. They were up against from the outset here. Fulham took just five minutes to go in front. Davis lashed in a shot from fully thirty yards that Jerzy Dudek couldn’t hold and Sava reacted sharpest to score from the rebound. Liverpool gradually got a foothold in midfield, despite Davis leading by example for the Whites, but they looked power puff in the final third with Edwin van der Sar only extended by long-range strikes from Emile Heskey and John-Arne Riise, who was mocked mercilessly after turning down a move to Fulham and signing for Liverpool last season on the advice of his mother.
Michael Owen looked uncharacteristically off colour. The England striker spurned a glorious chance he had created for himself after speeding away from Goma by shooting wide – and Fulham immediately punished his prolificacy. Their second goal came from a similar source with Davis taking arm from 25 yards out – with a hefty deflection completely wrongfooting Dudek in the Liverpool goal.
Liverpool were emboldened by Houllier’s double change at the break and Baros almost halved their arrears within a mere minute of the restart – as van der Sar foiled the Czech striker with a sharp reaction save. The goalkeeper was helpless when Hamann hammered in a powerful free-kick from 30 yards to give Liverpool hope of a second half revival. That belief was dented within six minutes as Sava found the net with a fine left-footed finish after holding off Sami Hyypia.
But Fulham’s position began to come under question when Goma was shown a second yellow card for bringing down Owen and Baros set up a frenetic finale when he converted Riise’s cross to make it 3-2. The Whites held firm throughout six minutes of stoppage time to end their own miserable run and ensure Liverpool were unable to take advantage of Arsenal’s slip-up at Southampton.
FULHAM (4-4-2): van der Sar; Finnan, Brevett, Knight, Goma; Davis, Djetou, Goldbaek (Clark 89), Malbranque; Marlet, Sava (Inamoto 74). Subs (not used): Taylor, Wome, Stolcers.
SENT OFF: Goma (70).
GOALS: Sava (5, 68), Davis (38).
LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): Dudek; Babbel (Baros 45), Traore, Hyypia, Carragher; Hamann, Murphy, Diao (Gerrard 45), Riise; Heskey (Smicer 77), Owen. Subs (not used): Kirkland, Cheyrou.
GOALS: Hamann (62), Baros (86).
REFEREE: Graham Poll (Hertfordshire).