Liverpool survived a scare to see off Fulham and move to within four points of fourth-placed Everton.
Rafa Benitez’s side began brightly and Fernando Morientes rose majestically to meet Luis Garcia’s cross and put Liverpool ahead. But Fulham silenced Anfield when Andy Cole levelled with a brilliant diving header and Tomasz Radzinski came close to putting the visitors ahead. Liverpool assumed control of the contest after the break and Sami Hyypia guided home a Steven Gerrard free-kick to restore their lead before Milan Baros made the points safe.
Liverpool began confidently in a bid to increase the pressure on their city rivals as the race for the Champions’ League spots intensifies. They got their noses in front inside ten minutes when Morientes outjumped Zat Knight to head home Garcia’s superb cross. But Fulham hit back as Lee Clark seized on a Garcia error to feed Boa Morte and Cole rolled back the years with a wonderful diving header. Radzinski felt he should have put the Whites ahead when he was left unattended at Pembridge’s corner – and Coleman’s men would come to rue that miss.
Liverpool put them under the cosh from the very start of the second half. Edwin van der Sar blocked a Baros cross-cum-shot with his legs and Knight stepped in to prevent the Czech forward from burying John Arne Riise’s header. Fulham were finding it difficult to escape their own penalty area and Gerrard volley marginally over the crossbar as the pressure cranked up. The Londoners’ caved in from Gerrard’s whipped free-kick, with Hyypia getting only a glancing touch to guide it beyond van der Sar.
The home side made sure there was no chance of another Fulham fightback when Baros pounced from close range to convert a Riise cross. Fulham kept fighting until the end as Djimi Traore stopped Boa Morte from forcing home a late consolation, but Liverpool pocketed the points to keep their Champions’ League dreams alive.
LIVERPOOL (4-4-2): Dudek; Finnan, Traore, Carragher, Hyypia, Biscan (Hamann 65), Gerrard, Luis Garcia, Riise (Warnock 89); Morientes, Baros (Smicer 82). Subs (not used): Carson, Pellegrino.
BOOKED: Luis Garcia.
GOALS: Morientes (9), Hyypia (63), Baros (77).
FULHAM (4-3-3): van der Sar; Rosenior, Bocanegra, Knight, Rehman; Diop, Pembridge, Clark; Razinski, Boa Morte, Cole. Subs (not used): Crossley, Goma, Legwinski, Jensen, McBride.
BOOKED: Rehman, Diop, Pembridge, van der Sar.
GOAL: Cole (16).
REFEREE: Rob Styles (Hampshire).