Liverpool draw blank without cutting edge of Torres



LIVERPOOL badly missed striker Fernando Torres as they dropped two more points in their increasingly forlorn pursuit of fourth place in the Barclays Premier League yesterday.

The Reds had numerous opportunities to beat their fellow Europa League semi-finalists Fulham but, without the cutting edge of the injured Torres, drew a blank at Anfield. The tone for most of the afternoon was set with Liverpool much the livelier side but meeting continual frustration in the final third. Chances were created but missed, such as when Steven Gerrard pulled back a Glen Johnson cross for Alberto Aquilani, who then flicked the ball up and attempted an overhead kick which Mark Schwarzer saved comfortably.

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Moments later Maxi Rodriguez took the ball down in the area to shoot but Schwarzer blocked.

Ryan Babel then delivered a good cross for Aquilani but the Italian headed over. Javier Mascherano tested Schwarzer with a powerful 30-yard drive just after the half-hour but the Australian saved well to his right.

Liverpool pressed on and created three good chances for Aquilani after the break, but the former Roma midfielder was unable to take any of them. The first he scuffed weakly at Schwarzer before winning a corner with a shot that the goalkeeper palmed over the bar. The ball came to him again soon after but this time he sliced wide from 25 yards. Fulham spent large spells defending on the edge of their own area as Liverpool continued to push but they did so manfully, getting plenty of players behind the ball.

Gerrard got in a shot on target but Aaron Hughes blocked and Daniel Agger volleyed wide.

Schwarzer also seemed unbeatable, producing a brilliant save low to his right to keep put a fierce drive from Babel, cutting inside from the left.

Liverpool attempted to freshen up their attack by introducing Dirk Kuyt and Yossi Benayoun midway through the second half while Fulham withdrew the isolated figure of Bobby Zamora.

Kuyt was straight into the action and picked out Sotirios Kyrgiakos with a good cross only for the Greek to head over. Another substitute, Daniel Pacheco, also had a powerful effort blocked.

Time ran out for Liverpool and, not for the first time this season, their supporters left frustrated.