Premier League – Liverpool top after last-gasp win
It looked like the Reds had blown a great chance to put more pressure on United after they missed a host of chances and hit the woodwork four times in a game they dominated.
But the Israeli winger – on as a second-half substitute – latched on to a loose ball in the 92nd minute and drilled a rising shot past the previously impregnable Mark Schwarzer to boost Liverpool’s title credentials, although United have two games in hand.
Liverpool love affair with the Craven Cottage woodwork was conducted entirely in the opening 45 minutes.
Martin Skrtel headed Andrea Dossena‘s shot against the bar, Xavi Alonso rattled the frame of the goal with a half-volley after Fulham failed to clear a corner, Fernando Torres placed a low finish against the foot of the post after he was played through by Steven Gerrard and the impressive Dossena hit the bar himself with a flying header from a Gerrard cross.
Schwarzer was called into action from a Dossena chip and a low Torres finish, while his team-mates barely managed a shot on target as they attempted to soak up the visitors’ pressure and hit them on the break.
Their best opportunity fell to Clint Dempsey, who hammered an indirect free-kick over the bar from the edge of the box, while Bobby Zamora should have done better when found on the edge of the box by the American, his touch letting him down with time to shoot.
It somehow remained goalless at the break and the half-time period seemed to work in the hosts’ favour, with Fulham a different proposition in the second half.
Liverpool now had a fight on their hands, with the Cottagers quicker to 50-50 balls, more compact in defence and more willing to attack.
Torres had a gilt-edged chance to put the Reds ahead nine minutes into the second half but he headed straight at Schwarzer when found unmarked by Emiliano Insua, playing at left-back with Dossena pushed up into midfield.
While Fulham were more adventurous, they struggled to create any chances and as the half progressed Liverpool began to run things again.
But they still could not find the back of the net.
Substitute Ryan Babel was denied by a goal-line clearance from John Paintsil, whose side survived two goalmouth scrambles and a low drive from Gerrard that fizzed inches wide of the far post.
Benayoun had a great opportunity in the last minute of normal time but, after turning Paintsil inside out, he shot the wrong side of the post from close range.
The super-sub is so often overlooked by boss Rafael Benitez but a regular getter of important goals for Liverpool and he worked his magic again after Fulham failed to clear their lines after Babel’s run inside from the left.
Fulham lie ninth after the defeat, which is a blow to their hopes of European football next season with seventh place likely to be good enough for a Europa League slot.