Luck keeps Liverpool alive

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LIVERPOOL, January 27- John Pantsil's second half own goal helped Liverpool to a nervous 1-0 win over Fulham at Anfield on Wednesday.

It was Liverpool’s first back-to-back victories since beating Bolton and Chelsea almost three months ago as Kenny Dalglish savoured his first win at Anfield in his second spell as Liverpool manager.

Roy Hodgson left Fulham to take over at Liverpool in the pre-season but he is already a distant memory following his sacking and the re-installation of Reds legend Dalglish as his successor.

Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Wolves last weekend proved that Dalglish can get the best out of the same squad Hodgson failed to inspire in his brief reign and they are now back up to seventh in the table.

They were helped by the return of captain Steven Gerrard who had missed Liverpool’s last three games after being sent off against Manchester United in an FA Cup loss at Old Trafford which marked Dalglish’s return.

Any Liverpool side is stronger with Gerrard in it and this one was no different while Fulham also looked better with recent signing Steven Sidwell making his full debut after Dickson Etuhu failed a fitness test.

Liverpool thought they had taken a fifth minute lead when Raul Meireles slipped Fernando Torres through on goal, but he was incorrectly called offside after slipping the ball past Fulham keeper David Stockdale.

Dalglish’s team were by far the brighter side in the opening stages and Stockdale had to be at his very best to palm away a brilliant Meireles header following a fine Martin Kelly cross as the home side looked to make their superior possession count.

Stockdale was again in fine form after 25 minutes as he superbly flicked a Glen Johnson strike over the crossbar and Fulham did not really threaten until the 29th minute when they should have taken the lead.

Andy Johnson wriggled free down the left and found Mousa Dembele totally unmarked in Liverpool’s box, but rather than converting past Pepe Reina, he shot straight at the Spanish keeper to give Liverpool a huge let-off.

After the interval, Liverpool finally found the breakthrough they craved as they took the lead thanks to a huge slice of luck.

A Torres shot deflected off Brede Hangeland onto the post and then Pantsil clumsily tried to clear but could only slice into his own net.

That killed Fulham’s momentum, even though Liverpool did not go on to dominate in the manner they would have liked.

Pantsil soon became involved in an altercation with Gerrard and then Daniel Agger after totally losing his temper but it was an injection of aggression that was needed for Mark Hughes’s men.

In fact they ended the game as the better side and would have perhaps earned a point on a different occasion.

In a tense and scrappy ending and with most of Anfield desperately calling for the final whistle, Fulham threw everything they had at Liverpool but to no avail.

Meireles did well to nod a Hangeland header off his own line as Fulham camped out in Liverpool’s box while the home team did everything they could to clear the ball from danger.

In injury-time, Dembele missed his second glorious chance of the game as the ball fell to his feet just three yards out but Reina managed to smother the ball clear as Liverpool held on.

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