Proud Fulham boss delighted with passion and drive - in spite of 'clear penalty' controversy
Scott Parker felt Fulham were denied an obvious penalty in their Sunday afternoon draw with Liverpool – but said he did not want the controversy to detract from his side’s scintillating performance.
The Whites turned in their best display of the season against the champions, and came very close to claiming all three points. It needed a late Mo Salah penalty to cancel out a Bobby Decordova-Reid strike as the game finished 1-1.
“We’re probably a little bit disappointed, the team are as well as me, and that shows how far we’ve come in a short space of time,” Parker said.
“I don’t understand why we didn’t get a penalty. In real time, I didn’t think it was a penalty and didn’t think it was something that was even going to be checked. I thought a corner was a correct decision.
“What amazes me is that at that point, there's communication between VAR and the referee to say you need to check this. He’s then gone over to the screen and I’ve just seen it in the changing room that [Liverpool defender] Fabinho has kicked Ivan Cavaleiro’s leg to send the ball out of play.
“If we didn’t have VAR, I wouldn’t be saying a word about this, but it’s there to help. For me, this is not subjective, it’s a clear penalty, but I don’t want it to detract from the performance the boys put in tonight.”
Parker added: “I’m very proud. Effort, commitment, passion, desire...we showed that in abundance today and that’s an ingredient that my team, I think it’s fair to say, always shows.
“Probably what pleased me most tonight was the quality we showed. First half, I think we showed some real quality. The way we played, moved the ball, caused Liverpool – who are a fantastic team – a lot of problems. On the scale of things, we probably could have gone in a couple of goals up.
“I honestly believe we’re heading in the right direction. I’m constantly saying there are going to be some bumps along the way this year and it’s going to be difficult for us at times, but we have a constant belief and endeavour to improve, keep learning.”
It was the first game back at the Cottage for 2,000 lucky season-ticket holders – the result of the relaxation in rules allowing supporters to return for the first time since February. Parker was full of praise for the part they played.
“The fans were massive today,” he said. “The season ended for them after lockdown last year, which was disappointing when we had the final hurdle to get over to gain promotion and our fans weren’t there to experience it.
“So, to have the fans in here tonight was incredible. I thought the atmosphere from the start – the drive and passion they showed was very important – they were incredible for us.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp said: “It took us half an hour to get going and of course that makes the game more difficult then.
“First time supporters here for a long, long time obviously created an atmosphere and we helped Fulham a lot to create that atmosphere.
“They played differently from the way they usually play, with direct balls, high balls, second balls, free-kicks, these kinds of things. In the first half an hour, we could have lost the game and in the next 60 minutes, we should have won it.”