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Embarrassing Home Defeat to Liverpool Doesn't Hide Possible European Entry

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LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 09:  Clint Dempsey of Fulham reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Liverpool at Craven Cottage on May 9, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 09: Clint Dempsey of Fulham reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Liverpool at Craven Cottage on May 9, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
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It can be safely assumed that Neil Warnock and his Queens Park Rangers team celebrated well into the early hours of Sunday morning, not because of a magnificent victory or a remarkably elaborate comeback, but because the F.A confirmed, hours before their somewhat anti-climactic defeat to Leeds, that the Championship title was theirs to cherish; no strings attached.

However, it seems all the more likely that they won't be the only West London side celebrating off field decisions this week as Fulham look set to gain a place in next year's Europa League. England sit in a confirmed second place in the European Fair Play rankings while Fulham only trail Champions League qualifiers Chelsea in the domestic equivalent. All this means, albeit unofficially so far, that Fulham should be taking the Europa League by storm for the second time in only three years. Quite the feat.

This news, however, fails to cover up the almost-chaotic defensive display that Fulham fans were made to endure in the disconcerting 5-2 defeat at the hands of Liverpool last night.

The home crowd was expectant (well, at least I was) up until the 31st second when Schwarzer dealt with a ball into the box almost as well as Emile Heskey deals with bad decisions. The Australian fumbled his clearance to an embarrassing degree and Maxi Rodriguez was left with the easiest of chances.

Glen Johnson then provided the assist for Liverpool's second goal as any hope for a Fulham fight back was diminished with another strike for Rodriguez. The Argentinian only had to get his left-footed volley on target to beat Mark Schwarzer who was indubitably on course for a rough evening.

The coarseness in Schwarzer's night only became more evident with Liverpool's third, as the goalkeeping basics absconded him and Dirk Kuyt's name found the score sheet with what is becoming characteristic simplicity. The Dutch forward has scored in each of his last five games but this was by far the easiest as Fulham's number one let a drilled shop spill shamefully through his fingers.

Manager Mark Hughes was unsurprisingly less-than-pleased and the necessity for a half time substitution only reflected his temper; Bobby Zamora finally being introduced to the chasing pack to replace a lacklustre Simon Davies. As is always the case of late, Zamora immediately dictated play and he grabbed an assist as Moussa Dembele struck the ball into the bottom corner.

That's not to say Fulham, or their fortunes, improved in the second half, however. The generally lackadaisical first half performance had not, unfortunately, been left behind and Rodriguez completed his hat trick to prove so.

Suarez added a fifth to rub salt into a wound that shouldn't be too deep for Fulham at this trivial stage in the season, before Steve Sidwell gave the remaining Cottage faithful something to cheer about with a consolation goal on 86 minutes.

Fulham rest in 10th with only a fiscally increased final-standing reward to fight for in the remaining two games at Birmingham and at home to Arsenal.