After dropped points earlier in the day from Tottenham Hotspur and all eyes were on Liverpool as they faced off against relegation fodder Fulham, Jurgen Klopp’s men will rue this result and performance as a woeful day in West London has the Reds miss out on a prime opportunity to go top of the Premier League on Sunday.
Before the game, it was revealed that Diogo Jota, the star man who since his move from Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer to Anfield notched up nine goals in all competitions, has been added to the list of players on the treatment table with eight senior members of the squad injured going into this game. Jota will not be a part of the matchday team for a maximum of two months, and the lack of fresh legs and ideas in this game was evident from minute one at Craven Cottage.
Fulham pounced on Liverpool as they spluttered and struggled to find their first gear for the majority of the first half. Ademola Lookman will have been a popular man for the blue half of Merseyside; a former player of the Toffees, he made Trent Alexander-Arnold’s as Ivan Cavaleiro combined with Lookman and Ruben Loftus-Cheek with both attempts from the Portuguese forward having to be parried by returning no. 1 for Liverpool, Alisson.
Fabinho tussled with Cavaleiro in the 18th minute inside the box. The call initially was for a corner, but Jurgen Klopp’s pantomime villain wanted to peer its head from stage left to frighten the supporters at home. Contact was minimal on Cavaleiro and calls for a penalty were non-existent, but the VAR official took a minute to examine the footage advise the referee to look again at the pitchside monitor, but Andre Marriner would stick to his original, and play resumed – sparing Liverpool for now.
It would not last long though. The Cottagers were the ones to break the deadlock in the 25th minute.
A half clearance from a corner from Joel Matip and a lack of bodies attacking the loose ball meant Lookman could pick out Bobby Reid who was in acres of space on the right-hand side who took one touch to set himself and one more to fire the ball across into the bottom left corner of the net, past the goalkeeper and putting Fulham in front. Fully deserving a goal that gave the 2,000 supporters in the stadium plenty to celebrate as they were dominating the champions.
The rest of the chances in the first half fell for the men in red but only wayward shots on goal; a header from Mane from a cross to the other side of the box and Salah twisting and turning from another cross sent his way, both shots matching each other in terms of lacklustre accuracy.
Half time: Fulham 1-0 Liverpool
Spineless going forward, Klopp had to react, and he did so as the second half began. Matip came off due to back spasms and so Takumi Minamino was thrusted into the action to perhaps add to the firepower, or lack thereof, present in the game.
Just as the half started though, Liverpool decided to remind their supporters of the horrors of that fateful night at Villa Park two months ago and resorted to defending that belonged more on the Disney Channel than on one of the channels that broadcasters paid to showcase in a multi-million-pound deal.
A loose ball into the box from Lemina was left by Fabinho to drop inside the box. Andy Robertson was tasked with hoisting the ball away from goal whilst under pressure from the lurking Cavaleiro, but with the Scot only clearing the ball as far as Cavaleiro there’s a shot on goal to be had which luckily Alisson saved – questions of handball though if the ball had made it past the Brazilian.
It took until the 61st minute for Liverpool to carve anything out that looked vaguely like their free-flowing attacking selves. Minamino to Firmino just outside the Fulham penalty area, and a through ball to captain Jordan Henderson but one on one against the keeper and Areola in goal prevails.
Substitute Aboubakar Kamara was judged to have handled the ball in the 78th minute in the penalty area after a free-kick strike from Gini Wijnaldum clashed against the wall but the referee saw it was Kamara’s hand that hit the ball first. VAR stepped in to confirm the decision and all eyes turned towards Mohamed Salah.
Nowadays the Egyptian is the man to trust from the spot for Liverpool, but today’s penalty was not of quality as Areola stood firm in the centre of the goal, Salah put the ball two yards to the right of the goalkeeper and even though a hand met the ball there was just enough power for the ball to reach the back of the net and for Klopp’s men to equalise.
Curtis Jones had the last notable chance of the game, running from the halfway line and weaving past the Fulham defenders almost emulating Steven Gerrard’s first goal for the club and putting the ball on his weaker left foot before striking towards goal. If the teenager had put more placement and/or power on the ball, Liverpool may have walked away with three undeserved points at the end.
Alas, the score remained even, and this marked another less than convincing performance away from home for Jurgen Klopp’s team.
Now, attention draws to what feels like an even more important game in deciding where the Premier League title goes at the end of the season with an Anfield clash against Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday 16th December. No doubt if Liverpool performs as badly as they did against Fulham when the league leaders arrive on Merseyside, there will be a humbling and even a humiliation to be had.
Joel Matip’s injury means that the Reds have the joint highest number of players injured currently in the Premier League. With only promoted youth and Fabinho stepping in to the role of centre-half in the absence of other senior experienced players, Spurs look to be favourites going into this game.
With an unbeaten home record in the league to keep going and 2,000 supporters hoping to will on their team to victory, they can only hope for a better performance than what they put out in this aforementioned game as a minimum.
Full time: Fulham 1-1 Liverpool
Fulham: Areola (8), Andersen (7), Adarabioyo (7), Aina (7), Lemina (7), Anguissa (7), Robinson (7), Reid (8), Loftus-Cheek (7), Cavaleiro (8), Lookman (8).
Subs: Kamara (5), Reed (n/a), Bryan (n/a)
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (4), Fabinho (5), Matip (5), Robertson (4), Henderson (6), Wijnaldum (6), Jones (7), Salah (7), Mane (5), Firmino (5).
Subs: Minamino (6), Williams (6), Origi (n/a)
Man of the match: Ademola Lookman