Liverpool took advantage of a controversial fifteen seconds to beat Fulham 2-0 at Anfield and move back to the top of the Premier League ahead of games for Chelsea and Manchester City. Despite the ropey nature of the first half and the question marks around their first goal, Liverpool were able to kill the game in the second half and see off a pretty average Fulham side.
The home side started the game well, with Trent Alexander-Arnold rampaging down the right flank as Mané, Shaqiri and Trent himself conspired to fail to make the most of decent openings in the early stages.
But the best moments of Liverpool’s attacking display in the first half came to the man that they usually come to, Mo Salah, as he twice tested Sergio Rico in the Fulham goal. The first came from lovely interplay with Bobby Firmino, a jinking run inside the box eventually stopped by the onrushing Fulham goalie. And then a delightful chip into space from Shaqiri set Salah away, only for Rico again to be equal to Mo’s trusted right foot shot.
But whilst Liverpool were firmly on top, there were clear warning signs at the other end, as Joe Gomez made a mess of a challenge, allowing Ryan Sessegnon to run clear in on goal. Luckily for the young centre-back, Sessegnon failed to hit the target, but Fulham were buoyed and continued to cause problems. Sessegnon himself managed to get a shot off inside the box, and Andre Schurrle’s ranged effort was fumbled by Alisson, only for VVD to mop up for him.
And then came the moment that ended up defining the game, just five minutes before half-time. Fulham’s corner routine found Tom Cairney and his delightful cross was headed in by Mitrovic, only for the assistant’s flag to go up, ruling the striker offside.
Almost before Fulham could react, the ball was in the back of their net. Alisson’s quick thinking found Alexander-Arnold, and the full-back’s delightful pass freed Salah behind the Fulham defence. The rest as they say, is history. Salah rifled the ball in, Liverpool were in front, and Fulham were incensed. Replays showed that Mitrovic was perhaps an inch offside, but it was extremely close to call and in real time he looked onside. Either way, the Reds were fortunate that the decision went their way.
But as the home side got into the break 1-0 up, they were able to come out for the second half and put the match to bed. Andy Robertson, who was absolutely sensational in the second period and rightfully was awarded man of the match, whipped a fantastic ball over the sleeping Fulham defence to Xherdan Shaqiri, who wrapped his foot around the ball to cushion it into the corner. A delightful goal, early in the second half, and it proved the killer one.
Killer is the right word, as truthfully the game was a bit dead after that. Klopp brought on first Henderson and then Milner to shore up a midfield that had looked a bit patchy in the first half, and other than one great effort from Andy Robertson after smart work from Firmino, the Reds didn’t test the Fulham defence too much in the second half.
Fortunately, though, Fulham didn’t test them either, offering absolutely anything to the game as a contest in the second period and only having two shots in the second half, both from outside the box.
This was the Liverpool that we’ve increasingly come to see this season. Largely solid defensively, able to kill the game once they’re in front, and playing well in an attacking sense in fits and starts. 2-0 is probably an accurate reflection of the game, and whilst many supporters would have been hoping for a more fluid and explosive attacking display, this was still a million miles better than the disgraceful performance of midweek.
Another week, another win, and Liverpool continue to look like a side very much in title contention. And that is the main thing.