Liverpool 2-0 Fulham: Who was man of the match?

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It wasn’t the rout many would have hoped for given Fulham’s near-historic defensive woes, but after the horrors of their trip to Belgrade, victory still brought sweet relief.

In truth, Liverpool were happy to cruise into the international break once Mohamed Salah had fired them in front shortly before half-time, with Xherdan Shaqiri’s subsequent strike giving them the breathing space they needed to comfortably see the game out.

The Reds made it nine wins from their opening twelve, and they have still really yet to click into gear.

Salah’s season, happily, looks to be up and running. He applied a calm finish for a crucial opener which assuaged mounting anxiety and, with six goals to his name in the Premier League now, he is on course to prove much more than a ‘one-season wonder’.

He did spurn two earlier chances, with Sergio Rico smothering the first before diving to keep out his half-volley across goal, but at Anfield in particular, it seems a matter of when, not if, he gets his goal. That’s 34 in 36 appearances on home turf. It’s still worth pausing to consider those kinds of statistics.

Sadio Mane didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet, though he did come mighty close when he lashed one goalwards shortly after half-time only to see his effort tipped over by Rico, he was always looking to make things happen.

Meanwhile, Firmino’s dry spell continued. The application is there, as was the creativity on this occasion (he provided five key passes) but the goals are not materialising at the moment. Shifted back into the no.10 role, he is not quite looking himself, and perhaps this calls for a reversion to the old system.

On the other hand, this new shape accommodates Shaqiri and Fabinho, who were both excellent against the Cottagers.

Klopp has little choice but to make room for the Swiss international after his latest dazzling performance, capped by a cool volleyed finish. The boss can have no complaints about Shaqiri’s application or his end product, areas of concern on his arrival.

If indeed he can nail down a regular starting spot, he could well prove one of the signings of the summer.

Fellow newbie Fabinho was significantly more solid and composed after a jittery performance at Arsenal last weekend, turning in a near-faultless performance in defensive midfield. The key now is to build on his impressive outings against Red Star, Cardiff and Fulham and cut out the rashness which characterised his display at the Emirates.

I do like to mention every player in these articles, but in respect to Georginio Wijnaldum, there really isn’t much to say. The best word to describe his performance on Sunday? Understated.

Another who had a quiet afternoon was Alisson, though he could take a sizeable share of the credit for the opening goal after smartly picking out Trent Alexander-Arnold, who then set Salah free.

The Brazilian executed just shy of 90% of his passes and made a few saves when called upon. A solid, if uneventful, afternoon’s work.

In front of him, Virgil van Dijk produced a trademark display, dominating in the air (winning five aerial duels in total) and distributing the ball masterfully (he would wind up with a startling accuracy of 93.6%).

Partner Joe Gomez was ever-so-slightly shakier than usual, with Fulham nearly able to snatch the lead when the ball ricocheted off him and into Ryan Sessegnon’s path. Gomez was later booked for tangling with Aleksandar Mitrovic but did well on the whole.

Trent Alexander-Arnold racked up an assist courtesy of his aforementioned through ball to Salah, but he actually cut a frustrated figure throughout this one. His dead-ball deliveries were lacking, only two of his eight crosses found a team-mate and his first touch deserted him on seven separate occasions.

Still, his first job is to defend and in that respect, we can have few qualms – two tackles, two interceptions and two clearances.

Man of the match, though, goes to fellow full-back Andrew Robertson, who ensured he wasn’t to be caught in the pair’s private assist competition.

Liverpool won’t face many easier games than this all season, but still, Robertson was able to underline why he is, as a complete package, the best left-back in the Premier League.

He performed his dual role with customary enthusiasm as he bombed up and down the left flank. On numerous occasions, he won the ball back for his side, and in possession he was able to bolster their attacking threat, notching two key passes to add to his assist.

That assist, incidentally, was arguably one of the best you will see all year – a bending, dipping cross put on a plate (with a glass, cutlery and a napkin) for a grateful Shaqiri.

No other Liverpool player has laid on more goals for team-mates in the league this season.

Handed an attacking licence he clearly relishes, Robertson nearly got himself a goal when Firmino teed him up, but Rico made another good save.

His chief rivals for the above-stated mantle, Benjamin Mendy and Marcos Alonso, may be able to match his offensive output, but can they really combine this with consistently superb defensive play? I don’t think so.

Watching Robertson shine in his own third and in the opposition’s, I couldn’t help but realise just how lucky we are to have a defender of his calibre and of his passion. This, remember, was a problem position for a number of years.

Within 12 months of breaking into the side, Robertson has confined those issues to a distant memory and undergone a stunning rise to one of the very best in his position. And all it cost was Kevin Stewart.

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