A day that could have been full of drama, in the end, went as expected for Liverpool Football Club. Oh, how we know this feeling in our stomachs went this club tends to make a meal of things that should have been much simpler.
The match started on a somewhat cautious note by both teams, but in general Fulham FC started the way people have come to expect of them, on the front foot. They had a shade more bit of possession, 55% to 45% in the first 10 minutes or so. Nevertheless, they really did not create much, besides a break down the left by Babel who got away from his man enough to set up Seri. The shot though was not even close to being on target. At the other end, Robbo got on the end of a superb diagonal by Matip and got away from Fosu-Mensah only to play it close enough for the keeper to collect his low driven cross. Bobby was waiting for it at the far post.
The next 15 mins Liverpool grew their control on the game culminating in a superb move down the left. After picking up the ball from Robertson, Mane was allowed time and space to run at the Fulham defence that just seemed to back off. What’s more, the centre-backs dropped deep enough for Bobby to make a little run in behind, between Chambers and Fosu-Mensah. Promptly receiving the ball he put his head up and looked for the cut back only for Mane to have made the run towards the centre and practically take it off the toes of Lallana to slot it home into the net. The breakthrough had come on the stroke of 25 mins.
The rest of the half was dominated by Liverpool. Fabinho did manage to get a Yellow card on 39 mins and was lucky when a foul was called against him again on 41. Going into halftime, Liverpool had almost 68% of the possession and, besides brief forays, Fulham were finding it difficult to get out of their half.
The second half started and with it so did pouring rain. Liverpool seemed to have started where they left off and parked themselves in Fulham’s half, that is up until the 63rd minute when Seri managed to slip a ball to Mitrovic on the left. The cross from the Striker was taken down by Cairney who laid it off for Anguissa. The resulting shot ricocheted into the path of Ayite and into the back of the net. The midfielder was well offside though and so seemed to be half of the Fulham team.
The equalizer when it did come, came from a nothing ball by the keeper Rico. Gini’s header was sliced by the just introduced Milner towards his own goal and the header back to Allison by Van Dijk seemed to just be a bit short. Babel got in and had an easy tap into an empty goal. To his credit, he was perhaps Fulham’s best player and was working hard throughout. The winger chose not to celebrate his goal as a mark of respect for his former club.
The goal was preceded by a period in which Fulham seemed to grow into the game. They seemed to have made a tactical switch with the introduction of Sessegnon and Christie and seemed to have switched to a back 5, offering better stability at the back while also freeing up the wing-backs knowing that there was an extra CB behind them.
Origi who came on in the 72nd minute with Milner was playing on the left and it was his shot that leads to a corner in the 80th minute. The resulting clearance was sent right into the box again by Milner and was taken down by Salah. The shot had Rico fumble an easy take and in a moment of madness tug on Mane who was trying to get to the loose ball. Milner, captain cool, stepped up to slot the penalty right down the middle while the keeper had dived to his right. Liverpool were back in front.
Normal service resumed and Salah missed what should have been his 50th goal for the club in the league in the 87th minute. A quick break lead to Mane releasing Salah on the left who hit it right at the charging keeper. It was that kind of game for Salah, got into good positions but the final product just seems to be lacking. He will get it eventually though and hopefully, the flood gates will open.
In the end, the scoreline was closer than it should have been, but when have we ever know this club to make things easy.
The win is what matters in the end and the 3 points will be massive heading into the International break. The ball is in City’s court now. Liverpool don’t seem to be in the mood to give them an inch. This Liverpool side are different from the 2013-14 or the 2008-09 ones. They just seem to have this air about them that they can get out of any sticky situation. They breed confidence. And long may that last!