Liverpool 2 – 1 Fulham – Reds Comeback vs Fulham
This was very much a game of two halves, as the first leg of this EFL Cup semi-final tie ended in a narrow home win. Liverpool was forced to rotate accordingly, with so many players missing due to either injuries or international commitments. The only real positive for Jürgen Klopp (in the pre-game decision process), was the knowledge that his squad will not line up again until Sunday 21st January, where a trip (to not so sunny) Bournemouth awaits. That mini break will allow certain players to rest, before undertaking some important sessions at the AXA training centre, to coordinate what is to come in the second half of the season. The reds will then face Fulham, in the second leg of their semi-final at Craven Cottage, on Wednesday 24th January. That matchup will resume with the Anfield giants leading the contest 2-1, which should make for a very interesting second leg.
Player Ratings: Jones Superb as Reds Comeback to Beat Fulham https://t.co/MOd01DyHDd
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) January 10, 2024
Below is how the team lined up, with match details following.
The Starting Eleven
GK – Caoimhin Kelleher
RB – Conor Bradley
RCB – Ibrahima Konaté
LCB – Virgil van Dijk (c)
LB – Joe Gomez
RCM – Ryan Gravenberch
CDM – Alexis Mac Allister
LCM – Curtis Jones
RF – Harvey Elliott
CF – Diogo Jota
LF – Luis Díaz
Cody Gakpo – Ryan Gravenberch (56 mins)
Darwin Núñez – Harvey Elliott (56 mins)
Liverpool 0 – 1 Fulham
Willian (Andreas Pereira) 19 mins
Liverpool 1 – 1 Fulham
Curtis Jones (Darwin Núñez) 68 mins
Liverpool 2 – 1 Fulham
Cody Gakpo (Darwin Núñez) 71 mins
Important Match Stats
Liverpool 67% – 33% Fulham
Liverpool 21 – 6 Fulham
Liverpool 87% – 70% Fulham
Liverpool 8 – 2 Fulham
The First Half
The opening period of this game saw the home side immediately take control of the ball, as tempo and pressure were asserted by Klopp’s men from the outset. A couple of half chances presented themselves to the men in red, as the initial minutes allowed good opportunities to draw first blood. That all important first goal did indeed come, though at the other end of the pitch.
For the FA Cup 3rd round tie (last Sunday afternoon), Liverpool travelled to and subsequently eliminated Arsenal, with that match ending in a 0-2 win. Mikel Arteta had some peculiar comments after the game and Alan Shearer seemed to think Liverpool had nearly their full quota of players available. Of those on the unavailable list, Virgil van Dijk was the only player that recovered in time for this EFL semifinal. An illness or virus had been described as the issue; however, the Liverpool skipper was deemed well enough to start against the west London side. A slight misjudgement in the clearing header (by the towering defender) allowed the visitor’s goal to materialise, as Willian lashed home a close-range effort beyond Caoimhin Kelleher. The young Irish keeper had very little chance of stopping the venomous strike, even though it was at his near post. Virgil was guilty of that rare mistake, however, given the very recent illness and the fact that he remained near faultless for the remainder of the match, there cannot be too much to complain about.
The remainder of the half saw Fulham increase their work rate, with something real to cling to. Ryan Gravenberch was close to woeful for almost the entirety of his stint on the pitch, whilst Curtis and Alexis were productive. Diogo Jota was a willing runner that created space for others, as Harvey Elliott and Luis Díaz struggled to reach the levels of their Portuguese partner. Conor Bradley had a splendid half of football, as his tenacious intent matched that of Joe Gomez, who once again impressed from left back.
The half ended with an unlikely deficit, as Marco Silva and his men departed the pitch a goal up.
The Second Half
On resumption of the second half, no changes were made by the Anfield management, yet you could sense that alterations were forthcoming. A livelier and more confrontational demeanour was portrayed by the hosts, who would have been questioned by their manager in the break. The only changes of the match came on 56-minutes, as a double substitution saw Cody Gakpo and Darwin Núñez enter the fray, something which completely transformed the ailing reds. Ryan Gravenberch was rightfully withdrawn, alongside a slightly unlucky Harvey Elliott. The reds were behind and their German manager had seen enough.
The next thirty-five minutes was a flurry of action-packed football, as Darwin charged about the place with an intent to cause as much damage and confusion as humanly possible. Luis Díaz came alive a little bit, whereas Diogo Jota finally had more forward-thinking assets to drive themselves to his level. Cody Gakpo seemed to revel in the deep block and chose to spend his time making good movements and showing fine footwork.
Curtis Jones grew into the game more and more, as the Argentina World Cup winner, Alexis Mac Allister, started to produce the controlling attributes we are all aching to see. Inevitably, the equaliser came, as the reds Uruguayan attacker fed the ball to Curtis Jones, who planted the ball into the net, courtesy of a trajectory altering deflection. Moments later, Núñez once more became provider, as his run and pulled back cross found Cody Gakpo, who struck inside near post with a beautifully taken finish. Throughout this frenzied attack, Diogo Jota was close to unplayable. The former Wolves forwards direct nature and desire to engage at every opportunity, immersed beautifully between the carnage of his Uruguayan teammate, as well as the intricacy of Cody Gakpo.
The reds were keen to gain their third goal of the evening, one which would have ended the tie as a true contest. The comeback and character of this squad, is something that is becoming increasingly like the age of mentality monsters, which may well lead to the most spectacular of seasons. The first trophy of the season is the EFL Cup, which they should be contesting a final for.
What Are My Final Thoughts…?
This was a fair result, given the injuries and schedule that came beforehand. The importance of winning this domestic cup competition could create a domino effect for Liverpool v2.0, something that would be a wonderful start to the regeneration. The club’s academy products are now fighting to play a part in the next phase of Jürgen Klopp plans, which is something that will hopefully invigorate the more senior citizens in the squad. Only Ryan Gravenberch struggled to really impact on the night, despite a glimpse of his undoubted ability early in the second half.
With so many important assets primed to return, this season is shaping up to be one to remember. Bournemouth are next on the fixture list, before the second leg of this semi-final, which remains on a knife edge.
Liverpool 3 – 2 Fulham
— AnfieldIndex (@AnfieldIndex) January 11, 2024