Jürgen Klopp had warned that Fulham would be no pushovers. “They are a good-looking football team… like their manager,” said the Liverpool manager before the match. Scott Parker’s side were unlucky not to record a memorable victory as the champions missed the opportunity to return to the top of the table after Mohamed Salah’s penalty cancelled out Bobby Decordova-Reid’s opening goal in the first half.
Liverpool had won their last 18 matches against promoted teams and knew that a second away victory of the season would be enough to see them overtake Tottenham following their draw against Crystal Palace. But after a lacklustre display against opponents who showed they have the capability to avoid relegation this time around, Klopp will have been relieved to see his patched up team escape with a draw.
While Spurs dropping points would undoubtedly have improved Klopp’s mood before kick-off, confirmation that Diogo Jota and Kostas Tsimikas are facing up to two months out meant the 19-year-old midfielder Jake Cain was named on the bench for the first time. Klopp revealed that Jota does not require surgery on the knee injury he sustained by playing 87 minutes of the dead rubber against Midtjylland in midweek but “we don’t know exactly” how long the Portugal forward will be sidelined.
There was better news for Liverpool’s defence, however, with the return of Alisson and Trent Alexander-Arnold from injury, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was also back on the bench for the first time since July.
Fulham have showed positive signs of progress in recent weeks having performed admirably in their defeat against Manchester City last week and their rapid start seemed to catch Liverpool cold. Ivan Cavaleiro found himself clean through on goal inside the first four minutes but his shot was drilled straight at Alisson.
Not since the 2011/12 season when a team managed by Martin Jol won 1-0 both here and at Anfeld have Fulham beaten Liverpool but they should have gone ahead when Cavaleiro wasted another opportunity from Ademola Lookman’s through ball. Yet the Fulham forward could feel hard done by not to be rewarded when Fabinho appeared to take out his standing foot as he attempted to cross. Referee Andre Marriner was asked to consult the pitchside monitor by VAR but decided to stick with his original decision of no penalty.
Lookman made just seven Premier League starts for Everton before being sold to RB Leipzig last summer but has been a key performer for Parker since joining on loan and it was from his industry that Fulham finally took the lead. Alisson did well to divert his long-range effort behind for a corner, although the Liverpool goalkeeper could do nothing when his defence failed to clear properly and Decordova-Reid lashed home André-Frank Anguissa’s deft pass. Down on the touchline, Klopp was livid after he felt Salah had been impeded by Antonee Robinson – another Everton old boy – but the goal correctly stood.
Despite their manager’s implorings, Liverpool’s response to falling behind was unusually sluggish. After another dangerous run from Lookman had almost created a second goal for Fulham, Sadio Mané missed a golden opportunity to equalise when he nodded over a dinked cross from Curtis Jones before Salah was off target with a snap shot inside the area. Klopp could not wait for half-time, sprinting across the pitch and down the tunnel, swiftly followed by his opposite number Parker.
The withdrawal of Joël Matip at the break due to a suspected back injury meant Jordan Henderson was pressed into emergency service in central defence for the second half. Cavaleiro and Salah exchanged chances at either end within 60 seconds of the restart but it was the visitors who at last began to exert their influence on proceedings.
Henderson – up for a corner – was denied an equaliser by Alphonse Areola’s reaction save before Fulham’s defence stood firm to block a goalbound effort from Curtis Jones following a corner. It always seemed like they would need a stroke of good fortune to find a way through and it came when substitute Aboubakar Kamara was adjudged to have blocked Georginio Wijnaldum’s free-kick with his elbow. Salah looked relieved to see the ball go in despite a touch from Areola.
A brilliant individual run from Jones that required another strong save from the Fulham goalkeeper was the closest Liverpool came to winning all three points, although even Klopp would have to admit that would have been far more than they deserved.