Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Fulham 1-3 Liverpool: Talking points as improved Liverpool performance earns three points at Craven Cottage

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On Sunday at Craven Cottage, Liverpool emerged victorious from their Premier League encounter with Fulham. The first half ended with no tangible difference between the teams as Timothy Castagne scored in stoppage time to cancel out Trent Alexander-Arnold’s pin-point free-kick from minute 33, but Ryan Gravenberch restored Liverpool’s lead in the 53rd and Diogo Jota wrapped the contest up in the 72nd.

The game

Having suffered huge setbacks in their previous two league games and being knocked out of the Europa League, it was a markedly improved performance from the start by Jurgen Klopp’s team. Interestingly enough, it came with the likes of Mohamed Salah, Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai all on the bench, while young Jarell Quansah got the nod ahead of Ibrahima Konate and Joe Gomez in the heart of defence.

The Reds dominated possession from the start and pushed the home side back completely for the opening 10 minutes, and it took only three for them to create their first really big chance as Luis Diaz escaped the attention of the Fulham defence and headed an Alexander-Arnold cross wide of the target. In-demand Fulham midfielder Joao Palhinha conceded two free-kicks close to the box in quick succession, and while former Fulham man Harvey Elliott slammed the first into the wall, the second not only resulted in a booking for Palhinha, but also in Alexander-Arnold’s brilliant opener.

Fulham did match the visitors’ energy for brief periods in the first half, but they didn’t get a proper sniff of Alisson Becker’s goal before a lucky scramble inside the box allowed Castagne to score with a deflected shot from close range.

But Liverpool turned up the volume quickly in the second half, and Gravenberch, who looked among the weakest performers in his team before, fired from around 20 yards almost as accurately as Alexander-Arnold to score. Another brief period of Fulham attacking followed, but the Reds soon re-established control and finally, Jota squeezed a low drive past Bernd Leno in the Fulham goal to set the final score. The former Arsenal shot-stopper probably should’ve done better there.

Key player form concern for Liverpool ahead of season finale

Klopp will surely be happy with the fact that his team finally achieved a victory that actually means something, unlike the narrow one on Thursday in Bergamo that failed to prevent their Europa League exit. However, there are still glaring reasons for concern for the German going into the last five games of the season.

Salah, Nunez, Szoboszlai and Nunez, along with Gomez, all came on in the second half, but not one of them managed to make any impact on the game. For Gomez it’s arguably understandable, as he replaced Alexander-Arnold on the right defensive flank and did a decent job, but the other three are expected to make a difference in other areas of the pitch, and to put it simply, they didn’t.

If Liverpool are to stay in with a chance to win the Premier League, they’ll surely need Salah’s usual presence upfront, causing constant problems for the opposition defence, rather than what he did in the last couple of games, including this one – very little. Szoboszlai’s form is also a worry. The Hungary captain started the season extremely well, but he’s another one of those whose performances have dropped off notably in recent matches. Even Mac Allister, who was until recently the best player for the Reds, doesn’t seem to be fully focused in the middle of the park anymore.

Klopp must address these issues and find a way to get these brilliant players back to their best, as quickly as possible.

The aftermath

Having lost for the 16th time in the Premier League season, Fulham remain in 12th place and their hope of making it into one of European competitions, if indeed there ever was some, has dwindled. As things stand at the moment, manager Marco Silva and the club hierarchy must accept that for them, staying well away from the relegation zone represents a decent campaign in the English top flight. They’ll also be happy that they made the Carabao Cup semifinals, where they were knocked out by the eventual winners of the competition – Liverpool.

Silva and his team will now turn their attention to Saturday next, when they face an in-form Crystal Palace. They’ll obviously want to study the way the Eagles smashed West Ham at Selhurst Park by 5-2.

As for the Merseysiders, the Premier League dream remains alive thanks to this victory. Defending champions Manchester City are third with a one-point deficit behind Arsenal and Liverpool, but the defending champions now have a game in hand as they played (and beat) Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinals on Saturday. Pep Guardiola’s team have everything in their own hands, and Liverpool will need not only them, but Arsenal as well to drop points at least once to be able to get ahead of them, while, of course, winning all their matches.

Liverpool will need no special motivation for their next game. They face Everton in the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park on Wednesday, and the Toffees will be gearing up for revenge as Ashley Young received two first-half bookings in the game at Anfield earlier this season, which ended 2-0 for the Reds.


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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