Darwin Nunez makes starting claim, Aleksandar Mitrovic silences doubters
Fulham 2 Liverpool 2 (Mitrovic 32’, 72’ pen | Nunez 64’)
CRAVEN COTTAGE — Liverpool were second-best for the majority of their Premier League opener but still came away from newly-promoted Fulham with a hard-earned point.
Fulham, thrice promoted and twice relegated in the past five years, are out to shake off this yo-yo tag, but could hardly have asked for a tougher start in their mission to stay up for more than one season.
“So, let’s have fun!” declared Fulham chairman Shahid Khan in his matchday programme notes, on top of wishing his departing players well – including Fabio Carvalho – and welcoming their five new arrivals at Craven Cottage.
And while one such signing, Andreas Pereira, was central to Fulham’s fast start, it was last season’s 43-goal striker Aleksandar Mitrovic who spurned a glorious chance inside a minute, opting for the outside of the boot before watching his shot drift wider and wider from Alisson’s far post.
But doubts over whether he could make his mark in the Premier League lasted all of 32 minutes as Mitrovic headed Fulham into a deserved lead, all while Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson was down clutching his left foot after seemingly being fouled by Joao Palhinha.
Jurgen Klopp looked vexed, but Fulham’s fans were in dreamland as their side held onto their advantage going into half-time after Luis Diaz hit the post.
Liverpool could hardly have been sloppier in the first half, and after the break it took Klopp all of five minutes before introducing Darwin Nunez to the fold in place of Roberto Firmino.
It was Fulham who had the next chance, however, with Neeskens Kebano millimetres away from scoring their second as his strike hit the inside of the far post and somehow stayed out.
Nunez then had the audacity to try two flicks in a matter of minutes. The first, saved by Marek Rodak, seemingly frustrated teammate Mohamed Salah – who would have preferred the Uruguayan to turn the ball in – but come the second attempt Liverpool were celebrating an equaliser, with Nunez getting the final vital touch.
Despite Liverpool upping the ante, it was Fulham who went ahead again from the spot, with Mitrovic deemed to have been fouled by Virgil van Dijk before slotting home the penalty.
The drama wasn’t over, though, and Liverpool had their second equaliser when Tim Ream’s header found Nunez, who had the simple task of squaring it to Salah for the tap-in. That’s how it stayed, but only after Henderson hit the bar in injury time, and overall it made for two dropped points for Liverpool, when really – given their performance – it was one point gained.
Fulham player ratings
Marek Rodak – Wasn’t to know Robertson was offside when making a strong save early on, and could do little to stop both of Liverpool’s goals. 6/10
Kenny Tete – Booked after 17 minutes for a late tackle of Diaz, meaning he was living dangerously for the remainder of the match. 6/10
Tosin – Towering presence at the back for Fulham, but a sloppy pass almost helped Liverpool score an equaliser on the hour-mark, and accidentally helped Nunez score his goal. 6/10
Tim Ream – A fan favourite, and endeared himself to the crowd with clearance after clearance after clearance. At fault for Liverpool’s second goal, however, heading it back to Nunez. 7/10
Antonee Robinson – Tasked with keeping an eye on Salah, and got in a vital header to deny (almost) everyone’s Fantasy Premier League captain in the first half. 7/10
Harrison Reed – Confident advancing with the ball and had one of Fulham’s best chances of the first half, which was blocked by Robertson. 6/10
Joao Palhinha – New signing from Sporting, loved heading any ball that came near him, and saw an attempt deflect wide midway through the first half. 8/10
Bobby De Cordova-Reid – Involved in the action from the off, and posed a threat to Alexander-Arnold down the right. 7/10
Andreas Pereira – After a spate of loan spells away from Manchester United, Pereira made the permanent switch to Fulham last month and goes straight into their starting line-up. Was central to everything going forward, and could quickly endear himself to fans at Craven Cottage. 8/10
Neeskens Kebano – Whipped in a dangerous cross as Fulham continued to threaten in the first half. Then hit the inside of the post when almost doubling Fulham’s lead. 7/10
Aleksandr Mitrovic – Spurned an early chance inside a minute, but made amends when rising above Alexander-Arnold to open his account for the season and lift the roof off Craven Cottage. Scored his second from the spot to start the season in style. 8/10
Manor Solomon – Second half sub for Kebano. 6/10
Tom Cairney – n/a
Shane Duffy – n/a
Liverpool player ratings
Alisson Becker – Quiet afternoon and could do little to prevent Fulham from scoring with their first shot on target. 6/10
Trent Alexander-Arnold – Sloppy pass gifted Mitrovic a huge early chance, and later in the first half was no match for Fulham’s No 9, who got the better of Alexander-Arnold in the air to head in the opener. Improved in the second half, and his cross helped Liverpool score their second. 5/10
Joel Matip – With Ibrahima Konate out injured, a chance for Matip to have a run in the team. Sloppy at times in possession, however. 6/10
Virgil van Dijk – Did little wrong throughout the match, and not at fault for either goal. 6/10
Andy Robertson – Blocked Reed’s effort moments before Mitrovic gave Fulham the lead. A greater threat in the second half going forward. 6/10
Fabinho – Off the boil in the first half as it became clear this midfield trio wasn’t working. Soon subbed off for Milner after the break.5/10
Jordan Henderson – Went down under a challenge from Palhinha and was on the floor clutching his left foot as Fulham scored their opener. Jurgen Klopp was left perplexed with replays showing Palhinha trod on Henderson’s foot. Almost scored the winner when his injury-time curler struck the bar. 5/10
Thiago – Arguably the pick of Liverpool’s starting midfielders, found his range early on and almost assisted Diaz in the first half. Went off with a hamstring injury in the second half. 6/10
Luis Diaz – Hit the post before half-time as Liverpool searched for an equaliser. 5/10
Roberto Firmino – Arguably a surprise started ahead of Nunez, and did little to boost his chances of holding down that spot after a quiet match before being replaced by Nunez early in the second half. 4/10
Mohamed Salah – Cut a frustrated figure for large parts of the match, constantly smothered when on the ball, understandably, but got on the scoresheet when Nunez laid it on a plate. 6/10
Darwin Nunez – An early second-half introduction, replacing Firmino. Arguably should have shot when opting to play the ball across goal, but moments after seeing one flick saved, a second attempt found the net, after Tosin’s touch played it onto Nunez’s heel. Looked a danger in the air and then got the assist when playing it over to Salah. Will surely start from here on in. 8/10
Harvey Elliott – Replaced the injured Thiago. 6/10
James Milner – Came on for Fabinho just before the hour-mark. 6/10
Fabio Carvalho – On for Diaz with 15 minutes remaining. A warm reception from the Fulham fans. Fired a chance over the bar moments after coming on. 6/10
Klopp: A point from a bad game
There was little to lift Klopp’s mood throughout the match, and the Liverpool boss admitted afterwards it was a “really bad game” from their perspective.
“The best thing about the game was the result. We got a point from a really bad game,” he told BT Sport.
“The result was fine, I don’t think we deserved more than that. The performance can be massively improved.
“We could have won the game because we had good chances but it was probably a bit too much today.”