Liverpool rescue a point at Fulham, but could be left playing catch-up
LONDON — Fulham showed they don’t want to be in the Premier League just to make up the numbers again as they came close to beating Liverpool at Craven Cottage, with the game finishing as a 2-2 draw..
– Report: Fulham 1-0 Liverpool | Premier League table | Next Prem fixtures
Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored 43 goals in the Championship last season, showed that at the age of 27 he might finally be ready for the Premier League. After heading home the first goal, he then won and converted a penalty to make sure the home side collected a point.
Liverpool had to rely on the old and the new, as Darwin Nunez scored their first equaliser and Mohamed Salah netted the second — and they assisted each other’s goals.
Liverpool risk losing early ground
It feels almost absurd to suggest this on the opening day of the season, but such are the standards Liverpool and Manchester City have set in recent times that dropping two points at Fulham represents an early blow in the title race.
Jurgen Klopp’s side lost only two games in the league last season and were twice behind at Craven Cottage, showing admirable tenacity to fight back.
City have a tough-looking opener at West Ham United on Sunday but they now have a chance to establish an early advantage over their closest rivals. Liverpool spent so much of last season chasing City — the last thing they want is that same feeling early in the new campaign.
Nunez cameo excites … but injury problems deepen
Nunez marked his Premier League debut with a goal and an assist to salvage a point and lift a Liverpool display that was badly lacking inspiration prior to his 59th-minute introduction.
Both were fortuitous: his goal, just 13 minutes after coming on, came as he tried an improvised flick only for Tosin Adarabioyo to turn the ball onto Nunez with the ricochet flying past Fulham goalkeeper Marek Rodak. The 23-year-old’s assist for Salah’s equaliser came as he tried to collect Trent Alexander-Arnold’s forward pass only to touch the ball into the Egyptian’s path for a tap-in. But both moments were products of his movement and energy. it can only be a matter of time before he starts.
Klopp was concerned about Liverpool’s injury problems before kick-off — Caoimhin Kelleher, Diogo Jota, Ibrahima Konate, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kostas Tsimikas and Curtis Jones are all unavailable — and Thiago Alcantara may now be added to that list. The midfielder limped off six minutes into the second half with what appeared to be a hamstring problem.
Alexander-Arnold caught out again
There is no doubting Alexander-Arnold is one of the best full-backs in the world with the ball at his feet but those nagging doubts about his defensive ability will persist after being caught out for Fulham’s opening goal.
Kenny Tete’s cross was superb but Alexander-Arnold was not alive to the danger at the back post as Mitrovic squeezed a header past Alisson.
Liverpool finished last season by losing the Champions League final to a Real Madrid goal which owed plenty to another lapse in concentration from Alexander-Arnold. It is a lesson he needs to learn otherwise further damage will be inflicted.
Fulham: Rodak 7, Tete 8, Adarabioyo 7, Ream 8, Robinson 7, Reed 8, Palhinha 7, Reid 7, Pereira 8, Kebano 8, Mitrovic 9.
Subs: Solomon 6, Cairney 6, Duffy 6.
Liverpool: Alisson 6, Alexander-Arnold 6, Matip 6, van Dijk 6, Robertson 7, Henderson 6, Fabinho 6, Thiago 6, Salah 7, Firmino 5, Diaz 6.
Subs: Elliott 7, Nunez 8, Milner 6, Carvalho 6.
After the match: What the managers, players said
“The best thing about the game was the result,” Jurgen Klopp told BT Sport. “We got a point from a really bad game. 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.”
Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
This is the only the second time that Liverpool has started a Premier League season with a draw against a newly promoted side. The other was in 2006-07 when Liverpool drew 1-1 at Sheffield United and finished third.
Darwin Nunez has now scored in both of his first two games since signing from Liverpool from Benfica this summer. He is the first Liverpool player aged 23 years or younger to score in a Premier League season opener since Philippe Coutinho in 2015
Fulham: The Cottagers will be on the road next Saturday when they head north to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers, then it’s the big local derby against Brentford at Craven Cottage on Saturday, Aug. 20.
Liverpool: There’s a behind-closed-doors friendly on Sunday against Aston Villa, with Liverpool next in competitive action on consecutive Mondays, against Crystal Palace at Anfield on Monday, Aug. 15 and a trip to Manchester United on Aug. 22.