A run of six successive wins, the last two under Klopp, against the Cottagers was reason enough to feel confident before the game; our hosts’ poor league performance this season, with just the one home win- and even that against lowly West Brom- was another. Still, Fulham had beaten Leicester away, so they couldn’t be written off as entirely hopeless. And our inability to beat Atalanta at home, after thumping them 5-0 away, should have reminded everyone that no opponent should ever be taken lightly.
Alisson returned between the sticks, ending young Kelleher’s fine recent run; I’m sure that many fans will be relieved that we appear to have found a reliable backup keeper now. Trent returned to the starting league lineup after his runout against Midtjylland midweek.
Jeffrey Schlupp’s late equaliser for Crystal Palace against Spurs in the preceding game this afternoon had given the visitors a major fillip; a win would see the Tricky Reds return to an undisputed lead at the top of the table.
Fulham were buoyed by having a home crowd for the first time since their return to the top flight and they paid respect to their dominating former midfielder Papa Boupa Diop with a round of applause before kick off. Diop was a fine player and affectionately nicknamed The Wardrobe due to his impressive height and width. May he rest in peace.
The hosts started brightly, snapping at the Reds’ heels and Lemina sent the first shot of the game wide. Fabinho made an excellent challenge on the edge of the box and Alisson had to parry Cavaleiro’s shot wide.
Andersen then blocked a shot from Bobby, which looped into Areola’s arms; Alisson had to dive sharply to again deny Cavaleiro. Fabinho had to make another good challenge after Gini had been caught in possession. A lengthy VAR review saw Andre Marriner jog over to the screen… no penalty.
Alisson then had to push Lookman’s drive wide; from the resulting corner, the ball broke to Reid and he lashed a shot past the Brazilian to give the home side the lead in the 26th minute. Salah had been pushed in the back in the build up, but was the foul noted? Of course not. Truth be told, the lead was no less than the hosts deserved, even though the goal itself should have been disallowed.
Alisson had to make another save shortly afterwards but Fulham were clearly offside; half an hour in and the Reds hadn’t registered a touch in the Fulham penalty area. A Fulham counter attack led to Cavaleiro squaring into the penalty area; fortunately for us, nobody was there to tap in.
Mané had our first real chance in the 40th minute but he headed Jones’ angled cross over. Trent drilled a cross to Mo but his shot on the spin went the wrong side of the post. Mané swiped another effort over; at least the Reds were finally getting things going . As the players trudged off for their halftime oranges, the men in red must have feared the Haartrockner treatment from their manager.
Klopp wasted no time, introducing Minamino for Matip (suffering from a back problem, apparently) at half time, meaning that Henderson dropped into central defence. Cavaleiro almost capitalised on Robertson’s mistake and Mo tested Areola from long range as the second half started with a bang.
Trent curled in a free kick from the right which Andersen did well to flick away before Hendo could nod in; The big defender also denied Bobby a tap in a few minutes later. Henderson missed a glorious chance to equalise after being put clean through by Bobby just after the hour mark.
Adarabioyo headed over from a Fulham corner and Neco came on for Trent, who is obviously being rested with our next game in mind. The Welsh full back immediately had a shot deflected wide for a corner and Lookman was arguably lucky to escape with just a yellow for a rash lunge at Neco with fifteen minutes remaining.
Gini smashed a free kick into the wall and- to everyone’s surprise- a penalty was awarded for handball. There was no intent and it’s a stupid rule but the decision was correct by the letter of the law. Mo drilled the penalty- just- past Areola and the Reds had ten minutes plus stoppage time to get out of jail.
It was not to be. We huffed and we puffed but we couldn’t blow the Cottage down; overall, it was a very disappointing performance from the Reds but full credit has to go to our hosts, who were solid in defence and lively in attack throughout.
Next up is the visit of Tottingham to Anfield on Wednesday night. Take out Kane and Son, who are absolutely flying at the moment, and Spurs are mid-table dross led by a mid-table manager. The only way they leave Merseyside with anything is if the officials bail them out. Which they probably will.
MOTM: Jürgen Norbert Klopp. Much has been written, both on this forum and elsewhere, this week about the team selection for our final Champions League group game at Midtjylland last Wednesday. Yes, we had already won the group. Yes, our manager has been moaning about the condensed schedule. And yes, we could have fielded a load of kids and backup players.
@GoneKloppo posted some excellent statistics in the pre-Midtjylland thread about how we have repeatedly dropped points after fielding a weakened team under Jürgen; there is no way that the manager could have foreseen the injuries to Tsimikas (who needed game time, anyway) and Jota. Let’s not forget that the management team has access to all the stats and figures and recovery charts and goodness knows what else, so they aren’t exactly drawing names out of a hat on match day. Hindsight is always 20/20; I think I’ll keep my faith in the man who has taken us from the fringes of the top four to Premier League and European champions just a little while longer.