FULHAM 2-2 LIVERPOOL: MATCH REVIEW
Liverpool stuttered out of the blocks in their opening league game of the season, dropping two points at promoted Fulham. Aleksandr Mitrovic twice gave the Cottagers the lead but Darwin Nunez and Mohamed Salah pulled the Reds level. Here’s the match review.
You can check out the player ratings here.
° Lineup. Jürgen Klopp once again opted for Roberto Firmino over Darwin Nunez from the off. It’s a decision that paid off in the Community Shield, with the manager intent on easing the big money striker in slowly.
A spate of injuries and illness meant three youngsters got a place on the bench, with Stefan Bajcetic, Sepp Van den Berg and Luke Chambers all being named in a Premier League squad for the very first time.
° Painfully slow start. Unlike last week against City, the Reds started poorly. An early Trent error allowed Mitrovic to surge away from Fabinho (too easily) and poke an effort wide. That would be the theme of the day.
° Midfield harried and bullied. It’s not often the trio of Fabinho, Henderson and Thiago lets you down but they were collectively and individually well off it yesterday. They were incredibly sloppy on the ball and lost out on almost every 50-50 in that first half.
Fabinho, Henderson and Thiago misplaced a combined 33 passes against Fulham yesterday. That’s more than twice what they managed against Manchester City last week (16).
It’s a damning stat that underlines their inability to get any sort of strangle hold on the game. With Firmino ineffective and the two fullbacks having a mare, Salah and Diaz were starved of possession in meaningful areas.
° Mitrovic breaks the deadlock. An overlapping Tete swung a cross from the right wing to the backpost and Trent didn’t do anywhere near enough to prevent Mitrovic from powering the ball home. Fulham were the better side and deserved the lead at the break.
Liverpool were only behind at halftime once in the entirety of last season, that came in the title showdown at the Etihad in the 2-2 draw against City. They’ve already equalled that on Matchday 1 this term.
° Thiago injury. Six minutes into the second half, the Spaniard pulled up with a hamstring injury to further deplete the midfield options. With Keita, Jones and Oxlade-Chamberlain all absent from the matchday squad, it was the last thing Klopp needed. The midfield is now coming under lots of scrutiny.
° Firmino off it. The Brazilian put on a pressing masterclass in the Community Shield but was ineffective here. As we stated in our predicted XI, his skillsets weren’t what were required on the day. He underperformed badly. 0 shots, 0 chances created, 0 dribbles attempted. Yikes.
° Diaz can still improve. Luis needs to transition from a dangerous running threat to a consistent goalscorer. He’s often unlucky infront of goal but must turn that luck into tangible output. He’s replaced Mané’s relentless running and quality on the left wing, now for the productivity.
° Instant Darwin impact. Nunez came on for Bobby and was immediately involved. He had two openings before slotting home the third with a backheel. He saw another effort cleared off the line before setting up Diaz with a knockdown in the box.
He is a chaos magnet as his presence seems to unsettle defences. It allows Salah a bit more space as well, with the Egyptian linking up well with the big man. Mo was on hand to profit off Darwin’s touch in the box to roll an effort past Rodak to pull us level in the 80th minute.
Darwin Nunez is the first player to score and assist from the bench on his Premier League debut for Liverpool.
Must start next week, surely.
° Off day for the defence. Liverpool’s defence is usually an area of strength but yesterday was the complete opposite. From Trent failing to defend the backpost for the opening goal and generally having a poor game, to Robbo enduring a similarly frustrating afternoon.
The centre backs joined in the collective off day with stinkers of their own. From Matip carelessly giving away possession, to Van Dijk sticking out a leg and inviting Mitrovic to go over. They let the team down. Hopefully that’s out of their system now and they’re back to their best soon.
° Dropped points. We know very well how fine the margins can be in a title race against Guardiola’s Manchester City. If 2018/19 and last season taught us anything, it’s that draws are the new defeats.
We rued careless dropped points at Brentford, West Ham and at home to Brighton last season. We can ill afford any more slip ups. We have to quickly put together a winning run to avoid playing catch up at this early stage. Win the next six and this will be consigned to memory.
° Klopp unhappy. It’s not often, in fact I can’t even really remember a time when a performance has noticeably angered Klopp like this one did. He said it wasn’t good enough, called it rubbish and questioned the attitude of his players.
For a manager that’s always a staunch defender of his players, that was telling. Footballers never like it when their attitude is called into question. It’s up to them to rally together and respond on the pitch. Yesterday was unacceptable.
° What next? Liverpool are next in action on the 15th of August when they host Crystal Palace at Anfield for Monday night football. They could be 5 points behind City by kickoff, but what better way to respond than infront of a full Anfield?
The Reds were scheduled to take on Aston Villa in a behind closed doors friendly but that has since been cancelled. The manager will spend the week on the training field working on a number of things.
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