It says something about the strength of Fulham’s performance against the defending champions that they will be disappointed with only picking up a point against Liverpool this afternoon. They could easily have led by more than Bobby Decordova-Reid’s powerful drive at half time, especially had Fabinho been punished when catching Ivan Cavaleiro in the box. As it was, Jurgen Klopp’s side were indebted to the returning Alisson for keeping them in the game and then for the penalty tucked away by Mo Salah after Aboubakar Kamara was adjudged to have handled Gio Wijnaldum’s free-kick.
Alphonse Areola perhaps should have saved the poorly struck penalty, but Scott Parker would have been very pleased both by Fulham’s application throughout and their character to withstand a late Liverpool onslaught after their leveller. The visitors struggled to break down Fulham’s disciplined five-man defence throughout, but were even unable to carve out clear chances after getting back on level terms. Their best performer, young midfielder Curtis Jones, came the closest but even his low shot at the end of a determined run lacked conviction as he bore down on Areola.
Any observer seeing the scoreline might think Fulham had mounted a defensive rearguard from the outset, but nothing could have been further from the truth. Parker’s side have grown in confidence since a dreadful start to the season, buoyed by recent wins over West Bromwich Albion and at Leicester. Cavaleiro exploited a nervousness in a Liverpool defence without Virgil van Dijk racing behind the back four twice in the first quarter of an hour but was denied by smart saves from Allison. When referee Martin Atkinson declined to penalise Fabinho for a rash tackle on the Portuguese forward despite being sent to view the video monitor, Fulham might have been forgiven for thinking it wasn’t going to be their day.
But Parker’s side continued to be adventurous and eventually got their reward. Ademola Lookman, who gave Trent Alexander-Arnold a torrid time down the Fulham left, lashed a drive from distance that Alisson did well to turn behind and then had a part to play in the opener. After Antonee Robinson had held his ground against Salah as Liverpool tried to clear the corner, the excellent Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa poked it to Lookman, whose deft pass created some room for Decordova-Reid to find the bottom corner from just outside the area.
That prompted Klopp to scream at his charges to wake up, but there was little evidence that they had heeded his instructions before the break. A storming run down the flank from Lookman almost engineered another opening and it took 35 minutes for Liverpool to have a touch inside the Fulham box. When they did create an opening, Sadio Mane was uncharacteristically wasteful – heading over from Jones’ lovely dinked cross – and even Salah spurned a chance after turning smartly in the box on the stroke of half-time.
Liverpool still looked shaky after the break, with Cavaleiro almost taking advantage of a mix-up between Andy Robertson and Alisson as the full back looked to take an extra touch inside the six-yard box. A sign of the champions’ threat arrived as they swept up the other end and a powerful strike from Salah was superbly saved by Areola. The visitors gradually pressed Fulham further backwards, but Jordan Henderson, pressed into service as an emergency centre back after a back injury ended Joel Matip’s afternoon, was denied by an excellent stop from Areola.
Fulham threatened sporadically on the counter-attack and Toisin Adarabioyo sent a header over from a corner and they may count themselves unfortunate to have been punished when Cavaleiro, trying to tackle back in the manner his team-mates had done so effectively, caught Jones on the edge of the box after another mazy run. Wijnaldum looked to lift his free-kick over the wall, with the ball striking Kamara on the arm as he jumped in the wall. Marriner pointed immediately to the spot – and Areola wasn’t able to keep up Salah’s unconvincing penalty.
Despite not being able to hold on for a win, this was a significant result for a Fulham side who were written off by almost everyone at the start of the season. Parker has gradually instilled belief in his players and, if they repeat this level of energy, application and adventure regularly, they should have more than enough to survive. On a day when the fans got a glimpse of what they’ve been missing in ten months away from Craven Cottage, the Whites gave their supporters plenty to cheer.
FULHAM (5-2-3): Areola; Decordova-Reid, Robinson, Andersen, Aina, Adarabioyo; Lemina (Reed 80), Anguissa; Loftus-Cheek (Kamara 74), Cavaleiro, Lookman (Bryan 88). Subs (not used): Rodak, Ream, Cairney, Kebano, Kamara.
BOOKED: Andersen, Lemina, Lookman.
GOAL: Decordova-Reid (26).
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold (Williams 68), Robertson, Matip (Minamino 45), Fabinho; Wijnaldum, Henderson, Jones; Mane, Salah (Origi 84), Firmino. Subs (not used): Kelleher, Phillips, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Cain, Origi.
GOAL: Salah (pen 79).
REFEREE: Andre Marriner (Birmingham).
VIDEO ASSISTANT REFEREE: Lee Mason (Lancashire).