Player ratings: Fulham 1 -2 Liverpool

Van-Dijk-and-Alisson-celebrate-at-end-of-game
Well, job done but it was a lot more nervy than it should have been, given our dominance. In the end, we needed a large slice of luck to get past a team that set a new record today for consecutive games where a team has conceded more than once. Anyway, let’s see how the lads got on.

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Alisson (6) - Far too timid coming out for their goal, although I do think Van Dijk was primarily to blame. Alisson definitely could have done better though, Babel literally didn’t do a thing, just stood there and let Alisson kick it off him. Made a decent save in the second half - the kind we’ve seen squirming past recent goalkeepers in conditions such as today. It was a save I would have expected him to make however. Dealt well with an awkward cross when under pressure from Mitrovic and did most of his general goalkeeping well enough but he’s an absolute bomb scare with the ball at his feet. Takes ridiculous risks when we’re defending one goal leads. I’ve said it before but it’s only a matter of time before he’s punished for that. Again.

TAA (6.5) - Another mixed bag from Trent, as all his recent games have been. He put in a shed load of crosses but they were about a 50/50 split of sublime and ridiculous. Picked out Salah with a lovely ball in the first half, which the Egyptian should have done better with but he was also tested and beaten by Babel on a number of occasions at the other end. Once he adds the consistency to his crossing that Robbo has, I think teams will really struggle to stop at least one of them picking up an assist a game. That’ll come though. Such is the standard he performs at, we often forget his tender years.

Matip (7) - Another solid display from Matip. Wasn’t involved in the goal we conceded and made a number of well timed tackles and interceptions. Brought the ball out well from the back as always and showed a decent passing range. Should have done better with a free header from a corner.

Van Dijk (7) - Virgil was well on his way to another 8 or 9 as he completely owned Mitrovic for the second time this season and some of his diagonal balls from deep were almost Xabi like. One brain fart later however and the scores are level, proving our number four is human after all. Has to do better with that, far too hesitant which isn’t like him at all and then doesn’t get enough on the header back to Alisson. Happens to everyone at some stage though, thankfully it didn’t cost us in the end.

Robertson (8) - Glad to see Robbo has put the disappointment of his late booking in Munich behind him, as he turned in a fine display at Craven Cottage. Along with Mane, he gave Fosuh-Mensah an absolute torrid time of it and when Mane pushed more central, Robbo dominated the left side of the pitch, basically on his own. His work rate and energy are absolutely astonishing. The speed and frequency in which he gets up and down the pitch can only be admired. Heavily  involved from start to finish, tenacious and positive in his play and put a number of good deliveries into the box. We’ve been fortunate in our Champions League draw and Robbo doesn’t get many breaks so his suspension may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Fabinho (6) - Amost gave me a heart attack when, having been booked moments earlier, he immediately made another rash challenge. Showed good game management after that though to not give the referee any more decisions to make. Not his finest game though, guilty of sloppy passing once again and was absolutely done like a kipper when he over committed to a 50-50, during a Fulham counter attack. Broke play up well though as always but capable of much more than he showed today.

Wijnaldum (6.5) - Was having one of his anonymous displays early on but grew into the game as it wore on. Showed a little more attacking intent and was unlucky with a shot from outside the box that grazed the post. Probably should have done better with a header, after getting on the end of Robbo’s cross. Decent, if unspectacular from Gini, as is often the case.

Lallana (7) - I thought Lallana had another decent game. We always press better when he’s playing and he won the ball back countless times. Showed some lovely footwork as always but, as is generally the case with Lallana, it doesn’t tend to lead to anything. Still, I didn’t think I’d be saying this but he’s probably done more to justify a place than Keita has. It will be interesting to see what happens with Lallana in the summer.

Salah (5) - I know, a 5 is quite harsh but I’ve scored him a point less for his selfishness in recent games. His general display was average but his search for a goal has now got to the stage where it is to the detriment of the team. He did it against Bayern and there were a number of times today that he tried to go for goal himself, when it was always going to be a big ask and he had team mates better placed. There’s no room for that and it will lead to anger and resentment from his team mates. He’s putting himself before the team at the moment and that is not acceptable. Regards his general display, he was ok. He started brightly but faded in the latter stages of the first half. Got in some decent positions second half but as mentioned above, didn’t make the most of them. Hopefully he gets a tap in next game and gets this monkey off his back.

Firmino (7) - Scored an extra point for his assist for the opener but general play wasn’t that great I thought. We’ve seen a lot of displays like this from Bobby this season, where very little comes off for him. He was dropping really deep at times and I was looking up the pitch and there was nobody in a central attacking area. His link up play hasn’t been as good this season as it was last. Can’t fault his work rate though. Had a problem just before half time and was subbed second half so let’s hope that’s nothing serious.

Mane (9) - Another superb display from Mane as he started and finished the move for our first goal and then won the penalty for the winner. Was also unlucky when hitting the bar from a header and tormented Fulham all afternoon. It feels like we’re witnessing the next stage of Mane’s development at the moment and if he can start playing every week like he has been recently, he’s Balon D’or material.

Subs:
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Milner (7) - It was Milner’s sliced pass that put Virgil in trouble in the first place, in the lead up to Fulham’s goal but he redeemed himself by coolly dispatching the penalty that put us back to the top of the league and in all probability, kept us in the title race. Made a difference when he came on.

Origi (6) - Put himself about when he came on and gave the Fulham defence something else to think about. I wouldn’t be against him hanging around for another season and he clearly seems to be above Shaqiri in the pecking order at the moment.

Sturridge (N/A) - Time wasting sub.

Klopp-watch (7) - Quite a difficult game to score Jürgen on, as we totally dominated the game and should have been out of sight by half time. The fact we couldn’t make our pressure count and then conceded a crazy goal is pretty much out of Klopp’s hands. Obviously not happy with Shaqiri about something, he really isn’t getting a sniff.

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Summary

As I said, job done but we really need to start putting teams away. We completely dominated Fulham all over the pitch today but our final ball is lacking time and again. Our decision making in key attacking areas has often been poor this season as well, as we squander so many good attacking positions and as we all know, a one goal lead is always fragile. Anything can happen and it almost did when the much lauded Van Dijk and Alisson made a right hash of a Milner mishit. Nobody saw that coming but it just shows why you need to kill teams off when you’re on top.

Not for the first time this season, we got lucky with their goalkeeper conceding a silly penalty but if not for his moment of madness, we could be all but out of the title race, having drawn yet another game we completely dominated, away from home.

There are positives to take from today however, not least the result putting us back top of the league and putting the pressure back on City. Apart from that though, I thought we were at least more positive with our passing today. We just lack that killer ball, as most of us have pointed out for the majority of the season.

Now, the tedium of an international break approaches, who knows whether that’s a blessing or a curse at this stage, let’s just pray all our players come back unscathed and we may have a new addition to the bench in the form of Ox, when the real footie starts back up again.

At least Stu can use  ‘League leaders Liverpool’ again in the title of his next match thread. For one game at least... Walk on.
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