By Morgan Phillips
Liverpool’s win at Craven Cottage on Sunday was not the widely expected formality.
Although the visitors led 1-0 at halftime it was hard to believe that we had been watching a match between the potential champions and a club destined for relegation. Perhaps for the first time this season there was a calm strength in the Fulham defence, which negated the threat of Salah and his colleagues.
‘Strong down the middle’ has always been a useful precept, and Tim Ream in particular had his best game for ages. But the defence was still vulnerable on the wings.
Early in the match Timothy Fosu-Mensah embarrassed himself with a sliding tackle that completely missed his opponent Andrew Robertson. The defender was more cautious from that point onwards and allowed the same attacker too much space. Richardson set in motion a 1-2 move that ended in Mane scoring for Liverpool.
Fulham returned after the interval in an attacking mood, and Floyd Ayite seemed to have headed the equaliser. Unfortunately, Liverpool had moved up to play Ayite and no less than three of his teammates offside. Then Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa tested Liverpool keeper Alisson.
The Whites finally got their goal in the 74th minute and in the strangest manner. Milner sliced a simple clearance, so Virgil van Dijk attempted to pass back to Alisson. His header was so underpowered that Ryan Babel was able to nip between the two players and walk the ball into the net.
The goal (which will be long remembered) was greeted with ecstasy by everyone in the Fulham camp except the scorer Babel, who has fond memories of his former club.
In the end it did not harm Liverpool’s title challenge. Sergio Rico has made some good saves this season but his handling still seems a touch erratic. With less than 10 minutes left he fumbled a shot from Salah and grabbed Mane, who was going for the ball. The keeper’s action was mild compared with most of the wrestling that takes place in the area but Mane tumbled and the referee awarded a penalty. Milner redeemed himself by scoring from the spot.
Next up, it’s Manchester City, after which we hope Scott Parker and his men will end the season with a run of attacking football and decent results.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.
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