Liverpool managed to put one foot in the Carabao Cup final by coming from behind to beat Fulham on home soil. Willian’s first-half strike gave the visitors the lead against the run of play but two quick-fire goals from Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo turned the match on its head.
It was a game of two halves for Liverpool, who struggled in the final third early on before coming into their own as the game progressed. They were restricted to a few half-chances in the opening 45 minutes, none of which they managed to take, before improving in the second half thanks to the impact of those coming off the bench.
Jurgen Klopp was again forced to cope with a depleted squad, with Liverpool missing a number of their key creative players due to injuries. They will be hoping to finish the job against Fulham in the second leg at Craven Cottage, although it remains to be seen if any of their crocked stars will have recovered enough to play.
Express Sport takes a look at some of the biggest talking points from tonight’s game at Anfield…
Klopp masterstroke saves Liverpool
Just three days after Liverpool earned a smash-and-grab victory over Arsenal after toiling in the first half, they managed to find a way to win yet again despite not playing at their best. Much of the credit should go to Klopp, who chose to reshuffle his forward line after deciding he had seen enough after the first 45 minutes.
The Reds looked much better in attack in the second half, with Diogo Jota moving to the right and Darwin Nunez coming off the bench to play through the middle. Klopp’s decision to bring on Gakpo was also an inspired one, with the Dutch forward scoring the decisive goal not long after replacing Harvey Elliott.
A night to forget for Van Dijk
It was certainly an evening to forget for Virgil van Dijk, who endured one of his worst showings for Liverpool in quite some time. The towering Dutchman’s glaring error in the first half gave Fulham the opportunity to capitalise, with his wayward header falling at the feet of Andreas Pereira right on the edge of the box.
Van Dijk then failed to prevent Willian’s close-range effort despite being in a good position to block the shot, which ended up trickling through his legs. He was also relatively lucky to avoid being sent off after committing a number of avoidable fouls while on a yellow card.
Gravenberch fails to impress
Ryan Gravenberch arrived at Liverpool to plenty of fanfare in the summer but is yet to really show what he can do since making the switch to Merseyside. He was merely a passenger in the Reds midfield against Fulham, winning just one out of 11 duels in the first half, and was hauled off by Klopp shortly after the break.
Gravenberch’s muted performance will have done him no favours in trying to earn a regular starting spot, with the 21-year-old still clearly yet to adapt to life at Anfield.
Plenty of lessons to learn
Although Liverpool ultimately managed to get the job done, it was far from a vintage performance and they will not be satisfied with how things went for large parts of the match. Their lack of chances in the first half was reminiscent of their struggles against Arsenal, with the Reds able to benefit from nipping their slow starts in the bud.
They will be hoping for more creativity in the second leg against Fulham, with the likes of Dominic Szoboszlai and Trent Alexander-Arnold potentially set to feature at Craven Cottage if they manage to return to fitness by then.
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