Liverpool 1-0 Fulham: Reds keep slim top four hopes alive
Mohamed Salah did that little hop as he began his run-up and set off on his way. Back came his left boot, away went the ball and Liverpool were heading towards their fifth straight win.
Will it be enough to help them qualify for the Champions League? It is unlikely — but all Liverpool can do is ask the questions to keep Newcastle and Manchester United honest. While there is still a chance, Jurgen Klopp’s men will keep trying.
But what we can say for certain is without Salah they wouldn’t even be in the conversation. The common consensus is that he has had a poor season yet here he was popping up with another goal — his ninth in his last 10 games.
Nobody will ever try to paint Fulham’s visit on an unseasonably chilly night as one of the most memorable of the Klopp era — it could well have turned out differently had the club’s player of the year Alisson Becker not been so proficient in goal — but Salah grabbed the limelight.
His 39th-minute penalty was a statistician’s dream: this was the eighth game in a row he had scored at Anfield, a run stretching back to February 13, while it nudged him just one strike behind Steven Gerrard in the all-time list.
Liverpool edged to a 1-0 win over Fulham on Wednesday to keep their top four hopes alive
Mohamed Salah scored the only goal of the game with a penalty in the first half to help the to their fifth straight victory
The forward scored in his eighth successive game at Anfield and his ninth goal in his last 10 games
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker to thank after some important saves at Anfield
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Tsmikas (Robertson 66), Henderson, Fabinho, Jones (Milner 84), Salah (Elliott 84), Nunez (Jota 83), Diaz (Gakpo 66).
Subs not used: Kelleher, Gomez, Carvalho, Matip.
Goals: Salah 39 (pen).
Manager: Jurgen Klopp.
Fulham: Leno, Soares, Adarabioyo, Diop, Robinson, Lukic (Reed 71), Palhinha, Wilson (Kebano 71), Cairney (De Cordova-Reid 71), Willian (James 80), Vinicius (Solomon 79).
Subs not used: Rodak, Tete, Duffy, Harris.
Manager: Marco Silva.
Referee: Stuart Attwell.
When Klopp brought him off late on, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and he, in turn, responded with the kind of look to his manager that suggested he had been affronted by not being allowed to play the remaining 10 minutes. That is him in a nutshell.
May 3 is a date that has become synonymous with Liverpool booking their place in a Champions League final. Last year they were in Villarreal, while in 2005 they played out a titanic battle here with Chelsea.
Safe to say, however, this occasion was as far removed from those grand stages as could be imagined. Liverpool’s results have picked up of late but don’t kid yourself and think this is an enjoyable surge to the finish line for anyone connected with the club.
The campaign has been a grind from the moment Liverpool almost conceded a goal to Aleksandar Mitrovic, suspended here, in the opening attack on the opening day. They have been on the back foot ever since and the opportunity to start afresh will be grasped.
There seemed something fitting, then, that the first significant piece of action on Wednesday was from a Liverpool mistake, one which allowed Anfield old boy Harry Wilson to spring the offside trap and roll a ball towards goal that demanded Virgil van Dijk take urgent action.
Wilson has been a shining light for Fulham and had they managed to get their noses in front early on, how Liverpool responded would have been fascinating. In those opening stages, there was a vulnerability about them and the defence seemed out of sync.
Fulham, clearly, thought their best route to success was targeting Kostas Tsimikas, who had come in to replace the rested Andrew Robertson. The Greek wasn’t on the same wavelength as his colleagues and Van Dijk wasted no time in telling him his standards were not what was required.
Never was this more apparent than in the 14th minute, when Tsimikas and Ibrahima Konate were too slow getting out of their own area. Tosin Adarabioyo rolled a pass forward, Carlos Vinicius danced away from Tsimikas but his shot was well saved by Alisson. You sensed Fulham would regret it.
Slowly, Liverpool began to settle down. Key to it all was Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is flourishing in this role that sees him step into midfield and pick passes like a quarterback — the more he gets attuned it, the better Klopp’s team will become.
Alisson had to be alert on more than one occasion to keep Liverpool ahead in the game
Jurgen Klopp (left) was all smiles, while Trent Alexander-Arnold (right) shone again in his new midfield role
Marco Silva was left with plenty to ponder as his side lost for the third successive game
The Reds face Brentford next in their bid to keep their slim Champions League hopes alive
Alexander-Arnold had Liverpool’s first meaningful effort, his shot from a Salah lay-off zipping just wide of Bernd Leno’s post, but it was the way his distribution allowed Liverpool to move up the pitch and ask questions that was most telling.
Silva’s team are well-drilled and had been equal to the challenge, certainly in terms of defending, so it would have been hugely frustrating to concede as they did. Issa Diop got into a pickle, missed his kick and ended up taking out Darwin Nunez.
Was the penalty soft? Absolutely. It was hard to tell on TV replays just how much contact Diop, who was only playing due to an injury to Tim Ream, made with the Uruguayan but it was sufficient for Stuart Attwell to point to the spot. Salah crashed it down the middle like a golfer finding a sweet spot on the first tee, and that was the end of the scoring.
Liverpool huffed and puffed in the second period and while they enjoyed territorial dominance, the best opening came to Vinicius, following good work by Willian, but Alisson spread his huge frame and made the save.