Perfection doesn’t always require everything to go smoothly, as Liverpool discovered, maintaining their 100% home record in a thrilling seven-goal encounter against Fulham.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, with the help of Bernd Leno’s back, and Alexis Mac Allister scored two remarkable goals from a total distance of 55 yards, putting Liverpool in the lead twice. However, Fulham consistently fought back, scoring through Harry Wilson, Kenny Tete, and Bobby De Cordova-Reid, all from close range, before Wataru Endo and Alexander-Arnold sent Anfield into delirium.
Alexander-Arnold was seldom stationary on the pitch. Although he nominally started the game at right-back, he could be found operating as a sweeper, in central midfield, or at left wing. During a rare moment of calm, the full-back lined up a free-kick from 25 yards and curled it in off the bar with the sweetest of strikes, though it will be slightly tainted as it hit Leno’s back on the way down.
It turned out to be a positive day for Liverpool’s academy as the equalizer came from one of their graduates just four minutes later. However, it highlighted the downside of Alexander-Arnold’s free role, as the play unfolded on Liverpool’s right, with their “right-back” positioned in the center of the penalty area. Joël Matip’s pass out of defense was intercepted, and Fulham broke through with Antonee Robinson given space to cross. Wilson jabbed the ball through Caoimhín Kelleher’s legs, the goalkeeper making his sixth Premier League appearance almost three years to the day since his first.
Mac Allister is theoretically Liverpool’s deepest-lying midfielder, but he offers much more in that role than others in the league. Although he is more suited to an attacking position, Jürgen Klopp is happy to see him go forward. The Argentinian was lurking when a throw-in was headed into his path by Raúl Jiménez; a less confident player might have taken a touch with the ball bouncing before passing it on, but Mac Allister unleashed a vicious shot that kept rising until it hit the top corner. There was a split second of silence before the roar, as everyone inside Anfield was amazed by what they had witnessed. “If he stayed there two hours, he is not going to do it again,” said Fulham’s manager, Marco Silva, not that Mac Allister is concerned.
Leno’s earlier injury resulted in nine minutes being added in the first half. In the third of those, Jiménez found a more productive use for a flick-on and nodded a corner into Tete’s path. The Dutch right-back, playing his first game since mid-September, controlled the ball, but it seemed to get away from him, making Kelleher think he could claim it, only to see Tete’s outstretched right leg divert the ball in. Initially, Liverpool thought they had been saved by the assistant referee’s flag, but VAR confirmed there was no illegality, allowing a belated second celebration from the away end.
The fluorescent yellow and orange squares did rescue Liverpool soon after when Tim Ream smashed in the rebound following a Kelleher save from João Palhinha’s header. There was no doubt the American defender, despite his finger-wagging, was offside to ensure the half ended in parity.
In the second half, Mohamed Salah slipped a pass-through for Darwin Núñez, who was sporting a new braided hairstyle, but his rifling shot struck the bar, adding to the intensity of the moment. The Uruguay striker felt the need for greater support from the supporters and threw his hands up to the Kop. The same duo combined soon after, with Salah cushioning a Dominik Szoboszlai pass over the defense for Núñez, but he could only scuff a shot wide.
Alexander-Arnold’s passing range and the vulnerability Liverpool displayed down the right prompted a shift, moving him into central midfield while Joe Gomez came on at full-back as Klopp withdrew Szoboszlai and Mac Allister. Cody Gakpo joined the architect of chaos, Alexander-Arnold, in midfield, and the game opened up.
Fulham played on the break, and once again, despite the changes, it was Liverpool’s right that caused the hosts problems. Willian was left free to pull the ball back for Tom Cariney, who lifted a cross to the back post where his fellow substitute De Cordova-Reid rose above Kostas Tsimikas to head home, putting Fulham into the lead for the first time.
Salah, nearing his 200th Liverpool goal, missed a chance to equalize when he couldn’t score from six yards out. His volley went well over the bar after the goalkeeper parried a corner straight to him. However, Salah didn’t need to worry because Endo, from his pass, appeared at the edge of the area and skillfully curled a shot into the top corner.
Alexander-Arnold had the final say, as a Núñez cross was partially cleared to him. The England international then fired a shot from 18 yards, causing chaos on the pitch and in the stands in the 88th minute. It marked a splendid conclusion to an exceptional match.