Things do not always have to go perfectly to create perfection as Liverpool found out, maintaining their 100% home record in a seven-goal thriller against Fulham.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, albeit via Bernd Leno’s back, and Alexis Mac Allister scored two incredible goals from a combined distance of 55 yards to twice put Liverpool into the lead. But Fulham repeatedly fought back, netting through Harry Wilson, Kenny Tete and Bobby De Cordova-Reid, all from close range, before Wataru Endo and Alexander-Arnold lifted Anfield into delirium.
It was rare that Alexander-Arnold was stationary on the pitch. He nominally started the game at right-back but could be found operating as a sweeper, in central midfield or at left-wing. When he did get a moment of calm, the full-back lined up a free-kick from 25 yards before curling in off the bar with the sweetest of strikes, although it will be slightly tainted as it hit Leno’s back on the way down.
It was a positive day for Liverpool’s academy as the equaliser came from one of their graduates, too, four minutes later. It highlighted the downside to Alexander-Arnold’s free role, however, as it came down Liverpool’s right with their “right-back” in the centre of the penalty area. Joël Matip’s pass out of defence was intercepted and Fulham broke with Antonee Robinson allowed space to cross for Wilson, who 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, in theory, Liverpool’s deepest-lying midfielder but he offers far more in that role than others in the league. He is more suited to an attacking position and 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 meant nine minutes were added on 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. 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, Mohamed Salah slipped a pass through for Darwin Núñez, who was sporting a new braided hairstyle, but his rifling shot struck the bar to help remove the rain. The Uruguay striker felt the need for greater backing from the supporters and threw his hands up to the Kop. The same duo combined soon after as Salah cushioned a Dominik Szoboszlai pass over the defence for Núñez but he could only scuff a shot wide.
Alexander-Arnold’s passing range and the fact Liverpool looked susceptible down the right resulted in him being moved into central midfield and Joe Gomez coming 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 were playing 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 and put Fulham into the lead for the first time.
Salah, one away from his 200th Liverpool goal, should have levelled when a corner was parried straight into his path but he could not score from six yards out, blazing his volley well over the bar. Salah need not have worried as, from his pass, Endo popped up on the edge of the area to curl a shot into the top corner.
It seemed only right Alexander-Arnold would have the final say. A Núñez cross was half-cleared out to the England international who fired home from 18 yards to create bedlam on the pitch and in the stands in the 88th minute. It was a glorious end to a glorious match.