LONDON — Fulham showed they didn’t want to be in the Premier League just to make up the numbers as they came close to beating Liverpool at Craven Cottage, with the game ending in a 2-2 draw.
– Report: Fulham 1-0 Liverpool | Premier League table | Next Prem matches
Aleksandar Mitrovic, who scored 43 league goals last season, showed that at 27 he could finally be ready for the Premier League. After heading home the opening goal, he then won and converted a penalty to ensure the home side picked up a point.
Liverpool had to rely on old and new as Darwin Nunez scored their first equalizer and Mohamed Salah netted the second – and they helped each other out.
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Liverpool risk losing ground early
It seems almost absurd to suggest this on the opening day of the season, but the standards that Liverpool and Manchester City have set of late are such that losing two points to Fulham is a blow in the title race.
Jurgen Klopp’s side lost just two league games last season and were twice behind at Craven Cottage, showing admirable tenacity to fight back.
City have a tough opener at West Ham United on Sunday but they now have a chance to establish an early advantage over their nearest rivals. Liverpool spent much of last season chasing after City – the last thing they want is that same feeling at the start of the new campaign.
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Nunez cameo excites…but injury problems escalate
Nunez marked his Premier League debut with a goal and an assist to salvage a point and lift a desperately uninspired Liverpool display ahead of his 59th-minute introduction.
Both were fortuitous: his goal, just 13 minutes after coming on, came as he attempted an off the cuff, only for Tosin Adarabioyo to flip the ball over Nunez with the ricochet flying past Fulham keeper Marek Rodak. The 23-year-old’s assist for Salah’s equalizer came as he attempted to collect Trent Alexander-Arnold’s forward pass to touch the ball into the Egyptian’s path for a tap-in. But both moments were products of his movement and his energy. It can only be a matter of time before it begins.
Klopp was concerned about Liverpool’s injury problems ahead of kick-off – Caoimhin Kelleher, Diogo Jota, Ibrahima Konate, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kostas Tsimikas and Curtis Jones are all unavailable – and Thiago Alcantara can now be added to that list . The midfielder limped off six minutes into the second half with what appeared to be a hamstring problem.
Alexander-Arnold again caught up
There’s no doubt that Alexander-Arnold is one of the best full-backs in the world with the ball at his feet, but those nagging doubts about his defensive ability will linger after he was stunned for Fulham’s first goal.
Kenny Tete’s cross was superb, but Alexander-Arnold was unaware of the danger at the far post as Mitrovic slotted a header past Alisson.
Liverpool ended last season losing the Champions League final to a Real Madrid goal that owed much to another lapse in focus from Alexander-Arnold. This is a lesson he must learn, or more damage will be inflicted.
Fulham: Rodak 7, Tete 8, Adarabioyo 7, Tim Ream 8, Antonee Robinson 7, Harrison Reed 8, Joao Palhinha 7, Bobby Decordova-Reid 7, Andreas Pereira 8, Neeskens Kebano 8, Mitrovic 9.
Subtitles: Solomon Manor 6, Tom Cairney 6, Duffy 6.
Liverpool: Alisson 6, Alexander-Arnold 6, Joel Matip 6, Virgil van Dijk 6, Andrew Robertson 7, Jordan Henderson 6, Fabinho 6, Thiago 6, Salah 7, Roberto Firmino 5, Luis Diaz 6.
Subtitles: Harvey Elliott 7, Nunez 8, James Milner 6, Fabio Carvalho 6.
Best and Worst Performers
BEST: Aleksandar Mitrovic — Can he finally make it in the Premier League? On this evidence, absolutely. All-action display: Great header for the first goal and gave Virgil van Dijk an ordinary look to win a penalty for the second.
Worst: Roberto Firmin – His place in the Liverpool squad is under threat from Nunez and there were few Brazilians here to suggest he should keep it. Liverpool were much more threatening when they came off just before the hour mark.
Highlights and Moments
New season, same old Mo Salah…
Beat your own records again ⚽ pic.twitter.com/IomxmJxmiq
—Liverpool FC (@LFC) August 6, 2022
After the game: What managers, players said
“You can’t always kiss the boys – we usually do it when they deserve it,” Klopp told broadcaster BT Sport. “You start the game in a specific way that was the opposite of how we wanted to start – really, completely the opposite.
“We got a point for a very bad game at my side, and now it’s about how it happened. I told my colleagues, the attitude was not the right one at the start, then we wanted to fight but you don’t it’s easier.
“We never had the momentum and yes we could have won the game because we had the biggest chance then obviously, but it probably would have been a bit too much today.”
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
It is only the second time that Liverpool have started a Premier League season with a draw against a newly promoted side. The other was in 2006-07 when Liverpool drew 1-1 at Sheffield United and finished third.
Darwin Nunez has now scored in his first two games since signing from Liverpool from Benfica in the summer. He is the first Liverpool player aged 23 or younger to score in a Premier League season opener since Philippe Coutinho in 2015.
Fulham: The Cottagers will be on the road next Saturday when they head north to take on Wolverhampton Wanderers and then it’s the big local derby against Brentford at Craven Cottage on Saturday August 20.
Liverpool: There is a behind-closed-doors friendly on Sunday against Aston Villa, with Liverpool next competing on consecutive Mondays, against Crystal Palace at Anfield on Monday August 15 and a trip to Manchester United on August 22.