By Connor Varnish – @cvarn4
Liverpool escaped Craven Cottage with all three points after a 2-1 win in a Premier League match that should have been over in the first half as Jurgen Klopp’s side failed to capitalise on various chances.
A first half strike from Sadio Mané and a late penalty converted by substitute James Milner was enough for the Reds, despite the hosts pegging their visitors back with a tap-in from Ryan Babel after a defeinsive mix-up with little over 15 minutes to go.
It was a rather tame first half at Craven Cottage – Liverpool started the first half keen on sitting back and feeling Fulham out before truly pushing on. The Reds’ best efforts came through Trent and Robertson respectively finding some freedom on the wings to whip in some dangerous crosses to the front men.
The breakthrough came midway through the half as Bobby did exceptionally well to link up with Mané before the Senegalese – in great form – tapped it in from the six yard line. Liverpool had to have felt good going into halftime with a 1-0 lead after coasting through the first 45.
The second half produced more of the same as the Reds weren’t clinical enough in the final third and we’re made eventually made to pay at the opposite end. Fulham began to grow into the game around the 65th minute as they looked threatening on the counter attack – even managing to put one into the back of the net before the offside flag rightfully ruled the goal out.
Firmino and Lallana made way for Origi and Milner in the 73rd minute – which ultimately proved a decisive moment in the match. Milner’s first touch came from an attempted clearance that unfortunately directed towards the Liverpool net, and the always reliable Virgil van Dijk’s header back towards Alisson lacked the power for the Brazilian to claim as former-Red Ryan Babel tapped in from point-blank range.
Milner luckily managed to make up for his previous error from the penalty spot after Mane cleverly drew a penalty from a careless challenge from the Fulham keeper. The Englishman’s calmness from the spot proved the game winner in a tight contest as he calmly passed the ball right down the middle of the Fulham net.
At the end of the day all that matters is three more points in a vital title race accompanied with a huge sigh of relief at Craven Cottage on this St. Patrick’s Day fixture – the victory caps a successful day after a nervy second half for Liverpool supporters.
The Reds go back on top momentarily as they head into the international break before they return to host another London based club in Tottenham.