Jurgen Klopp’s changes turn the tide for Liverpool after Fulham let them off the hook

Cody Gakpo of Liverpool celebrates scoring his side's second goal

Marco Silva must be getting sick of this particular Anfield movie. For the second successive month, two quickfire goals turned what would have been a famous Fulham victory into Kop elation.

In December, Wataru Endo and Trent Alexander-Arnold stole the show. This time Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo assumed the leading roles to give Liverpool a slender advantage before the return leg in a fortnight. That is the precious consolation for Silva and his players, the loss not so torturous on this occasion because a Wembley place and an opportunity to pen a new chapter of Fulham history is still within their grasp.

Curiously, both Silva and Jurgen Klopp will feel that while this outcome might have been far better, equally it could have been much, much worse. Fulham were three minutes from celebrating victory in this stadium four weeks ago. They made it to within 20 this time, Willian’s first-half goal inducing a growing sense of panic in the home ranks which only subsided when Jones’s long-range effort deflected past goalkeeper Bernd Leno courtesy of Tosin Adarabioyo.

Three minutes later, Gakpo casually stroked in Darwin Nunez’s cross and for the visitors it became an endurance mission.

Therein, two of the main themes of Liverpool’s season presented themselves; substitutes the influencers and the character of Klopp’s side coming to the fore on those occasions when fluency is lacking. Thirty of Liverpool’s goals this season have been scored or created by those coming off the bench. Not even the Royal Navy has such an effective collection of subs.

“You have to bring them at the right moment,” said Klopp. “When we have all available, the quality we can bring on is pretty good.”

Another habitual feature of Liverpool’s campaign – that of Nunez being both a game-changer and serial misser of chances – was inescapable, too. The Uruguayan went close on three occasions in the later stages to put more distance between the teams, although at least two of those were self-made, prompting his manager to deliver an especially lavish tribute to his contribution.

“You cannot be more unlucky than Darwin,” said Klopp. “He does everything right and sets up the goal. That is really special. He is outstanding. There are so many things I love about [his] game.”

Klopp is right that any criticism of Nunez’s finishing must be balanced against the fact he and Gakpo changed the game following their 56th-minute introduction. With the exception of an away game at Luton Town, Liverpool have reaped far more benefits from Nunez’s menace than they have suffered because of squandered opportunities.

The substitute duo were needed because this was not the silky-skilled, easy-on-the-eye Liverpool which propelled itself to the top of the Premier League. The latest comeback is all about re-establishing Klopp’s “mentality monsters”.

Their sheer bloody-mindedness is increasingly becoming one of their most endearing qualities. Liverpool have conceded first on 14 occasions this season and only lost three times, and one of those was a dead rubber in the Europa League and another because of VAR malfunction at Spurs. The ability to retrieve situations is recurring too often to be flippantly dismissed; trends are not good luck.

“It is mentality,” Klopp agreed. “Sometimes you create mentality, sometimes not. You can’t plan it.”

A 10th semi-final win as a Liverpool coach is far from guaranteed for Klopp, however. Despite the loss, there was still a sense of mission accomplished for Silva, his ambition realised of keeping the tie alive for a potential night to remember at Craven Cottage.

If Fulham’s previous Anfield trip was a joyride for neutrals, the visitors prepared to go toe-to-toe in an encounter where both sides counter-attacked at will, there was a more cautious strategy on this occasion. Silva set up his side to resist; men behind the ball, Raul Jimenez isolated as a hard-working lone runner supported by the advancing evergreen Willian and Andreas Pereira.

As Liverpool settled into a game of patience, Fulham taking a 19th-minute lead was the perfect bonus and foundation. It was their first attempt, Pereira taking advantage of slack defending to squeeze his way past Virgil van Dijk and tee up Willian. He too kept his feet when he may have fallen under Conor Bradley’s challenge, his shot going through Van Dijk and the presumably unsighted Caoimhin Kelleher. A more critical gaze will wonder if such an attempt would have beaten Alisson Becker, kept on the bench as is customary for the Carabao Cup.

Willian of Fulham scores the opening goal during the Carabao Cup Semi Final First Leg match between Liverpool and Fulham
Willian fires the ball between Van Dijk's legs to beat Kelleher - Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

With that, Fulham could already see their prize as before last night, every time the Brazilian had scored for his current club they had won. Liverpool’s only shot on target in the first half was courtesy of an assist from Fulham centre-back Tosin as he gifted possession and encouraged Jones to test Leno.

Fulham’s confidence was visibly growing as Liverpool were obviously missing Trent Alexander-Arnold’s ability to see and execute a pass, although Bradley was the hosts’ brightest player, the 20-year-old’s marauding runs consistently threatening an end product.

“It was intense for him. Someone has to drive him home. He gave everything,” said Klopp.

Klopp hugs Bradley
Conor Bradley was Liverpool's brightest spark in the first half and his manager was full of praise for him as they head into an 11-day break - Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Liverpool’s tempo and physicality increased in the second half as the two goals looked like they would precede a late rampage.

“The first goal was a bit lucky and that changed the game,” said Silva. “I was disappointed with the 10 minutes after that. We should be more mature at that moment. Then Leno kept us in the game. It is still tight. Now we can fight for it.”

Fulham survived, and so did the tie’s sense of jeopardy.

Liverpool 2 Fulham 1: as it happened

10:41 PM GMT

And finally Jürgen Klopp speaks to Sky

Conor Bradley will sleep well tonight. I’m not sure he will make it home, he will sleep in the dressing room. What a boy! Exceptional. It takes character, talent, great potential and he’s in the right team because everyone wants him to succeed, everyone respects him.

It was all the difficulties you have in a football game. Super hard, super tough. But as a team, in the firts half we caused ourselves some problems. With their compact defending we plyed a lot on the wing, got stuck there, no fluidity and we had to change that. And we did change that, playing in the half-spaces.

It wasn’t our best game we’ve ever played but that’s not the point in games like this. The boys put a proper shift in [they weren’t tired]. The problems were football problems. If Conor got the ball on the right wing he had to stop his run because the pass wasn’t right. If Joey got the ball on the left [the same thing happened]. Too late, too slow.

Second half was a proper all-round Liverpool performance and we won the game. It’s a first leg, nothing else. Half-time, good and now we go there.

[You have 11 days off now] Yes and after the press conference I won’t think for a second about all these things [the second leg].

10:29 PM GMT

Marco Silva speaks to Sky

We knew it ws going to be a tough one at this stage of the competition and playing for a final. It was really hard. They are top of the league, they won at Arsenal in the FA Cup, the quality they have, I think we did really well in the first half. Our block was lower than normal, it is true, but we did well. Without space in behind us we can control the match much better. They can punish you whenever but we were ruthless in the first half. We didn’t have many chances but we scored.

When you have the capacity to go to the bench for Gakpo and Darwin, they created more difficulty. Even so I believe we had 10-15 minutes in the second half where we had good chances on the counter-attack and we were not ruthless. We didn’t take that moment to create a different scenario.

When they score, we know this from the past, we have to pause the game, be smart enough not to let them score again in the next 10-15 minutes. We have to be more clever from a tactical point of view. We conceded because we gave them lots of space for a fast attack.

We should have scored another goal at least.

But we are playing at home [next] and we will go for it. It is going to be a fantastic night for our club and our fans and we are going to give everything to go to Wembley.

10:12 PM GMT

Cody Gakpo on his adopted home town

It’s the mentality in the group, the club, the city. Everybody has the mentality to keep going, no matter what happens. If you have that mentality, a lot of beautiful things can happen.

These words are manna to the beaming Curtis Jones beside him.

09:54 PM GMT

Full time: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

The substitutes injected the required urgency to punish Fulham for squandering their opportunities to put the leg to bed. Gakpo was terrific when he came on, Nunez as lively as ever and Jones, the man of the match, was there to pounce when Jota, who worked his socks off, opened the door. Fulham will settle for 2-1, though, And so will Liverpool.

09:52 PM GMT

90+3 min: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

Fulham free-kick on the left when Bradley makes a hurdle of his left leg to stop Robinson bombing into the box. Up come the centre-backs. Wilson takes ... and hits the first Liverpool sentry.

09:51 PM GMT

90+2 min: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

Jimenez executes the Ayling flop to buy a free-kick on halfway off Gakpo but Fulham give the ball straight back to Liverpool.

09:50 PM GMT

90+1 min: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

The first of four minutes of extra time start with Wilson going into the book for bundling Jones over from behind and wrapping his arms round his waist to make sure that he fell.

09:48 PM GMT

89 min: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

Leno saves Fulham after excellent work from Bradley down the right. Jota had nutmegged Robinson with a pass down the right of the box and the young right-back whipped over a cross that was about 2ft off the ground. Nunez met it perfectly on the volley with his left foot from seven yards or so and Leno made a point blank save before Tosin hooked it away.

09:46 PM GMT

87 min: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

Castagne heads out Nunez’s deep cross for another corner but Fulham hold this attack off and, if they can forget the circumstances of a 2-1 defeat (wasting two good chances on the break in the second half), if that’s how it remains, it’s not a terrible scoreline to take back to the Cottage.

09:44 PM GMT

85 min: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

Nunez’s tail is up and he wants a goal, sending a fizzing effort from an impossibly tight angle on the right that draws a smart save from Leno.

09:43 PM GMT

83 min: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

Lukic ⇢ Reed.

Jones is struggling now, too.

09:42 PM GMT

80 min: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

It’s usually Klopp hopping up and down the touchline but Marco Silva is matching him for frustrated polkas this evening, fuming when Cairney fails to cross properly and then when Diop is caught offside from a free-kick before he squared for a Jimenez tap-in. The whistle came early enough for Raul to maintain he heard it before blasting his effort wide.

09:40 PM GMT

78 min: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

Towering header from Nunez on the end of Gakpo’s excellent right-wing cross. Nunez snapped his neck like a breaking shotgun and powered the header towards the top right but Leno soared to tip it over.

09:38 PM GMT

76 min: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

All Liverpool now. Nunez blazes over from a free-kick awarded for a trip on Bradley and then Jota jinks in from the right on to his left to smash a shot that whistles past the angle of post and bar.

09:36 PM GMT

74 min: Liverpool 2 Fulham 1

Fulham make their first changes:

Cairney ⇢ Willian

Wilson ⇢ Andreas

09:30 PM GMT


Liverpool 2-1 Fulham (Gakpo) Fulham paying the price of their profligacy. Jota goes down the left, squares it to Nunez who takes it to the byline and plays the perfect cut-back for Gakpo to sweep in his fourth of the competition.

Cody Gakpo of Liverpool scores their 2nd goal
Gakpo sweeps in Liverpool's second - Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

09:27 PM GMT


Liverpool 1-1 Fulham (Jones)  From the resulting corner Mac Allister’s dipping shot is turned behind by Leno for another on the right which Fulham initially see off. But Jota’s tenacity as he goes up with Palhinha allows him to win the ball and spin down the middle before passing to Jones who shoots from 22 yards. Tosin turns his back and the ball balloon off a spot between his shoulder blades and over Leno for the equaliser.

Jones shot is deflected in
Jones equalises - REUTERS/Carl Recine

09:26 PM GMT

65 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Mac Allister swings in a free-kick from the right that Robinson stoops to head. It rolls off his hair and strikes him on the arm. The Red Men want a penalty, as does the Kop ... but the referee isn’t persuaded.

09:24 PM GMT

63 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Marco Silva goes nuts on the touchline when Fulham beat Liverpool’s very high line and races through from halfway down the right. He pelts pretty straight to retain his advantage but instead of squaring it for Andreas who has edged ahead of Konate but played onside by Van Dijk, De Cordova-Reid shoots from a tight angle. Silva almost loses his wig.

09:21 PM GMT

61 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Make that a hat-trick of interceptions for Konate, this time thwarting De Cordova-Reid’s cross for Raul. Marco Silva can’t believe Jimenez was so static and from the resulting corner Raul tries a rabona like he did in the warm-up but makes a total horse of it.

09:19 PM GMT

59 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Konate twice saves Liverpool, first by holding up Raul on the break so that Gomez can get back to clear when the cross eventually comes in and then to read Andreas’ mind and stop a pass that would have put Willian in down the inside-left and one-one with Kelleher.

09:16 PM GMT

58 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Nunez ⇢ Elliott
Gakpo ⇢ Gravenberch.

Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez come on
On comes the artillery, Cody Gakpo and Darwin Nunez - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Liverpool switch to 2-1-3-4 when on the attack.

09:15 PM GMT

57 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Jota takes two touches when he receives the ball to the left of the D on the end of a nice one-two with Gravenberch. He was looking for some space but also allowed Fulham to scramble across and when he finally pulled the trigger Robinson threw a leg out to block.

09:13 PM GMT

55 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

The referee allows him to receive treatment but then, much to his frustration, orders him to go off the field for 30 seconds. Nunez and Gakpo are stripped and ready to come on.

09:12 PM GMT

53 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Willian, who a m oment earlier, felt he was shoved by Konate but it wasn’t given and when he stops arguing he gets back to take the ball off Robinson in a defensive position and put it out for a Liverpool corner with a misplaced pass.

Mac Allister tries a roundhouse half-volley from 20 yards from the corner but it hits Andreas Pereira who uses the opportunity, when the ball goes out, to clutch his back and play for time.

09:10 PM GMT

51 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Elliott lets fly from 25 yards and the ball deflects off Tosin and bobbles towards the back post where Jota is lurking but Castagne is in like Flynn to time the tackle perfectly and scramble it away.

09:08 PM GMT

49 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Exasperation reigns at Anfield. The crowd was hoping for a swarm from the kick-off but Liverpool continue to probe ... but they are on their feet when a Fulham counter breaks down and Liverpool work the ball to Gravenberch in the inside-left channel but he closes his ankle around a right foot shot from the left of the D and pulls it wide of the left post.

09:06 PM GMT

48 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Gravenberch gives the ball to Palhinha, wins it back then bobbles a right-foot shot from 20 yards past the right post.

09:04 PM GMT

46 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Reed is back out for the start of the second half and moving far more freely.

08:59 PM GMT

Reed needed lengthy treatment for a dead leg

And was a good four to five minutes late into the dressing room. He walked off eventually like the Tin Man. Wonder if he’ll be OK for the second half or whether they will have to turn to Tom Cairney?

08:54 PM GMT

Half-time: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Liverpool have had 69 per cent of the possession but Fulham have done a number on them on the counter-attack. The visitors have defended solidly, Tosin’s two made aberrations apart, and used Robinson’s pace as an outlet. Willian continues to roll back the years with his dribbling prowess and both Andreas and Palhinha have picked passes that could have led to goals.

The home side look rattled and out of sorts. Mac Allister may benefit from playing further ahead of Gravenberch. Jones has been their most dangerous player but there’s a sense that they are trying to force it around the box and lack ... well, Salah.

08:50 PM GMT

45+3 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Kelleher catches the cross that comes from the throw and bundles Reed over as he bowls the ball out. Liverpool race upfield on the counter and after some pinball in the box, Gomez whistles a 25-yarder past the post.

08:48 PM GMT

45+1 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Reed hounds Kelleher and causes some panic that results in a Fulham throw. Willian faces up Bradley down the left and the young full-back does well to hold him off for another throw.

08:45 PM GMT

44 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Klopp goes spare again when the referee whistles for a free-kick on Mac Allister instead of letting Diaz take it on when the ball ran his way.

08:44 PM GMT

43 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Anfield is getting restless as Fulham keep hitting Liverpool on the break, Andreas wobbling a shot, as he cut his foot across the ball to impart swerve and dip, at Kelleher. It swerved and dipped all right but ended up on roughly the same trajectory as it would have done had he laced it.

08:42 PM GMT

41 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

No wonder there is so much interest in Robinson. He has come of age and is consistently excellent as a flying left-back in the Marinho mould.

08:40 PM GMT

39 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Fulham get away down the left again and work a chance for De Cordova-Reid but he hesitates when invited to shoot  and has to settle for a corner as Diaz scoots across to work it behind.

08:38 PM GMT

37 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Mac Allister lamps the free-kick straight into the wall and Fulham break.

08:37 PM GMT

34 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Jones’ tenacity and close control earns him a corner on the left because he couldn’t quite shake off Castagne. Mac Allister gets two bites at it and the second one is swung deep and under the crossbar and Leno slaps it away. As Jimenez goes up to clear it upfield from 20 yards Diogo Jota, his former Molineux team-mate, puts his body between him and the ball and buys a free-kick.

That was all Tosin’s fault for giving the ball to Jones. Really lax and not for the first time.

08:34 PM GMT

31 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Van Dijk steps on Raul’s foot as he mistimes a tackle. Fulham think it should have meant a second yellow but the referee doesn’t and nor do I.

08:33 PM GMT

29 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Robinson is a gazelle and is finally given the right ball to show it down the left, speeding away from Bradley and sending over a cross that eludes the converging white shirts.

Willian celebrates
Willian capitalises on Van Dijk's error - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

08:28 PM GMT

26 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Surprise, surprise! Andreas Pereira makes a full recovery. From the free-kick, clipped from the inside-right to the back post. Three white shirts go for it but Tosin floats his header down Kelleher’s throat.

08:26 PM GMT

24 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Andreas makes a meal of Van Dijk’s hand in his face, hamming it up as he did Eskimo rolls on the pitch. Van Dijk is booked and Klopp goes Garrity and has to be told by the fourth official to simmer down.

Van Dijk is shown the yellow card
Van Dijk cannot believe flicking Andreas in the face with his hand accidentally warranted a booking - AP Photo/Jon Super

08:25 PM GMT

21 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 1

Liverpool almost get straight back in after Jota arcs a deep cross from the left to the right for Elliott who hooks his volley over from 10 yards. He was offside anyway so it didn’t matter.

08:20 PM GMT


Liverpool 0 Fulham 1 (Willian)  Mistake from Van Dijk when misjudging a header down the left of the defence. A bit of back and forth, no real threat, until De Cordova-Reid loops the ball to the Liverpool captain who lets it slide off his head under challenge from Raul, looking to lay it off inside rather than booming it clear. Andreas pounced and ran into the box before cutting a pass back to the spot. Willian traps it, puts Bradley on his backsoide, jumps over him, takes two strides to the right and wellies a shot between Van Dijk’s legs into the bottom right corner from six yards.

Willian scores
Willian exploits Van Dijk's mistake - AP Photo/Jon Super

08:19 PM GMT

17 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 0

Jota glides down the right of the box having been the beneficiary of another Fulham mistake. Mac Allister plays him in and he tacks towards the byline then hits a cross that is neither Arthur or Martha, barrelling through teh six-yard box too far in front of Diaz but not close enough to goal to be a shot. Klopp does his Rumpelstiltskin jig but then applauds the move.

08:16 PM GMT

15 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 0

Willian has a chance to put Robinson in behind Bradley with a diagonal but he gets his angles wrong and gives it straight to a red shirt.

08:15 PM GMT

13 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 0

Last night’s match took a while to get going. This is no different, which is the curse of the two-legged tie:

Elliott and Robinson vie for the ball
Elliott and Robinson vie for the ball - PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

08:11 PM GMT

11 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 0

Liverpool free-kick 40 yards out on the left of centre. Elliott stands up a chip but Gravenberch is penalised for a shove while the ball was still on its flightpath into the box.

08:10 PM GMT

9 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 0

Good move from Liverpool with Garvenberch spinning and leaving Reed behind before rolling it to Jones down the left of the box. He doubles back and switches to Elliott to the right of the D and after a couple of passes between him and Mac Allister as the crowd bellows’Shoot!’, Elliott dinks a lovely ball over Diop, looking for Bradley’s clever run but his cross is too close to Leno.

08:07 PM GMT

7 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 0

As Fulham go back to try to go forward again Tosing passes the ball straight to Jones 30 yards out and he gathers and darts diaginally down the inside right, broadening the angle a tad too much before thumping a shot that Leno easily smothers.

08:06 PM GMT

5 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 0

Diaz and Jones combine as Liverpool string some passes together, starting to lay siege to the last third while knocking the ball about with confidence … until Mac Allister rolls a pass straight to Reed and he feeds Raul to counter. But he makes the wrong call with a pass to the right rather than to Willian in space on the left.

08:04 PM GMT

3 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 0

Gomez has two throw-ins on the left in the space of 30 seconds and elects to go long with the second but Tosin heads it clear but neither side can hang on to the ball and it’s a case of winning it back and giving it back.

Elliott is booed by Fulham’s fans, the boyjood club he forsook for a move to Anfield. ‘It’s not right,’ says Don Goodman. Why isn’t it?

08:01 PM GMT

1 min: Liverpool 0 Fulham 0

Fulham kick off attacking the Spion Kop and work it back to Leno from an early throw on halfway as Liverpool bite into an aggressive press. Positively gegen.

07:58 PM GMT

Out come the players

Liverpool out of purple and into the red. Fulham, too, in their home kit.

07:57 PM GMT

Klopp's last thoughts

Conor Bradley is a good player, he is really impressive. Of course we trust him. We are pretty young on the bench but that’s how it is and it’s fine. We know what’s at stake, it’s important we make a proper game of it. It’s a really tough one and we have to make sure for them it is tough as well.

07:53 PM GMT

Marco Silva's pre-match thoughts

It is one of the most difficult tests in this country for sure. We have to be at the top level to be competitive but we have two players away at the African cup and one or two injuries. We have to try to get a result that gives us a chance to decide the game at home.

07:46 PM GMT

Raul Jimenez is not warming up but sizzling

07:43 PM GMT

Jurgen Klopp pays tribute to his friend Franz Becekenbauer who died on Monday

07:23 PM GMT

Five changes each from the FA Cup third-round victories

For Liverpool

Caoimhín Kelleher ⇢ Alisson
Conor Bradley ⇢ Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Virgil van Dijk ⇢ Jarell Quansah
Diogo Jota ⇢ Darwin Nunez  
Ryan Gravenberch ⇢ Cody Gakpo

Ryan Gravenberch
Ryan Gravenberch returns to the Liverpool starting XI - Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images

For Fulham

Bernd Leno ⇢ Marek Rodak
Antonee Robinson  Kenny Tete
Joao Palhinha ⇢ Harry Wilson
Willian ⇢ Rodrigo 
Raúl ⇢ Sasa Lukic

07:16 PM GMT

And now for those of you watching in black and white …

Liverpool  Kelleher; Bradley, Konate, Van Dijk, Gomez; Gravenberch, Mac Allister, Jones; Elliott, Jota, Diaz. 
Substitutes  Alisson, Nunez, Gakpo, Clark, Gordon, McConnell, Quansah, Nyoni, Beck.

Fulham  Leno; Castagne, Adarabioyo, Diop, Robinson; Reed, Joao Palhinha; De Cordova-Reid, Andreas Pereira, Willian, Jimenez. 
Substitutes  Rodak, Tete, Wilson, Cairney, Ream, Rodrigo Muniz, Lukic, Vinicius, Francois. 

Referee David Coote (Nottingham)

07:02 PM GMT

Leno, Palhinha, Willian and Raul back

07:01 PM GMT

Van Dijk returns for Liverpool

05:55 PM GMT

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05:47 PM GMT

Preview: Fulham venture into unknown territory

Good evening and welcome to live coverage of the first leg of the second League Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Fulham from Anfield. Liverpool, top of the Premier League and nine-time winners of the League/ Milk/ Littlewoods/ Rumbelows/ Coca-cola/ Worthington/ Carling/ Capital One/ EFL/ Carabao Cup, have played only three ties to get here, beating Championship leaders Leicester, Bournemouth and then mauling West Ham 5-1 in the quarters.

Fulham have played one tie more, sandwiching victories on  penalties over Spurs and here, across Stanley Park, against Everton, with dispatching the East Anglian Championship titans, Norwich and Ipswich.  Marco Silva’s side are 13th in the Premier League having beaten Arsenal on New Year’s Eve and were 2-3 up at Anfield in December with three minutes to go before Wataru Endo and Trent Alexander-Arnold burst their bubble.

Trent Alexander-Arnold
Trent Alexander-Arnold spanks in the late winner in the home league victory over Fulham but is out injured tonight - PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

This is the first time they have met in this competition since five ties encompassing nine games in a 17-year stretch from 1983-2000 which included a famous 10-0 walloping in 1986 when Steve McMahon (‘he sure can rap’) scored four. Liverpool prevailed in all of those ties and are odds-on to do so gain to end Fulham’s first ever venture into the semi-finals in a fortnight’s time at Craven Cottage. But Fulham did win at Anfield during Liverpool’s annus horribilis in the 2020-21 season when Mario Lemina fired the relegation-bound club to a 1-0 victory.

Liverpool welcome Virgil van Dijk back from illness but will be without Trent Alexander-Arnold, hurt at the Emirates on Sunday, bothorthodox left-backs, Andy Robertson and Kostas Tsimikas, Dominik Szoboszlai  and the three long-term absentees Stefan Bajcetic, Thiago Alcantara and Joel Matip. In addition Endo is in Qatar at the Asia Cup and Mohamed Salah is at Afcon with Egypt in Côte d’Ivoire where they start their campaign against Mozambique on Sunday. Fulham have only Adama Traore and Tim Ream as doubts but also have Calvin Bassey and Alex Iwobi away with Nigeria at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Silva points to that defeat in December as a lesson learnt and has emphasised the value of staying in the tie. “Game management is going to be really important during the next match against them at Anfield,” he said. “You know how Liverpool normally play at home, they are normally on the front foot, their home form has been brilliant this season. We have to understand the game to play there. At the same time, do it in the right balance, because we have a chance to have a second game at home to decide something.”

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