Gravenberch and Jota keep Liverpool in title race with victory at Fulham

Klopp’s team move level on points with Arsenal ahead of Wednesday’s derby at Everton

Premier League: Fulham 1 Liverpool 3

Liverpool discovered their shooting boots by the Thames, and in doing so kept the three-way title race alive. Only a win would do if Jürgen Klopp was to retain serious hope of a spectacular send-off, and it looked in serious doubt when Timothy Castagne equalised Trent Alexander-Arnold’s sumptuous free kick as half time loomed.

A heavily rotated side needed to come back out firing and did exactly what Klopp would have demanded, scoring through Ryan Gravenberch and Diogo Jota before locking the remainder down. They move level on points with Arsenal ahead of Wednesday’s derby at Goodison Park.

Klopp had made five changes, loading his bench with attacking power and hoping a freshening-up might shake off the profligacy that had been costly over the previous fortnight. Within three minutes it was clear things might not be so simple: Luiz Díaz should probably have scored, or left the ball for a better placed Cody Gakpo, after attacking Alexander-Arnold’s cross but his header skidded wide and Fulham were allowed to consolidate.

The hosts could operate with freedom, comfortably safe but knowing a positive result would help their chances of at least matching last season’s 10th place. Alex Iwobi, presumably being cheered by his previous employers Arsenal and Everton for different reasons, caused brief alarm with a diagonal run but misplaced his pass. Another Iwobi incursion had the end product of a corner and, shortly afterwards, Andreas Pereira’s free kick was unwittingly hooked clear by his own team-mate Tosin Adarabioyo.


Liverpool’s threat mostly stemmed from Díaz, whose darting runs looked too sharp for Antonee Robinson. Sprung clear in the 23rd minute by a precise Alexander-Arnold pass, he clipped a centre that Jota could only scuff wide at the near post. Perhaps a fully match-fit Jota, starting for the first time since sustaining a knee injury at Brentford two months ago, would have converted.

There were jeers from the crowd when Harvey Elliott, reminded of his Fulham past at every opportunity, tried to outfox the wall with a low free kick but saw a tame attempt blocked. The setpiece had been conceded by João Palhinha and, given Alexander-Arnold had joined Elliott in standing over the ball, the Portuguese might have considered himself lucky.

He used up any good fortune within moments. This time Palhinha felled Jota in an even more promising position left of the “D”, earning a yellow card. It was immediately clear Alexander-Arnold would take charge now: a chance from this range is virtually a penalty kick for him. Right on cue his finish was whipped, curled and dipped beyond Bernd Leno’s dive for a picture book end to Liverpool’s recent drought.

Gakpo, seizing the mood, forced an acrobatic tip-over from Leno almost immediately. Liverpool could have killed proceedings off but instead Fulham, never a pushover under Marco Silva, were allowed to regain a foothold and it said little for the visitors’ game management that the equaliser had been signposted.

Rodrigo Muniz had already shot at Alisson from an angle after sharp work from Iwobi, an effort quickly followed by a Pereira free kick that Fulham claimed the keeper had tipped over. They were ending the first half strongly and Liverpool did not heed the warning. When a Robinson cross reached Iwobi beyond the far post, Muniz’s header from the resulting dink back into the six-yard box was blocked by Jarell Quansah. In swept Castagne to sidefoot firmly past Alisson, picking some moment to open his account for Fulham.

How would Liverpool respond? Elliott had the chance to silence his detractors five minutes after the interval but, to a predictable response, scraped well wide. But Gravenberch went one better from their next serious attack and the finish was a peach. Iwobi had to take a degree of blame, his overambitious cross field pass being cut out by Elliott and recycled into the midfielder’s path. Gravenberch was 22 yards out and had a pocket of space to size up a shot that was weighted beautifully beyond a full-stretch Leno.

Surely Liverpool would not make the same errors twice. Jota blasted at Leno from close range on the hour after an extensive spell of pressure; then Gakpo, who had come alive, squandered a strong run by finishing weakly. For the first time all afternoon they were in complete control, Fulham reduced to hacking and slicing their way out of trouble.

Calvin Bassey almost steered into his own net before Gakpo again tested Leno. A third goal seemed inevitable and Jota added it after more good work from Gravenberch and, latterly, Gakpo. It was Gakpo who, via a ricochet off Adarabioyo, could slide through for Jota to slip a low shot past Leno from an angle on the left. Leno should probably have got a stronger hand to the ball but Liverpool did not care.

Klopp could introduce Mohamed Salah and Darwin Núñez as the clock wound down; destiny may yet smile his way.

– Guardian