Liverpool 2-1 Fulham
League Cup semi-final first leg; Anfield
January 10, 2024
Goals: Jones 67′, Gakpo 70′; Willian 20′
Caoimhin Kelleher – 7 (out of 10)
Beaten at the near post for the opener, but it was fiercely struck and from close range and through Van Dijk’s legs – the goal was much more about defensive ineptitude than the goalkeeper this time.
Decent on coming out to close down and aerial claims, while his footwork was fine throughout. Decent save low to his right from De Cordova-Reid.
Conor Bradley – 9
Lost his footing in the lead-up to the goal and a few times was skinned by left-back Antonee Robinson, who has lightning pace, but generally dealt well with Willian in one-v-ones and got forward fearlessly which was important as we sought a route back into the game.
Never afraid to take on his man and won a few dangerous free-kicks. But it was his defensive tenacity which we needed tonight and he kept that up throughout, notably tackling back four or five times in one attempted Fulham attack down his flank in the final 15 minutes.
Excellent to run the course, with Klopp and his staff regularly checking if he was okay to continue.
Won six out of six tackles.
Ibrahima Konate – 9
In a rich vein of form just now, the Frenchman. His recovery pace and strength was called upon several times, both in the channel as the covering man and also centrally against direct passes.
Good in the air, passed out well, carried it into the Fulham half to push the Reds on.
Virgil van Dijk – 6
Perhaps the lingering after effects of illness? Sluggish and lacking his usual assertive self, shown up most horribly in the first-half goal.
Van Dijk bounced a header rather than clearing it, then failed to make a tackle and finally didn’t block the resulting shot – and these were far from his only shortcomings before the interval.
Certainly not as influential as we’d expect. This 10-day break will do him good.
Joe Gomez – 7
Did his bit in both halves of the pitch, linking nicely and alert against the counters.
Probably thought he’d left his left-back regular days behind him about eight years ago but here he is surging on and trying 30-yard half-volleys and crosses from the outside.
They don’t all come off but he lets nobody down.
Alexis Mac Allister – 7
With Szoboszlai, Salah and Alexander-Arnold all missing, the Argentine needed to be a creative spark for Liverpool and to be fair in the first half he looked it.
Some incisive passes and a willingness to progress play quickly, but perhaps naturally after injury, he tired fairly fast and had a lot of ground to cover against the counter-attacks from super deep, which is draining.
Defensively, often passed around until the change to a two-man midfield
Ryan Gravenberch – 6
More of the same, unfortunately.
A few flashes of promise and moments which might be great – a second-half take-on and dragged shot wide an example – but too often he’s bypassed, too easily he is beaten in the challenge.
Not a surprise when he was subbed off. Won just two of his 12 duels.
Curtis Jones – 8
Plenty of industry and no shortage of inspiration either, one of the players who tried to take the game to the Cottagers and raise the tempo whenever possible.
The problems came when he tried too many turns and dribbles inside his own defensive third, losing possession more than once in dangerous areas and failing to beat their press.
But who cares: he found the breakthrough, a fierce left-footed strike which flicked a defender and flew in. That’s what was needed, he found it.
Harvey Elliott – 7
Looked frustrated to come off around the hour mark but was in and out of the game in truth, occasionally excellent with finding spaces and exchanging passes, but too often not able to impact and affect play where it really mattered.
Hasn’t been able to impact from the start as well as he has at times off the bench but still playing an important role and there’s more to come.
Really not sure he’s a winger!
Diogo Jota – 9 – Man of the match
Tempting to give him a ten purely on the basis of the fight and perseverance he showed to force the equaliser out of nothing. Won the ball, turned away into space, won another tackle to ricochet it through to a teammate and seconds later it was in.
Should have scored himself at least twice after fashioning openings through dummies, feints to shoot and general trickery but a lack of a goal this time doesn’t diminish his performance.
This is the Jota we haven’t seen for two years really, incisive and dangerous, fast over short distances and tough as nails.
Luis Diaz – 7
Sparky and ferocious, rapid and determined.
But didn’t really do too much with it, in truth. Very hard-working and very much part of the build-up play, but little opportunity to finish off or lay on chances and his biggest impact was maybe a last-ditch clearance at the far post with Fulham threatening a second.
Darwin Nunez (on for Elliott, 58′) – 9 – Passed to Jones to assist the first, a good run and cut-back to more properly assist our second. Almost headed in a great effort then nearly broke Leno’s hand with a cannon on the angle. And, of course, shot straight at the keeper from five yards.
Cody Gakpo (on for Gravenberch, 58′) – 8 – Maybe his best finish so far – a first-time, spinning finish from outside the post. A good cross and good through ball for Darwin’s two shots.
Subs not used: Alisson, Quansah, Beck, McConnell, Nyoni, Clark, Gordon
Jurgen Klopp – 9
Perhaps questions over one or two of his starters, though as usual it’s easy to say that after the event and there was reason to go with each of them over another.
More pertinently, Klopp again made the right subs at the right time and got a tune out of them – a double sub in fact produced two assists and a goal between them.
More vital, though, was the change to a 4231 formation.
Considering a lot of his first 45 minutes was spent berating every official he could lay eyes on – and with good reason, often enough – it was good to see we still had the presence of mind in the dressing room to calm matters at the break and get the team back on an attacking footing with a clearer plan.
Klopp more than anyone will know this is only half the job though and will have seen enough to be very wary in the second leg.