Football Features

Klopp works his substitute magic again as Liverpool come from behind vs Fulham

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:24, 10 January 2024

Liverpool were once again thankful to their substitutes as they came from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 in their EFL Cup semi-final first leg.

A lot of the focus for Liverpool this month was losing Salah to the Africa Cup of Nations, and a further blow was suffered as Trent Alexander-Arnold was ruled out for a few weeks due to injury.

In the first half against Fulham, their absences were really felt, with Liverpool struggling in front of goal. They had struggled in their FA Cup win over Arsenal at the weekend, only taking the lead through an own goal before getting their second on the counter-attack.

Against the Cottagers, Liverpool had six shots in the first half but only hit the target once, with four of their efforts blocked. To make matters worse, they went into the break behind due to a bit of a defensive mistake.

It came from Virgil van Dijk, whose misjudged header gave Fulham the ball inside the Liverpool box. Andreas Pereira passed the ball to Willian, who evaded a challenge from young Conor Bradley before finishing through the legs of Van Dijk and goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher.

Willian has become a bit of a bane for Liverpool, scoring four goals against the Reds in his career, only netting more in his career against Stoke. It was only the second time this season that Liverpool had trailed at half-time at Anfield, after also being 1-0 down against Leicester in the third round of the EFL Cup.

Of course, Liverpool went on to win that game, but for some time it didn’t look like the Reds were going to turn this one around. Fulham had a couple of chances to make it 2-0, including one from Bobby Decordova-Reid where he shot instead of making an easier pass across goal that should have guaranteed doubling the lead.

Fulham stepping things up forced Jurgen Klopp to change things just before the hour mark, bringing Darwin Nunez and Cody Gakpo on for Ryan Gravenberch and Harvey Elliott. And it was Nunez who set up Curtis Jones’ equaliser.

There was good fortune with the strike, as Jones’ effort from outside the box deflected off Tosin Adarabioyo, wrong-footing Bernd Leno. Just a few minutes later, Liverpool went 2-1 up. Again Nunez was involved, cutting the ball back to his fellow substitute Gakpo to coolly finish.

Gakpo is the first player to score in four consecutive EFL Cup games for Liverpool since Vladimir Smicer in 2000/01. That second goal killed Fulham, and they didn’t really look like fighting back on the night. It was the seventh time Liverpool have won a match despite conceding the first goal in all competitions this season, the most of any side in England’s top four tiers.

It also means Liverpool are now unbeaten in their last 24 games at Anfield, including 16 this season, since a 5-2 Champions League defeat to Real Madrid last February.

And Gakpo hailed the mentality of his teammates in turning the result around.

“I think it’s the mentality in the group, in the club,” he told Sky Sports.

“I think in the city, everybody is like this. Mentality, just keep going, doesn’t matter what happens. And I think we showed it again today.

“And if you’ve got that mentality a lot of beautiful things can happen.”