What a needlessly stressful game. Liverpool beat relegation-destined Fulham 2-1 to return the top of the Premier League but needed an 81st-minute error from Cottagers goalkeeper, Sergio Rico to do so.
The on-fire Sadio Mané scored his 11th goal in 11 games to open the scoring before former Red, Ryan Babel capitalized on a defensive mixup to draw level late (narrative!) to ratchet the hearts of Liverpool supporters into their mouths. Thankfully, substitute James Milner slotted in a penalty for the final margin but it all summed up to a labored performance against the worst defense in Europe’s top-five leagues.
Jürgen Klopp had noted his side had only been able to train once in the build up following their massive Champions League victory over Bayern Munich on Wednesday, noting in his post-match comments that the lack of pitch time showed:
“We started really well and did a lot of good things but lost the rhythm a bit. I am not the most experienced manager and I have similar problems after Champions League games,” Klopp told Sky Sports.
“First half a bit rusty. Second half we could have finished it off and then it is clear at 1-0 if you don’t kill it off that can happen. Babel was there that is how football is. They deserved a goal but we deserved three points. A brilliant afternoon I have to say.”
While that last bit is probably a stretch, it is true that at this point in the season, it is only the result that matters as the Reds head into the final international break ahead of Manchester City in the table by two points but having played a game more. It makes for a nervy run-in with only seven games remaining, but the German manager reiterated his full confidence in his side:
“I am not in any doubt about my players’ nerves. It is about intensity. We go for perfection but it is rare that you get it. Burnley, Munich, Fulham—you have to adapt,” Klopp continued citing recent grind-it-out results his side have secured. “People will say we need to be more convincing, but we are at the start of a development, not the end.”