Liverpool 2-1 Fulham: Player ratings as Reds take narrow advantage in Carabao Cup semi-final

Liverpool 2-1 Fulham: Player ratings as Reds take narrow advantage in Carabao Cup semi-final

Liverpool had to come from behind to open up a narrow aggregate lead over Fulham in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday night.

Willian had given the Cottagers a surprise but not undeserved advantage in the first quarter of the game, but substitutions changed things for a Liverpool side missing Mohamed Salah to international duty and Trent Alexander-Arnold through injury.

Darwin Nunez was heavily involved off the bench as Curtis Jones and later Cody Gakpo turned the score-line on its head. Fulham also had a flurry of late saves from Bernd Leno to thank for Liverpool not getting out of sight and putting the tie to bed with the second leg still to come.

How the game unfolded

Liverpool began the game in full control, probing for an opening goal without creating a great deal in the way of chances. Curtis Jones forced Bernd Leno into a comfortable save from outside of the penalty area, while Diogo Jota also flashed a low effort across the box.

Liverpool had had nothing to defend against by the time Willian fired Fulham into a 19th minute lead. Virgil van Dijk was culpable for it, allowing Andreas Pereira to get into the box due to a weak header. From there, it broke to Willian and he kept his cool to skip past two challenges and fire in low.

With Liverpool unable to break down a resilient visiting defence, Fulham began to grow in confidence and adventure as the contest neared half-time. Antonee Robinson threatened to catch out Ibrahima Konate, while Caoimhin Kelleher needed safe hands to hold onto a drive from Pereira.

Determined to get back into the game, despite having the cushion of the second leg to come, Liverpool really pushed as the second half got underway. But there was potential for such a tactic to also go against them given the gaps that were being left as players piled forward.

Warning signs came and went as Bobby Decordova-Reid failed to gather in a pass from Willian that would have seen him go through on goal. Moments later, the Fulham winger was steaming down the right and opted to shoot from a narrow angle when squaring it to Pereira was the better option.

Liverpool had penalty appeals waved away when Robinson stooped to head away a free-kick, missing the ball that struck his arm instead. But they had their equaliser in fortuitous circumstances after Jota’s persistence kept the ball alive and Jones’ effort from 25 yards took a big deflection.

Jota was again involved when Gakpo put the Reds ahead with 20 minutes to go, finding the run of Nunez down the left. The Uruguayan’s instinctive cutback was then finished clinically.

Only an excellent save from Leno denied Nunez a Liverpool third from a looping header. The same player soon tried to power past Leno instead, whose palms were stung as he parried away. It was then a hat-trick of saves from the Fulham goalkeeper against Nunez, making himself as big as possible as the ball was whipped in by Conor Bradley and just getting his legs in the way.

Substitutions were a turning point for Liverpool / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

GK: Caoimhin Kelleher – 6/10 – For all that Fulham were the better team for a chunk of the game, only made a handful of fairly comfortable saves.

RB: Conor Bradley – 7/10 – Thrust into the starting XI in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s absence but seemed determined to make the most of his opportunity. Impressed overall.

CB: Ibrahima Konate – 6/10 – Not a particuarly commanding first half from a defensive perspective. Better in the second half when Liverpool started to exert more control.

CB: Virgil van Dijk (c) – 5/10 – Won’t be pleased with his role in Fulham’s first half goal. Perhaps also lucky to avoid a second yellow card in the first half for a late challenge under the referee’s nose.

LB: Joe Gomez – 6/10 – Racked up his 200th Liverpool appearance. Didn’t offer much going forward.

CM: Ryan Gravenberch – 5/10 – Looked to progress the ball forward in midfield transitions but often found the door shut in his face in Fulham territory.

CM: Alexis Mac Allister – 6/10 – Didn’t have that much influence on the game.

CM: Curtis Jones – 8/10 – Never scared of shooting and got his reward through persistence.

RW: Harvey Elliott – 5/10 – Booed by the visiting fans as a former Fulham player. Sacrificed early in the second half for more attackers.

ST: Diogo Jota – 9/10 – A livewire from the early stages. Won’t get a stats boost for it, but played key roles in both the equaliser and the go-ahead goal.

LW: Luis Diaz – 5/10 – Quiet and a bit too safe.


SUB: Cody Gakpo (56′ for Gravenberch) – 8/10 – Clinical in the box when it really mattered.

SUB: Darwin Nunez (56′ for Elliott) – 8/10 – Two assists within 15 minutes of coming on.

Subs not used: Alisson (GK), Quansah, Nyoni, Beck, Clark, Gordon, McConnell


Jurgen Klopp – 8/10 – Threw caution to the wind in the second half with the number of attackers he had on the field. But the plan worked as the substitutes made a massive impact.

Willian unexpectedly put Fulham ahead / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

GK: Bernd Leno – 8/10 – Busier as the night progressed and made seveal really good saves that have kept Fulham in the tie for the second leg.

RB: Timothy Castagne – 7/10 – Handled Diaz on that side of the pitch pretty well.

CB: Tosin Adarabioyo – 5/10 – Too casual on the ball at times. Also turned his back on Jones’ shot that ended up deflecting into the net to equalise.

CB: Issa Diop – 7/10 – Strong in his tackles and aerial battles.

LB: Antonee Robinson – 7/10 – Another referee might have given a penalty for his inadvertent handball, but it doesn’t detract from his energetic performance.

CM: Joao Palhinha – 7/10 – Repelled Liverpool repeatedly in the first half in particular.

CM: Harrison Reed (c) – 6/10 – Looked on the stroke of half-time he might not be returning after the break but was able to reappear. Started to get a little overrun as Liverpool improved.

RM: Bobby Decordova-Reid – 7/10 – Showed plenty of endeavour at both ends of the pitch. Better decision-making could have resulted in Fulham going 2-0 up at one stage.

AM: Andreas Pereira – 7/10 – Put pressure on Van Dijk to help make the opening goal. But his overreaction to a hand in the face from the same player a bit later on was embarrassing.

LM: Willian – 7/10 – Showed all his experience and composure to put Fulham ahead. Put in a hard shift off the ball too.

ST: Raul Jimenez – 6/10 – Didn’t see an awful lot of the ball in open play but tried to put Liverpool’s centre-backs under pressure as best he could.


SUB: Harry Wilson (73′ for Willian) – 5/10

SUB: Tom Cairney (73′ for Pereira) – 5/10

SUB: Sasa Lukic (83′ for Reed) – N/A

Subs not used: Rodak (GK), Ream, Tete, Francois, Vinicius, Muniz


Marco Silva – 7/10 – Things were going perfectly for an hour, but he didn’t have a response to Liverpool overloading the pitch with forwards.

Player of the match – Diogo Jota (Liverpool)


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