Darwin Núñez’s influence was nearly rapid. Until his arrival six minutes into the second half, Liverpool had been listless, often crushed to the punch by Fulham. The Uruguayan, direct, speedy and hungry, quickly had the promoted group on the again foot. The £85m man’s first Premier League objective, a sensible back-heel, got here inside quarter-hour of his introduction and he additionally performed his half in Mohamed Salah’s objective to rescue a 2-2 draw.
The day belonged to a different striker, too. Aleksandar Mitrovic, coming off 43 Championship targets final season and attempting to buck the popularity of being in need of Premier League class, scored twice. The first was a trademark header, the second a penalty transformed after a foul by a fox, lunging Virgil van Dijk, to recommend that the Serb – and Fulham – could belong within the prime division.
This was the primary time Fulham had prevented defeat within the opening recreation of a top-flight season after profitable promotion, which is an efficient signal – because it was a efficiency roared on by an appreciative residence crowd.
Drawing the opening match of the season isn’t any catastrophe for Liverpool however Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold struggling and an assault blunted till Núñez’s arrival should concern Jürgen Klopp. Jordan Henderson hit the bar within the closing seconds however this was most undoubtedly an escape. “The perspective was not proper to start with,” stated Klopp.
Trouble was coming from the opening seconds when Mitrovic was given area to fireside previous Alisson’s left submit. He may need carried out much better however that may not be his final likelihood.
Fulham squeezed Liverpool in midfield from that second on, making their opponents look woozy, distracted, their frustrations mirrored by Alisson angrily clanking a clearance into the decrease tier of the brand new Riverside Stand.
“The result’s high-quality, I do not assume we deserved greater than that, however the efficiency was massively unbelievable,” Klopp stated.
It took till the fifteenth minute for Liverpool to mount a correct assault and Salah’s first try on objective of the season was a header that went horribly large after he misplaced his bearings.
Until making sweeping modifications within the second half, Klopp’s choice had echoed the previous Bill Shankly idiom of “similar as final season”, with Roberto Firmino probably the most central attacker and Luis Díaz coming in from the left of the trident. But moderately than well-oiled, Liverpool regarded rusty
Marco Silva’s strategy to choice was not dissimilar, however way more profitable. Two new signings in João Palhinha and Andreas Pereira had been launched, each in midfield. The continuity allowed Fulham to aim to do to Liverpool what they did to Championship opponents final season: blow them away from kick-off. A courageous technique had the specified impact.
“We confirmed unbelievable group from the start to the tip,” stated Silva. “Our first half was nearly excellent, the best way we managed and labored.”
Joël Matip and Van Dijk got a heavy workload by Mitrovic whereas Andy Robertson’s and Alexander-Arnold’s attacking particulars had been curbed by the runs of Bobby Decordova-Reid and Neeskens Kebano, in addition to the passing of the busy, spectacular Pereira.
The transfer for Mitrovic’s first objective was began by Pereira, earlier than Reid and Kebano despatched away Kenny Tete to cross from the correct. Alexander-Arnold, on the again submit, had no reply to Mitriovic’s energy and goalscorer’s intuition. Questions towards the Englishman’s defending might be raised once more, though Silva was comfortable handy the credit score to his striker.
“Mitro isn’t just targets and if someone thinks that they’ll overlook it,” Silva stated. “The job he did this afternoon for the group, his stress, his serving to the midfield and serving to the backline, it will have been sufficient even when he hadn’t scored.”
As Klopp jogged to the dressing room at half-time he had a number of issues, compounded when Thiago pulled up with a muscle damage quickly after the restart. In got here the previous Fulham participant Harvey Elliott, with Klopp additionally selecting to introduce Núñez as a substitute of Firmino to make that near-instant influence.
Núñez’s flicked objective was preceded by the same try that was effectively saved by Marek Rodak. A deft contact from the rampaging substitute additionally helped Salah rating the second equalizer, the Egyptian’s sixth successive objective on opening weekends. Salah’s position in Núñez’s objective additional steered a partnership which will quickly consign Sadio Mané to historical past, salvaging additional consolation for Liverpool to associate with avoiding defeat.
This was a extremely entertaining minor traditional that left Klopp involved and Silva elated, as two strikers introduced themselves on the Premier League stage.