Liverpool take League Cup semi-final lead over Fulham
LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom (AFP) – Liverpool produced another comeback after conceding first to take a 2-1 lead over Fulham into the second leg of their League Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
Willian fired the visitors in front in their first-ever League Cup semi-final at Anfield.
But two goals in three second-half minutes from Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo gave the Reds a slender advantage ahead of the second leg at Craven Cottage on January 24.
Jurgen Klopp’s men have now fallen behind in 14 games this season, but have won seven of those matches and lost just three.
“It’s the mentality in the group, in the club, in the city. Everybody is like this,” said Gakpo.
“Just keep going no matter what happens. We showed it again today. If you’ve got that mentality, a lot of beautiful things can happen.”
Liverpool were without Mohamed Salah due to his participation at the Africa Cup of Nations, while Trent Alexander-Arnold was among a number of injury absentees and it showed in a sluggish first half.
Fulham could not have wished for a better start when Willian opened the scoring on 19 minutes.
Virgil van Dijk was twice at fault as his weak header was pounced on by Andreas Pereira.
Willian then got the break of the ball inside the penalty area before firing through Van Dijk’s legs beyond Caoimhin Kelleher.
Fulham were left to curse their fortune after the break, but the visitors were architects of their own downfall for not taking the chance to extend their lead.
Klopp left his midfield wide open as he threw on Gakpo and Darwin Nunez to form a front four alongside Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota.
But before the home side turned the game around, Fulham had multiple opportunities to pick them off on the counter-attack.
Bobby De Cordova-Reid wasted the best of them when he forced Kelleher into a comfortable save with Pereira and Raul Jimenez begging for a cross.
“Second half we had really good moments, we should have scored another goal at least,” said Fulham Manager Marco Silva.
Liverpool were struggling to make their numbers in attacking areas count until Jones’ long-range effort deflected off the unfortunate Tosin Adarabioyo and beyond the helpless Bernd Leno.
Moments later the record nine-time League Cup winners led.
The substitutes combined as Nunez’s low cross was turned home by Gakpo at the near post.
But Leno then won his personal duel with Nunez three times in the final 20 minutes to keep Fulham in the tie.
Liverpool remain the strong favourites to reach the Wembley final against either Middlesbrough or Chelsea next month.
However, Fulham do have hope with home advantage to come in the second leg.