They are two points clear of Manchester City having played one game more. Beating relegation-doomed Fulham was expected but there was a dramatic twist as Liverpool’s former winger Ryan Babel scored, after a rare mistake by fellow Dutchman Virgil Van Dijk, to briefly draw them level.
There was a realisation, though, that Fulham were vulnerable down their right where Timothy Fosu-Mensah was making his first appearance in more than four months. It looked like it and his cause was not helped by the fact that, in front of him, Floyd Ayite was making his first league start of the season.
Twice already Trent Alexander-Arnold had sent long raking passes to switch play and find Andrew Robertson in far too much space but, this time, Robertson instigated it as he found Mane outside of him. The forward ran on and slipped a pass to Roberto Firmino who cleverly cut it back from the by-line.
With Adam Lallana wisely getting out of the way Mane continued his run to side-foot a first-time shot into the net. Liverpool probed again – and again down Fulham’s right with Robertson easily cutting in only for Rico to deny him. Unsurprisingly it was from that flank that they created their first opportunity of the second-half with Robertson standing up a cross that Gino Wijnaldum stretched to meet, only to head over – with Mohamed Salah waiting behind him.
Soon after Van Dijk made more meaningful contact with another cross, from the right, this time, from Fabinho only for Rico to push out his header.
Against the run of play Fulham had the ball in the net with Floyd Ayite directing Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s deflected shot but he was clearly offside and it was ruled out. Still they finally threatened with Ayite’s shot blocked and a follow-up by Zambo Anguissa, after he won back possession, held by Alisson.
Mane went close to adding his second when he rose to meet Alexander-Arnold’s corner with his flicked header clipping the top of the cross-bar but, remarkably, it was Fulham who scored.
Even as remarkable was the fact it followed a mistake by Van Dijk. Substitute Milner, who had just come on, sliced a clearance high into the air and Van Dijk tracked it back – only for his header back to Alisson to drop forward.
The goalkeeper tried to clear with Babel charging it down and then tapping it into the empty net. Liverpool were stung and hit back. After Rico had spilled Salah’s shot the goalkeeper foolishly pulled back Mane as he tried to collect the ball.
The penalty was given by referee Craig Pawson with Milner stepping up to coolly finish. Rico beat out a shot from Salah but he had already gifted Liverpool the win. SHARE THIS STORY USING ANY OF THE BUTTON BELOW ⬇ PLACE YOUR TEXT ADVERT BELOW ⬇⬇⬇