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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Craven Cottage

Fulham fall agonisingly short as Liverpool dash dream of a first League Cup final

Carabao Cup semi-final second leg

Fulham (0) 1 Diop 77

Liverpool (1) 1 Diaz 11

Aggregate: 2-3

There is to be no dream showdown with Chelsea at Wembley then. Just a slight sense of regret at what might have been.

The Whites gave up control of the tie for most of it after shedding an early goal, but after drawing level, they raised hopes that they might yet take it to extra-time. Close, but not quite enough.

The hand-out flags were waving with unbridled enthusiasm before kick-off and Whites fans were praying they would not be portents of surrender.

It was never going to be a case of that, but their team did not quite seize the occasion. Indeed for the most part, they seemed strangely cowed by it and only belatedly came alive to threaten the dominant Reds.

Any early optimism generated by a spiced-up atmosphere, and an early volley from Joao Palhinha at a corner that just cleared the bar, was soon punctured.

We had only been playing 11 minutes when the difficult task of overhauling the 2-1 first leg defeat became even more onerous as Luis Diaz put the Reds ahead.

The Colombian was picked out many times during the first half out on the left by long balls played from deep and when Jarell Quansah launched another bomb into his orbit, the winger got up highest, outmuscling Timothy Castagne to clear a path to goal, that ended in a shot creeping past Bernd Leno and into the bottom corner.

There was a slight deflection off Palhinha which did not help the Fulham goalkeeper's cause, but there is no disguising the fact he was badly at fault.

This was no time to be giving Jurgen Klopp's men a helping hand.

That setback undoubtedly rocked the home side - and the previous boisterous home fans. Suddenly, they were very much subdued. The boos aimed at Fulham-defector Harvey Elliott didn't even seem to carry quite as much venom as in the first leg at Anfield.

It seemed to take an age for the Whites to shake off their sense of inferiority but they began to sense they might yet change the narrative.

When Tosin went up for a high ball with Reds keeper Caoimhin Kelleher, the ball ran loose and wide to Andreas Pereira, who crashed a shot against the near post from a narrow angle.

Leno went some way towards atoning for his error with a fine spring to his left to turn aside a Darwin Nunez curler - keeping the Whites alive in the tie.

It proved significant as Fulham drew level on the night with 13 minutes left of regulation time when sub Harry Wilson got the better of youngster Conor Bradley down the left and his cross was nudged in by Issa Diop, getting in ahead of Virgil van Dijk.

It was quite the mood changer. Wilson almost levelled up the aggregate score with a low shot that Kelleher only just scrambled down to turn aside and the decibel count rose.

In the end, Fulham ran out of time - perhaps wishing they had started the encounter the way they approached it late on in the second half. Perhaps they showed too much respect to their famed opponents. But they still came very close to an upset.

Whites: (4-2-3-1) Leno - Castagne (Tete 83), Tosin, Diop, Robinson - Palhinha, Cairney (Reed 84) - Decordova-Reid (Wilson 67), Pereira (Muniz 83), Willian

Liverpool: (4-3-3) Kelleher - Bradley, Quansah, van Dijk, Gomez - Gravenberch (Clark 84), Mac Allister (Jones 67), Elliott - Gakpo (Konate 84), Nunez (Jota 67), Diaz

Attendance: 24,320


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