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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at Craven Cottage

Mitro double helps Fulham make significant statement as Liverpool are held


Fulham (1) 2 Mitrovic 32, pen 72

Liverpool (0) 2 Nunez 64, Salah 81

Aleksandar Mitrovic carried on where he left off from his record-breaking season in the Championship to give Fulham a near-perfect start on their return to Premier League action.


The Serb was a flop last time they were in the division, as were the supine Whites, but this could prove to be altogether more robust effort from the Cottagers, on this evidence.


They had to settle for a draw after twice taking the lead, but that is no mean result against as accomplished a team as Liverpool. If the Reds were well below par, much of that was because the Whites were so at it.


Fulham fans who have the painful memory of how they were bullied into submission when they were last among the elite two seasons ago will be mightily encouraged.


There is always a danger of drawing too many conclusions of one impressive 90 minutes, but they look determined not to be mere whipping boys this time around.


The way they set about Liverpool – a team with quadruple ambitions until the final weeks of last season, was so promising.


They harried and closed down spaces as if there was no tomorrow – winning turnovers and making Jurgen Klopp’s men look pedestrian as they struggled for breathing space.


Apart from one Luis Dias shot against an upright late on in the opening half, the first 45 minutes emphatically belonged to Marco Silva’s men. Newcomers Andreas Pereira and Joao Palhinha looked sharp and in the mood for a fight.


Their reward for the phenomenal effort was a lead given to them by who else but Mitrovic – a man determined to prove that this time, he will be a force in the Premier League.


The Serb had already poked a low shot just wide of the far post after seizing on a wayward pass – again the result of Fulham’s non-stop pressure on men in possession – when he rose above Trent Alexander-Arnold to power in a far post header.


Kenny Tete, overlapping Neeskens Kebano, was the supplier of the cross from the right which Mitrovic relished bundling home.


Liverpool switched Darwin Nunez for Roberto Firmino and former Fulham man Harvey Elliott came on for an injured Thiago to resounding catcalls from home fans, who do not forget the manner of his exit to Anfield. By contrast, Fabio Carvalho – one of the stars of last year’s promotion - was greeted warmly when he came on.


The changes did not immediately shift the momentum and Kebano came within a whisker of doubling the lead with an angled shot across Alisson which cannoned back off the inside of the far post.


But soon after, Elliott’s fine ball into space allowed Mo Salah all the room he needed to pop in a telling cross for Nunez to clip in at the near post, as he got in ahead of the shadowing Tosin.


Fulham then came under the cosh as the Reds looked to shift the balance of power 180 degrees, only for Mitrovic to come good again – winning a penalty off Virgil van Dijk’s missed flick at the ball and then tucking low to Alisson’s left from the spot.


The goal deflated the visitors but they levelled it up when Alexander-Arnold's cross from the right flicked off the head of Tim Read to Nunez, who, more by luck than judgement, rolled the ball back for Salah to tap in.


Jordan Henderson rattled the crossbar late on for the Reds, but Silva’s men were fully deserving of their opening day point.


Whites: (4-2-3-1) Rodak – Tete, Tosin, Ream, Robinson – Reed, Palhinha - Decordova-Reid (Duffy 90), Pereira (Cairney 89), Kebano (Soloman 65) – Mitrovic. Subs not used: Leno, Muniz, Mbabu, Francois, Harris, Stansfield


Reds: (4-3-3) Alisso – Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson – Henderson, Fabinho (Milner 59), Thiago (Elliott 51) – Salah, Firmino (Nunez 51), Diaz (Carvalho 78). Subs not used: Adrian, Gomez, Bajcetic, van den Berg, Chambers

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