What is it with away games this season?
We can blame the pandemic all we want, the condensed schedule and the many injuries surely play a role (can you believe Jota is now out too?!), but to be perfectly honest, something else is happening, because all those impact home games as well. When the team travels, its performance clearly drops, rather noticeably so. Take Joel Matip for example; with the greatest of hopes that it wasn’t reflective of an injury, the big man simply wasn’t there today, and if it weren’t for the Brazilian playing behind him, this could have turned into another Villa disaster.
It might have anyway, if Fulham weren’t somewhat naive. That first half was, to me, the worst from Liverpool thus far this season. And let me clear this out of the way now; our keeper was man-of-the-match, as he single-, err, dual- handedly kept the Reds in the game.
The lack of away conquer-ability certainly doesn’t seem unique to the Liverpool, and it makes for a more exciting league overall, but we may well come to rue these dropped points come May. Still, to give credit where it’s due: the Cottagers earned their point, and may themselves rue the two they dropped on the kind of penalty that before this season and its tweaked handball rules would likely not have been given.
Decordova-Reid’s strike was a peach, he really couldn’t have hit it any sweeter. He also should never have been given that ball, but when it is Salah on whom our backline is depending over and again for crucial clearances, something like that was bound to happen. Mo himself could have snagged an equalizer right before half time, and had he done that, it might have broken Fulham’s morale, but in an unlikely moment for him, he failed to connect properly in the kind of position where he is typically devastating. Thankfully, he did better with the spot-kick to tie the game, a goal that reflected a much better second-half performance from the merseysiders.
The surprising scoreline hides another surprise within it, and that is the impact of VAR on the game. For only the second time this season, ref Andrew Mariner went to look at the sideline monitor, and decided to stick with his original decision to not award a penalty to Fulham after an almost too-perfectly timed tackle by Fabinho. It would be curious to know whether this is part of the modifications the league is trying to implement in how VAR operates with the “clear and obvious error” push, and we might see less overturned split-hair decisions as a result. If so, I think the players, fans, and coaches would welcome it.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one absolutely glorious moment from youngster Curtis Jones, who almost pulled a Maradona. It was hard to keep counting how many players he went by or through as he ran more than half the pitch only to position himself almost on the penalty spot, merely having to pick which corner of the goal to sink the ball into. Alas, in the end his couldn’t put the laces through the ball, and gave Areola a chance to keep a point home, a chance he promptly took with both hands.
One thing this result ensures is the game against Spurs is going to be pretty epic. At least that one’s at Anfield.