Fulham hit by painful Deja vu in Liverpool loss but Carabao Cup glory still in reach

A first-ever League Cup semi-final may be uncharted territory for Fulham, but Wednesday night’s first leg against Liverpool gave them a painful hit of Deja vu.

Holding a lead which had Anfield ruffled and restless, Fulham conceded two quick-fire goals in the second half which means it is advantage Liverpool going into the second leg.

This was a remarkably similar match to the goal fest between these two teams here in the Premier League last month, when Fulham led 3-2 until the 87th minute before Jurgen Klopp’s side again scored twice in no time to come out on top.

Fulham manager Marco Silva was disappointed by his side’s drop-off in the second half on Wednesday, when they squandered possession and Liverpool took advantage. But he knows Fulham are alive ahead of the return fixture at Craven Cottage in a fortnight.

Celebrations: Willian gave Fulham a shock first-half lead against Liverpool at Anfield (PA)
Celebrations: Willian gave Fulham a shock first-half lead against Liverpool at Anfield (PA)

“We definitely still have something to play for,” Silva said. “We have our ambition to be at Wembley. We are going to fight for what we want.”

Among Fulham’s top performers on the night was 35-year-old Willian, who gave them the lead against the run of play. A misplaced defensive header from the returning Virgil van Dijk and missed tackle by young Conor Bradley allowed him to tap home and silence the Kop.

Fulham held their advantage until midway through the second half, under intense pressure from a home side missing Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold but not lacking rhythm.

Liverpool’s midfield might have had a field day had Harrison Reed — who recovered from illness on Wednesday morning to play — not been so energetic in stopping their attacks at source.

Joao Palhinha, similarly industrious, demonstrated again he has perfected the art of winning tackles; no Fulham player won more. “A big effort from them in the way they managed [the game],” Silva added.

One moment could come back to haunt Fulham if they do not reach next month’s final. Breaking down the right at 1-0, Bobby De Cordova-Reid shot at goal when he should have squared to the unmarked Andreas Pereira, who would have had a simple task of converting for 2-0.

It took just six minutes after that for Liverpool to level things up, Curtis Jones’s effort from distance spinning off Tosin Adarabioyo’s back and flying past Bernd Leno. And, within three minutes, the substitutes combined, as Darwin Nunez squared for Cody Gakpo to slot home the winner.

"We definitely still have something to play for"

Fulham boss Marco Silva

“It’s a big frustration”, Silva said of Liverpool’s quick-fire double. “We spoke about it beforehand. We know what happens with these types of sides and these types of crowds.”

A string of crucial late saves from Leno kept Fulham in the tie.

“Nothing is done,” insisted Willian. “We have the second leg to play at home.

"We knew that it’s always hard to play here against Liverpool, but we played well. We could have maybe scored the second goal to give us more stability, but we have to focus now on the second leg.”

Silva agreed, adding: “It’s still tight. We lost the first half [of the tie], we have to go for it in the second half.”

And Fulham no doubt will. A first major trophy in the club’s history is still in reach.