Wow, wow, wow… The Mentality Monsters have struck again and once more, we were served with that unique mixture of big relief and mad elation at the drop of a dime.
No disrespect to Fulham who are undoubtedly a decent team, but this was predicted to be a Sunday walk in the park for Liverpool.
Instead, we endured a topsy-turvy match in which the Reds had to dig deep for a smash-and-grab of epic proportions, befitting the numerous memorable turnarounds that Anfield has seen over the years.
Fulham coach Luis Boa Morte must be as gutted as he was 19 years ago. In October 2004, he scored a brace at Craven Cottage to put the Londoners in a two-nil lead at half-time before Liverpool broke his heart by turning it around for a 2-4 win.
Kop cult icon Igor Biscan put the cherry on the cake when he scored the 4th goal on the 93rd, a mere 3 minutes after he came on as a sub.
This Sunday, another Liverpool sub Wataru Endo had been on the pitch for about the same length of time when he hauled the Reds back to a parity of 3-3, thereby setting the wheels in motion for Liverpool to at long last put the game to bed and bag the 3 points.
And there could hardly have been any better player to finally clinch it than Trent Alexander-Arnold, the Scouse heartbeat of the team, the natural heir of Steven Gerrard.
His Stevie G’esque strike from 15 yards made it 4-3 and completed an unbelievable turnaround on the 88th minute as we were still catching our breath from Endo’s equalizer a mere 80 seconds earlier.
Straightforward win… not
Who would have predicted such a rollercoaster before kick-off? Safe to say no one, although there were predictions that Liverpool would score at least 3 goals as they have already done on 5 occasions this season in the league at Anfield.
Shows how this was incorrectly thought to be a formality for the Reds.
As expected, the home side opened the score in the 20th minute with a Trent free kick from the same spot as John-Arne Riise who hammered that unforgettable left-footed rocket against Manchester United in November 2001.
However, unlike Riise, Trent’s strike never threatened to break the net at the Anfield Road end as his peach of a curler was well crafted to go above the wall and dink into Bernd Leno’s top-left corner.
It’s an utter shame that the Premier League ruled this was a Leno own goal because the ball had hit the crossbar before rebounding on the keeper’s back on its way to finally getting it. Such a well-crafted strike should not go as a goalkeeper's own goal.
As for a rocket of a strike, the Reds saved it for 19 minutes later and oh boy, it was practically out of this world.
Alexis Mac Allister volleyed a 30-year screamer from the left flank for what is beyond any doubt, a strong contender for goal of the season. Not bad for the Argentinian’s first goal for the Reds, truly worthy of a World Cup winner.
Alas, in between those 2 Liverpool goals, Fulham had equalized to 1-1 and the Reds defence was in truth caught with complacency.
Joel Matip’s through ball to Mo Salah fell short and an interception by Antonee Robinson launched a counter-attack which ex-Red Harry Wilson finished past Caoimhin Kelleher.
For some reason, Liverpool were still in lethargic mode inside 3 minutes of added time as they were slow to defend a Fulham corner. Raul Jimenez had the liberty of laying a header to Kenny Tete who flicked it past Kelleher to equalise for a second time.
Half-time couldn’t come soon enough for Liverpool as they appeared to stamp no authority on the game and were caught napping again while defending yet another Fulham corner 4 minutes later.
Tim Ream blasted the ball in, following a Kelleher save from a Palhinha header but thankfully for the Reds, the American was ruled offside.
Fulham had more than shown they were willing to give it a go at Fortress Anfield. This perhaps explains why doubt was creeping in the Anfield crowd which was silent for the first 5 minutes of the second half.
But a flurry of chances ignited the atmosphere after that with Dominik Szoboszlai’s two long-range attempts in quick succession before it was the customary Darwin Nunez time to crash one against the bar.
The Uruguayan fluffed another shot wide on the 61st in a delightful counter-attack move which he started himself.
Liverpool could have been made to rue those missed chances as Fulham shockingly took the lead on the 80th.
Substitute Bobby De Cordova-Reid rose above Kostas Tsimikas to head in after the Cottagers had been toying the ball from right to left and back to dazzle Liverpool’s defenders.
Substitutions that made the difference
Just like at Newcastle 3 months ago, time for the management team to show their tactical shrewdness to rescue this one from the jaws of defeat.
More than a few eyebrows were raised as it was now up to Liverpool to take the game to Fulham but then, the defensive midfielder Endo was introduced for the more attack-minded Ryan Gravenberch.
Again, Jurgen Klopp and his backroom team had seen further than we did as they figured out Fulham would more likely concede from long range and the Japanese captain was another ammunition for that type of strike.
Similarly, Joe Gomez came in earlier for Mac Allister, relieving Trent from defensive duties so that he could go further forward.
The substitutions paid off big time. Eight minutes after Fulham had taken that unforeseen lead, Endo and Trent restored the expected outcome of this unbelievable game.
Those who were watching at Anfield were probably not expecting an EPL classic. But they surely departed L4 feeling lucky to have seen one incredible turnaround in front of their eyes with the bonus of four top-class long-range strikes by the home side.
With Spurs doing us a favour later during the day, we have now leapfrogged Man City to second place, two points unchanged behind table-toppers Arsenal.
Fingers crossed for when the Gunners are in town on December 23, it will be another top-two clash for Liverpool with a distinct possibility of going top of the Christmas tree should we win that one.
Last weekend, the Etihad was reduced to silence when Trent equalized in the 80th minute. The City supporters had presumably given up any hope that their team would win that game.
This weekend, after Fulham took the lead against all expectations in the 80th minute, the Anfield crowd kept going, still believing in the Redmen and spurring them not to give up.
That’s the difference with Liverpool supporters; we ensure our Mentality Monsters team will Never Walk Alone.