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John Aldridge: Darwin Nunez looks something special but Trent error costs Liverpool again

Losing a brace of points to one of last season’s promoted teams from the Championship is not a good idea.

Liverpool's Darwin Nunez scores their side's first goal of the game during the Premier League match at Craven Cottage, London. Photo: PA© PA

Darwin Nunez celebrates scoring against Fulham. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire.© PA

Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham gets above Trent Alexander-Arnold to score at Craven Cottage. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images© Getty Images

Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham is fouled by Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool, which results in a penalty. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images© Getty Images

John AldridgeSunday World

Right, we’ll start with the positives.

Liverpool played poorly and got a point.

Liverpool were twice behind and fought back each time to earn a draw.

Darwin Nunez again looked something special when he came on. You’ve got to think he’ll be a regular starter soon.

And so to the negatives. Liverpool were curiously flat on their season opener.

With Manchester City looking so strong, you cannot afford to drop too many points if you are going to contend for the Premier League title.

Losing a brace of points to one of last season’s promoted teams from the Championship is not a good idea.

God, if Liverpool lose the title by a point again next April, all Liverpool fans will look back at this match and say ‘what the hell?’

And once again, sadly, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defensive capabilities were found wanting.

Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham is fouled by Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool, which results in a penalty. Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images© Getty Images

No player creates more goal chances for Liverpool, but he was badly caught out for the first goal by Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Liverpool fans will not need reminding about the goal that won the Champions League for Real Madrid last season.

That was a low ball that got beyond Trent when it should have been cut out.

It’s the reason that Trent does not win the number of England caps that his pure football talent deserves.

England manager Gareth Southgate has made it clear that Kyle Walker, Reece James and even Kieran Trippier enjoy his defensive confidence more than Trent does.

So he’s got to learn a few tricks, like sticking an arm out across an attacker to prevent his jump ever so slightly. Or risking a penalty by getting in the way!

All easier said than done when you are playing against a 6ft2in brick outhouse like the imposing Mitrovic.

Remember he’s Serbia’s centre forward, he’s leading them to the World Cup, having the scored the goal that almost put Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo out of the competition.

He’s some player, good enough to con the best centre-half in the world, in Virgil van Dijk, into giving away the penalty. Mitrovic will be one to watch in Qatar.

I wouldn’t excuse Liverpool’s other full-back for some blame on the first goal either.

Andy Robertson should have done an awful lot better defending that cross.

When you’ve got a target like Mitrovic lurking in the penalty area, as a full-back you have to fight and fight again to make sure no cross of that quality comes in.

There are days as a full-back when you know the opposition haven’t got a bruiser of a centre-forward, they’ve small nippy players, quick on the turn.

However ,when a team has a big man, those dangerous crosses simply have to be stopped.

But it was that kind of game all round for Liverpool.

Fulham had only two goalscoring attempts from play in the match, one of them went in.

Liverpool hit the crossbar twice, had a goal disallowed for offside and, when they finally got going in the second half, looked as though they would score every time they came forward.

That’s as good as Fulham will play all season – that’s probably as bad as Liverpool will defend all season. And so you have a 2-2 draw.

Aleksandar Mitrovic of Fulham gets above Trent Alexander-Arnold to score at Craven Cottage. Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images© Getty Images

Liverpool don’t play again until tomorrow night week, at Anfield against Crystal Palace.

That’s time to hopefully get a few injured players back, unfortunately Thiago was added to their number in West London.

When you consider that Irish goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher is missing, Liverpool actually have a full team in the treatment room right now.

The eight days to the next game also give Liverpool time to work on some of the defensive stuff that was poor against Fulham.

And the eight days of training and preparation will also come in handy to further integrate Darwin Nunez into the starting-line up.

He made a huge impact against Manchester City in the Community Shield last weekend and did it again yesterday, being heavily involved in both Liverpool goals.

He’ll probably claim the first one, but won’t get it, it was an own goal.

The one thing I really like about this fella is that he resembles me.

Darwin Nunez celebrates scoring against Fulham. Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire.© PA

He’s a penalty-area player, Nunez does his business in the 18-yard area in front of the goal.

If Liverpool feed him properly, the Uruguayan will score 30-odd goals this season. The old Salah-Firmino-Mane trio, that was so good for so long for Liverpool, was broken up by Sadio’s summer transfer.

Now it is becoming clear to me that Bobby Firmino is no longer a Liverpool starter.

He’ll come on in matches, he’ll score goals, but the Brazilian now has to give way for a first-choice combination of Salah-Nunez-Diaz, with Diogo Jota as the first sub when he’s fit again.

Jurgen Klopp won’t be too upset by this. He admitted after the match that Liverpool did not deserve to win, even though they could have done so.

I suspect he’ll be more interested in finding out why the team was so flat in that first 45 minutes, when they weren’t anything like they can be.

Solving that issue will go a long way to getting Liverpool’s season onto a steady track.

There’s 37 games to go in the title race, it’s not the time to be fretting, but after a pre-season in which so much seemed to go right, yesterday was a disappointment – no doubt about that.

But a few Darwin Nunez goals will change all that. It’s time to unleash him, Jurgen.


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