Jurgen Klopp admitted he is enduring the lowest spell of his managerial career after Liverpool’s bewildering mid-season crisis deepened with yet another defeat at Anfield.
Klopp watched helplessly as his faltering team crashed to a sixth successive home defeat to relegation-threatened Fulham. Mario Lemina’s fine strike on the stroke of half-time — after an error by Mo Salah — gave Scott Parker’s side a huge and deserved boost in their fight against the drop.
But it was another massive setback to Liverpool’s hopes of salvaging a top four place from a traumatic season.
Asked if it was the lowest moment of a management career that stretches back 20 years, he said: “I wish I could say ‘no’ but yes it is. We were extremely successful and now we are in an extreme situation. In the end we are not scoring goals and that is a big problem.
“We never had momentum this season. It would take a masterpiece to find out how we change that overnight. Usually going 1-0 down is not a problem for us but of course now it is.”
Fulham midfielder Harrison Reid claimed Parker’s battlers “wanted it more” than the hosts but Klopp refused to criticise his team’s attitude although he admitted they are missing leaders like Jordan Henderson and Virgil Van Dijk.
He added: “It’s always easy to judge that when you win 1-0. The winners are always right. The boys wanted it but we just didn’t do it. When you don’t score and you also concede it is not good enough. I can’t think about the top four — that’s not my concern at the moment. We have to win a game first and then we’ll see about the rest.”
This was only Fulham’s second win in 35 visits to Anfield in all competitions and now only goal difference separates them from fourth from bottom Brighton while they are just a point behind Newcastle.
Parker said: “I’m immensely proud of the players. It was a big performance and a massive result. We were fantastic in both halves.”
Klopp’s gamble in making seven changes — two enforced by injury — from the team that lost to Chelsea backfired as Liverpool failed to score at home from open play for the seventh game running — their only goal at Anfield so far in 2021 was a Salah penalty in the 4-1 defeat to Manchester City.
Fulham looked confident and assured from the start and the only surprise was that they had to wait until just before half-time for a goal.
Andy Robertson headed out a free-kick but as Salah tried to control the ball he was out-muscled by Lemina who took a touch before arrowing a fine shot into the far corner of the net.
It was the least Fulham deserved because they could have been home and hosed by the break with Alisson making two vital saves and former Everton player Ademola Lookman giving Liverpool’s inexperienced defence — and Neco Williams in particular — a torrid time.
Liverpool certainly showed more attacking urgency in the second half. They were denied an equaliser when Alphonse Areola pulled off an acrobatic save to keep out Diogo Jota’s volley, with the Fulham keeper then reacting smartly to swipe the loose ball away as Salah closed in for the kill. Klopp sent on Sadio Mane on the hour and the Senegal international went close 10 minutes later when his header from Naby Keita’s cross hit the post. But despite frantic late pressure from an increasingly desperate Liverpool, Fulham held out for a famous victory.
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Alisson 7; N Williams 4 (Alexander-Arnold 76, 5), R Williams 5, Phillips 5, Robertson 6; Milner 6 (Fabinho 76, 5), Wijnaldum 5 (Mane 61, 5), Keita 5; Shaqiri 5, Salah 5, Jota 5.
Subs not used: Thiago, Adrián, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Tsimikas, Origi.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Areola 8, Tete 7, Andersen 8, Tosin 6, Aina 7; Decordova-Reid 7, Lemina 8, Reed 7, Lookman 8 (Robinson 81, 5); Maja 7, (Loftus-Cheek 67, 6) Cavaleiro 7 (Mitrovic 84, 5).
Subs not used: Hector, Ream, Bryan, Anguissa, Kongolo, Fabri.
Referee: Kevin Friend.