Nunez inspires Liverpool comeback
Darwin Nunez came off the bench to score one and create another as Liverpool were forced to twice battle back to salvage a point in a chaotic game at newly promoted Fulham.
The Reds, who pushed champions Manchester City all the way in the title race last season, fell behind when Aleksandar Mitrovic got the better of Trent Alexander-Arnold to head Fulham ahead after meeting a superb cross by Kenny Tete.
Luis Diaz had a goal ruled out for offside at 0-0 before curling a shot against the post after Fulham had taken the lead.
In a thrilling match, substitute Nunez marked his Premier League debut by equalising with a close-range flick before Fulham restored the lead from the penalty spot after Mitrovic was fouled by Virgil van Dijk.
Mitrovic picked himself up to beat Alisson from the spot before Mohamed Salah equalised from close range after a pass by Nunez, a £64m signing from Benfica.
Jordan Henderson went close to winning it at the end when he hit the bar in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Fulham’s previous Premier League win was against Liverpool on 7 March 2021 but, on that occasion, it was not enough to save them from relegation.
On a gorgeous day in west London, they showed they are up for the challenge facing them on their return to the Premier League after giving Jurgen Klopp’s side a real scare.
Their aim this season is to establish themselves in esteemed company and, while there is a long road ahead, this was a highly encouraging start.
Last season’s champions of the Championship were certainly not intimidated as they took the game to the Reds, the lively Mitrovic signalling his intention by firing wide with 50 seconds on the clock after darting into the box.
Marco Silva’s side were well organised and played with confidence as they created nine chances – three on target – during an entertaining match.
They went close to going 2-0 ahead when Neeskens Kebano hit the post while new signings Joao Palhinha and Andreas Pereira added creativity.
“I think that our organisation, our great first half, the way we blocked almost everything from them, in terms of organisation in the first half – it was almost perfect,” said Fulham boss Silva.
It took Fulham until the fifth game to register a first point the last time they started a Premier League season in 2020-21.
They are up and running after one game this time thanks, in part, to a dynamic performance from Mitrovic.
“In the box Mitro will score if you provide him good chances,” added Silva. “But I repeat something I said last season maybe 20 times: Mitro is not just a goalscorer for us. He did an unbelievable job for us without the ball.”
Thiago injury adds to Klopp’s worries
This is the fourth straight season the Reds have opened a Premier League campaign against a promoted side, but it was anything but a straightforward start for Klopp’s side.
With Curtis Jones, Diogo Jota, Konstantinos Tsimikas, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ibrahima Konate either ill or injured, Liverpool’s bench included a 20-year-old, one 19-year-old and 17-year-old Stefan Bajcetic.
Fortunately, it also included Nunez.
For the second successive weekend he came off the bench to make a valuable contribution as he followed up his performance in the Community Shield win over Manchester City with another goal.
He produced a clever flick to make it 1-1 before the Uruguay forward was heavily involved in Salah’s equaliser to make it 2-2.
A concern for Klopp will be a mounting injury list with the season barely under way.
The loss of Thiago Alcantara to a suspected hamstring injury early in the second half will add to Liverpool’s worries, and it remains to be seen whether they will turn to the transfer market to ease their problems before the 1 September deadline.