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Liverpool 2-1 Fulham: Cody Gakpo goal clinches Reds victory in Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Anfield

Report and free highlights as quick-fire goals from Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo give Liverpool a 2-1 win over Fulham in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg; Willian gave Marco Silva's side an early lead at Anfield but the Reds roared back

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Highlights of the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg between Liverpool and Fulham at Anfield.

Liverpool came from behind to beat Fulham 2-1 in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final thanks to two goals in three second-half minutes from Curtis Jones and Cody Gakpo.

Jurgen Klopp's side fell behind when Willian capitalised on a Virgil van Dijk error early on but Curtis Jones pulled them level with a long-range effort which took a wicked deflection off Tosin Adarabioyo.

Fulham had performed brilliantly up until that point but the hosts completed the turnaround when substitutes Darwin Nunez and Gakpo combined for a slick Liverpool second.

The victory gives Liverpool the advantage heading into the second leg at Craven Cottage on January 24, ensuring the Premier League leaders remain on track in their pursuit of four trophies this season.

Player ratings

Liverpool: Kelleher (7), Bradley (7), Konate (7), Van Dijk (6), Gomez (7), Mac Allister (7), Jones (8), Gravenberch (6), Elliott (6), Diaz (6), Jota (7).

Subs: Nunez (8), Gakpo (8).

Fulham: Leno (7), Castagne (7), Tosin (7), Diop (7), Robinson (7), Reed (7), Palhinha (8), Pereira (7), De Cordova-Reid (5), Willian (8), Jimenez (7).

Subs: Wilson (6), Cairney (6), Lukic (6).

Player of the match: Curtis Jones

How Liverpool came back to win

Liverpool, without Mohamed Salah and the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold, dominated the early exchanges, forcing chances through Jones, whose shot from outside the box was held by Bernd Leno, and Diogo Jota, whose angled effort fizzed wide.

Team news

  • Virgil van Dijk returned for Liverpool, with Caoimhin Kelleher getting the nod in goal and Conor Bradley coming into the defence.
  • Raul Jimenez led the line for Fulham while Harrison Reed was preferred to Tom Cairney in midfield.

But Fulham's surprise opener halted their momentum as Van Dijk's tame header allowed Pereira to accelerate into the Liverpool box and pick out Willian, who hurdled Conor Bradley's challenge, kept his composure and fired a low finish past Caoimhin Kelleher.

Liverpool struggled to regain their composure after the goal, with Van Dijk, back in the side following illness, seeing yellow for a palm to the face of Pereira then risking further punishment with a late tackle on Raul Jimenez.

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Willian gives Fulham a shock lead at Anfield, after a promising start from the home side.

Fulham were proving compact and difficult to break down as the hosts struggled to carve out chances and Silva's side continued to threaten offensively too, with Tosin heading a free-kick straight at Kelleher and Pereira testing the goalkeeper from distance.

Liverpool punish Fulham again

This was the second time in the space of a few weeks that Liverpool have come from behind to beat Fulham at Anfield following their dramatic 4-3 win in the Premier League in December.

Joe Gomez, seeking a first Liverpool goal on his 200th appearance for the club, brushed the side netting with a driven shot seconds before half-time up at the other end, but Liverpool reached the interval having only registered one shot on target.

There were signs of improvement after the break, with Ryan Gravenberch firing narrowly wide following a driving run through midfield and Timothy Castagne and Antonee Robinson making vital last-ditch interventions to deny Jota.

But Fulham spurned a glorious, breakaway chance to double their lead when Bobby De Cordova-Reid chose to shoot from a narrow angle when he should have squared to the unmarked Pereira.

Silva reacted furiously to that decision and it was swiftly punished by Liverpool as Jota burst forward and fed substitute Nunez, who teed up Jones for a shot which flew in off Tosin.

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Curtis Jones equalises for Liverpool via a deflection, much to the delight of the home crowd.

It was harsh on Fulham, who had defended superbly, but Liverpool soon added their second, with Jota again involved as he played in Nunez, whose cut-back was ruthlessly dispatched by Gakpo.

From then on it was all Liverpool, with the explosive Nunez going close to extending their lead on three separate occasions, only to be thwarted by Leno every time.

In the end, Liverpool had to settle for a one-goal advantage, knowing it could have been very different if not for De Cordova-Reid's decision-making, and Nunez and Gakpo's impact from the bench.

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Cody Gakpo gives Liverpool the lead after putting away Darwin Nunez’s cross.

Whichever side emerges victorious from the second leg at Craven Cottage will face either Middlesbrough or Chelsea in the final.

Klopp delights at comeback and praises 'exceptional' Bradley

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Jurgen Klopp described Conor Bradley’s performance as ‘exceptional’ and praised his players for their comeback against Fulham

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports: "It was a super-hard, super-tough game. First half, we caused ourselves some problems. Fulham were really compact. We played around a lot and we were stuck on the wing.

"We had no fluidity there and we had to change that. We had to play more in the half-spaces. We did that at half-time and the boys did really well.

"In the second half, they had the big counter-attacking chance. We defended it somehow but there was a lot of space there, so we had to reorganise protection as well. We did that and then we were dominant and we scored and everything was alright.

"It wasn't our best game we've ever played but it's not about that in moments like this.

"The crowd was there with us all the time, we just didn't give them a lot to cheer in the first half. But in the second half, it was a proper, proper all-round Liverpool performance.

"We won the game, but it's the first leg, nothing else. It's half-time and now we go there. If we want to go to the final, we need a really good game at Fulham and we need a result."

On 20-year-old Conor Bradley's performance, Klopp said: "He will sleep well tonight. I'm not sure he makes it home, he will probably fall asleep in the dressing room.

"Exceptional. Wonderful, fantastic character, a real talent with top potential, and he is in the right team because everybody loves him and respects him and wants him to succeed."

Gakpo, Jones hail comeback win

Curtis Jones was named player of the match
Image: Curtis Jones was named player of the match

Goalscorer Cody Gakpo, speaking to Sky Sports, said: "He [Curtis Jones] got a very important goal to get us back in the game and after that I felt we really dominated, not only with possession but creating chances and then the second so I was happy.

"It's the mentality in the group, in the club, in the city, everyone is like this mentality of just keep going and it doesn't matter what happens and we showed that again today. If you have that mentality a lot of things can happen.

"I love playing with these guys. We showed good mentality and have to keep going as it's only the first leg of this game."

Curtis Jones, speaking to Sky Sports, said: "In the first half it was tough, we had all the ball but couldn't find the back of the net and in the second half we changed that around. The fans are leaving with smiles on their faces so I'm happy.

"I came all the way through the academy so scoring means more. I've been around the team since I was 17 and the journey has been up and down.

"It has not always been easy but I've always stuck in there, my mindset is right, I know I have the ability and I just need the game time."

Silva: We'll go for it in the second leg

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Marco Silva reacted to Fulham’s 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg and said it was a tough result to take

Fulham boss Marco Silva told Sky Sports: "We knew it was going to be a tough one to take. No one can play at this stage of the competition, going for a final, thinking that it is not going to be really hard.

"Even three days ago, Liverpool were able to go through in the FA Cup away against Arsenal, they are top of the league as well.

"I think it went really well first half. Our block was lower than normal, but we controlled almost everything from them. We know that, without space behind us, we could control it much better because every time they have space, with the pace of the attacking players, they can punish you.

"The second half was slightly different as they started to push out a bit more. When you have the capacity to go to the bench and put Darwin and Gakpo on, from that moment, they started to create more problems for us.

"We are losing 2-1, but we are going to go for it [in the second leg], for sure."

Super sub Nunez - Opta stats

  • Liverpool have had 30 goal involvements by substitutes in all competitions this season (15 goals, 15 assists), at least 12 more than any other Premier League club. Seven of these have come from Darwin Nunez (3 goals, 4 assists from the bench), the most of any player in 2023/24.
  • Cody Gakpo has scored in all four of his League Cup games for Liverpool; he is the first player to score in four successive appearances in the competition for the club since Vladimir Smicer in 2000/01.
  • Fulham's Willian scored his first League Cup goal since December 2017 for Chelsea against Bournemouth. He was the first player aged 35 or older to score in a League Cup semi-final since Fernandinho for Man City v Man Utd in 2020/21, and the oldest Fulham scorer in the competition since Giorgos Karagounis in October 2013.
  • This was the 10th time that Liverpool won the first leg of a League Cup semi-final; they have progressed from eight of the previous nine, failing only in 1997-98 against Middlesbrough.
  • This was only the second time that Fulham lost a match in which they had led in all competitions this season, with both coming against Liverpool at Anfield (Premier League in December, League Cup today).

What's next?

Liverpool have a 10-day break until they return to action, when they visit Bournemouth live on Sky Sports on January 21, kick-off 4.30pm.

Live Super Sunday

Fulham visit Chelsea in a West London derby on Saturday lunchtime in the Premier League, kick-off 12.30pm.

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