The more direct attacking threat of course came down Liverpool’s left, which was to be expected given the lack of sharpness on Fulham’s right side, where Floyd Ayite and Timothy Fosu-Mensah were tasked with nullifying the threat of Mane and Andrew Robertson.
It was Fosu-Mensah’s first start since November, and Ayite’s first league start of the season. Frankly, it was easy to feel some sympathy for the pair of them as Mane and Robertson spent so much of the first half scurrying inside them, outside them and occasionally right through them.
That’s where the opener came from, with Firmino darting inside the static defence and cutting back for Mane. It was Mane’s 20th goal of the season, and his 17th in the Premier League, which put him level with Mohamed Salah in the league’s goalscoring charts. Only Sergio Aguero, with 18, has more league goals than Liverpool’s flying wingers.
Mane and Robertson were providing the threat, then, but their forward surges in the first half were facilitated by the expansive passing of Fabinho and, especially, Alexander-Arnold. This continued into the second period, until that one moment of defensive chaos shifted the mood of the game. Now it was about desperation and determination, and Liverpool had enough of both to move back to the top of the table.