Alexander-Arnold runs the show as Liverpool do what’s needed in rare supporting role

Dave Tickner
Trent Alexander-Arnold scores for Liverpool at Fulham
Trent Alexander-Arnold scores for Liverpool at Fulham

Say what you like about Liverpool – and we have, at length – but one role they rarely occupy for either better or worse is that of support act.

Even in the prime 4.30pm Super Sunday slot, that was the role they were left in today. That’s no criticism of Liverpool; the reason this was their lot today was because they were quietly and calmly professional when others were inexplicably determined to show the world their entire arse and anus.

Nottingham Forest set the ball rolling with a “the VAR is a Luton fan” conspiracy theory that will live long in Barclays infamy. Elsewhere the Barclays had plenty more drama. Crystal Palace decided to give West Ham a fearful paddling. Aston Villa came from behind to pretty much guarantee Champions League football next season, which on other days would be a worthy headline-grabber but today barely merits a footnote.

And dominating it all was The Magic of the Cup combining with The Evils of VAR and The Ridiculousness of Manchester United to truly devastating effect at Wembley.

It was almost too much football, if you can imagine such a thing, on a day that threatened at its outset to tend toward the dreary before veering wildly off-piste. And it all combined to leave even a club of Liverpool’s status moving level on points with the Premier League leaders a thing that barely merits a mention.

Obviously, a big part of that is that everyone still expects Manchester City to make whatever Arsenal and Liverpool do over these closing weeks irrelevant, but still.

On another day, in another context, Fulham’s equaliser might have been enough on its own to set the agenda and dominate the discourse for the rest of the week. It came in bizarre fashion at the end of the first half and not just because it was so unexpected. Fulham were denied the most obvious of corners from an Alisson save, only to swiftly regain possession from the erroneously awarded goal-kick, sweep past a confused and distracted Liverpool defence to score. There have been plenty of times before when an officiating error apparently in your favour turns out to be anything but, yet this was still an extreme example that deserves far more attention than it will now receive.

It was also a moment that didn’t fully reflect the game. That lapse in concentration from Liverpool as half-time approached was followed by a slightly sloppy start to the second half, but these are really minor quibbles about an otherwise professional and enormously successful performance from a necessarily changed Liverpool team that had suffered such damage in recent weeks.

This was all pretty similar to Arsenal’s win at Wolves, in truth. A horrible week that ends with a deeply trappy away game at the sort of team you are entirely expected to beat but absolutely won’t if you aren’t paying attention. Both Wolves and Fulham have home wins against title contenders this year and are dangerous opponents for a wounded giant.

Arsenal dealt with it admirably enough yesterday, Liverpool today.

There was much to like about Liverpool’s display, but it was Trent Alexander-Arnold who will take what headlines this win generates. He scored the opening goal with a sublime free-kick clipped over a curiously small Fulham wall, one of those free-kicks that you just have a feeling about as soon as you see the set-up. It all just looked right for Trent to do exactly what he subsequently did, and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do about it.

There was more to the performance than the goal, mind, with Alexander-Arnold at his most beguilingly free-ranging right-back best. Liverpool put their brief dalliance with silliness behind them to secure all three points with second-half goals from Ryan Gravenberch and Diogo Jota before the cavalry were introduced.

Jota’s goal was his last contribution before a weighty triple substitution saw Mo Salah, Darwin Nunez and Alexis Mac Allister introduced to see out the remaining minutes. It’s a power move, that.

But really, this was a game that nobody will talk about or remember. And given what everyone else is talking about today, and the nature of Liverpool’s most recent memorable games, that’s no bad thing.