Late penalty puts Liverpool atop table (video)

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  • Mane opens scoring in 26th
  • Ex-Reds striker Babel stars in loss
  • Mane wins late penalty, Milner converts

James Milner‘s 81st minute penalty saved Liverpool blushes in a 2-1 defeat of Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday.

The Reds had a Sadio Mane-inspired lead, but had given it back through a comedy of errors Ryan Babel equalizer.

Liverpool goes atop the Premier League on 76 points, having played one more match than Man City (74 points).

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Some lively dribbling from ex-Liverpool man Ryan Babel cued up Jean-Michael Seri for a shot that sailed over the goal.

Andrew Robertson hit a cross too close to Fulham keeper Rico after some fancy dribbling of his own.

Liverpool was asking all the questions when Mane put them ahead, beginning the move on the left wing before passing to and receiving from Roberto Firmino for 1-0.

Mane joins three players chasing Sergio Aguero’s league-leading goal total of 18: Mohamed Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Harry Kane.

Mane has nine goals in his last nine PL matches, and 11 in 11 overall.

Liverpool was a bit lucky that a rash foul from Fabinho didn’t earn him as second yellow card and send the Reds down to 10 men at the break.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Fulham did not quit, and looked the better money for a second half goal. A first break saw Aleksandar Mitrovic nod into the goal only to see an offside flag deny the marker.

Babel was at the center of it all, and led a second break which ended with a Alisson Becker save on Andre Franck Zambo Anguissa.

That’s when calamity occurred in the center of the pitch. James Milner mishit a clearance, and Virgil Van Dijk casually headed back toward Alisson. The goalkeeper lost the ball in his feet, and Babel was on the doorstep to slot home.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

The stalemate lasted just a few minutes, as Milner converted a penalty conceded when Rico impeded Mane in the box.

Mohamed Salah had a chance to put the match to bed following a Mane-led run, but the Egyptian fired right at Rico.

Watch Live: Fulham v. Liverpool

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Liverpool can go atop the Premier League table with a defeat of Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday (Watch live at 10:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

And Cottagers interim boss Scott Parker will be cognizant of Liverpool’s plan to exploit his leaky defense to reduce Man City’s 7-goal advantage in differential.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Fulham’s razor-thin chances of making up a 13-point deficit on 17th place need an unlikely result here, and likely a win.

Jordan Henderson and James Milner are out of the lineup that beat Bayern Munich 3-1 on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League, with Fabinho and Adam Lallana taking their places in the XI.

LINEUPS

Fulham: Rico, Fosu-Mensah, Chambers, Ream, Bryan, Seri, Cairney, Zambo Anguissa, Ayite, Mitrovic, Babel. Subs: Fabri, Christie, Odoi, McDonald, Sessegnon, Kebano, Vietto.

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Matip, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Lallana, Salah, Mane, Firmino. Subs: Mignolet, Lovren, Milner, Sturridge, Moreno, Shaqiri, Origi.

Premier League Preview: Fulham v. Liverpool

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  • Fulham manager Scott Parker could have forward Andre Schurrle (virus) available, but Alfie Mawson and Marcus Bettinelli (both knee) remain sidelined for Fulham.
  • Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson is ruled out after sustaining an ankle injury in midweek, although Naby Keita (minor injury) could return. 
  • The Reds are unbeaten in their last 11 PL matches against promoted sides (W10 D1), winning the last eight in a row. They have scored 31 goals and conceded just four in that run since a 2-0 loss at Hull City in February 2017.

Liverpool showed in midweek that they have the quality to make another deep run in the UEFA Champions League. Now, back in Premier League action, Liverpool will look to jump-start major pieces of their attack with a trip to Craven Cottage to face Fulham on Sunday (Watch live, 10:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Mo Salah has scored 17 Premier League goals this season, but none in the past five games in all competitions. Likewise, outside of a brace last week against Burnley, Roberto Firmino hasn’t scored in six of seven games played since the start of February. Against Fulham’s struggling defense, those two found find their form in front of goal.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

It’s been a rough season meanwhile for Fulham, which looks incredibly likely to be relegated to the Championship. Fulham hasn’t won since January, is on its third manager of the year, and needs 12 points to survive another season in the Premier League. Against Liverpool, it might be a case of just hoping for a draw, or keeping the score close.

What they’re saying

Fulham coach Scott Parker on facing a title contender: “Hopefully we’ll have an influence on the title race. We’ve got some very good footballers at the club and we need to start getting the best out of them. They have a chance at the weekend in front of the cameras to prove how good they are. If we play the way we want to play, we can cause an upset and we can get points. I’ve seen an upturn daily in the players in the way they’re training. Their standards have gone up tenfold.

Liverpool coach Jurgen Klopp on the impact of beating Bayern: “Last year I think when we came through it was always about a sensational, free-flowing kind of football in a specific way: scoring from all areas, stuff like that. This was, from my point of view, the most mature performance we had so far in all European competitions since I am in and I like that a lot. It was really good. I said after the game, in a game like this it’s pretty rare that one team is shining completely and the other team has a bad hair day or whatever. It doesn’t happen a lot, so you have to work for each yard, for each inch, and that’s what the boys did. In the decisive moments you have to be there defensively and offensively. It was really good, I was really happy and it was not to expect in that way. People spoke about ‘Bayern was not really like Bayern usually is’ – I would say all the credit to my boys because we didn’t let them. That’s all we have to do in game like this.”

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Prediction

Liverpool can go top of the league with a win, and even coming off the emotional high of beating Bayern Munich, they should still have more than enough quality to defeat Fulham. Liverpool 3-0 Fulham

 

Top Premier League storylines: Week 31

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With some Premier League sides still participating deep into the FA Cup, it’s an abridged Premier League schedule this weekend. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of fascinating storylines to watch.

Chelsea hits the road after a morale-boosting win in the UEFA Europa League this week, while Newcastle looks to build on its terrific second half performance in its 3-2 win last weekend over Everton. However, the spotlight will remain on Liverpool, which could return to first place in the Premier League with a win over Fulham at Craven Cottage.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Below are a look at the top storylines ahead of this weekend.


First place up for grabs for Liverpool
Sunday, 10:15 a.m. ET: Fulham v. Liverpool – NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Coming off a massive 3-1 win at Bayern Munich, Liverpool returns to England with the chance to gain a slight psychological advantage. Since Manchester City is in FA Cup action this weekend, Liverpool can go top of the league with a win at Fulham. In doing so, Manchester City would in effect, be “chasing” Liverpool until the Sky Blues caught up to Liverpool in terms of games played. Fulham hasn’t won a match since January, is on its third coach of the season, and can’t seem to figure things out defensively. Sunday could be a chance for Mo Salah and Roberto Firmino to find the back of the net again and gain more confidence.

Chelsea could jump into a tie for fourth
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET: Everton v. Chelsea – NBCSN [ STREAM ]

About a month ago, Chelsea’s season looked to be spiraling out of control. But with five wins in the team’s last seven matches in all competitions, Chelsea’s suddenly experiencing a spring revival. Maurizio Sarri‘s side have climbed back into contention for fourth place in the Premier League, and the Blues are currently just three points behind Arsenal, which sit in fourth place. Chelsea would have to make up six goals in the goal-differential Sunday to overtake Arsenal, but even being tied on points after 30 matches with eight to go would really raise the drama down the home stretch. Everton, meanwhile, continues to struggle under Marco Silva. Despite all the signings and money spent, the Toffees are in the bottom half of the table. A big win over Chelsea at Goodison Park could bring some more positive feelings back to the blue half of Merseyside.

Rodgers looking for second-straight win
Saturday, 11:00 a.m. ET: Burnley v. Leicester – NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Yes, it was struggling Fulham, but Leicester City’s 3-1 win last weekend at the King Power Stadium was, the club will hope, the start of a new era and new momentum. It was the first win since Brendan Rodgers returned to the Premier League and took charge of Leicester City, and it saw the side returning to its winning formula, pressing high and using quick counter attacks to score goals. Rodgers took a risk leaving Celtic in the middle of the season to join Leicester and try and bring them up in the table. A visit to Burnley, fighting for its life to avoid relegation, will be a great test to see if Rodgers can win while his team will likely have more possession of the ball.

Vardy stars as Leicester beat Fulham (video)

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  • Two goals, assist for Vardy
  • Rodgers gets first win as Leicester boss
  • 101 Leicester goals for Vardy
  • Fulham suffer sixth-straight defeat

Leicester City beat Fulham 3-1 at the King Power Stadium on Saturday, as Jamie Vardy played a starring role.

The win was Brendan Rodgers‘ first victory as Leicester boss, as Vardy set up Youri Tielemans for the first and then scored two late on after Floyd Ayite had equalized.

With the win Leicester move to 10th on 38 points, while Fulham remain in 19th on 17 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Leicester took the game to Fulham early on and Tielemans smashed just over as the first big chance of the game fell to the Foxes.

Soon after Tielemans put Leicester 1-0 up as Wilfried Ndidi won the ball and played in Jamie Vardy who was unselfish to set up the Belgian midfielder to tap home his first goal in England.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Harvey Barnes curled a beautiful shot just over the bar as Leicester cranked through the gears before half time. Vardy was set free by James Maddison but Joe Bryan and Havard Nordtveit combined to clear the chance.

Tielemans then forced Sergio Rico into a smart stop down low at the end of the first half which Leicester dominated.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Right at the start of the second half Fulham scored a wonderful solo goal through substitute Ayite. He picked the ball up on the right flank, ran inside and kept his cool to send the ball past Kasper Schmeichel via a deflection. 1-1 totally against the run of play.

Mitrovic’s header was saved soon after as Fulham threatened to pull ahead after being second-best for most of the game.

Rico then denied Barnes with a great fingertip save as Leicester pushed hard to grab the win late on.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

That pressure finally paid off as Vardy was played in on the right hand side of the box and finished calmly to make it 2-1.

Vardy then finished off Barnes’ good work to add another late on and make it 3-1 as Rodgers had his first win as Leicester boss.