Liverpool’s Sadio Mane scored one goal and was instrumental to the other as they reclaimed top spot in the English Premier League (EPL) on Sunday.
They returned to the top with a scrappy 2-1 win at second bottom Fulham.
It had looked like being a frustrating day for Juergen Klopp’s side after Mane’s opener was cancelled out by Ryan Babel following a mistake by Virgil van Dijk.
But substitute James Milner slotted home an 81st minute penalty kick for them to take the points.
Klopp was delighted with the outcome and his team’s ability to grind out what could be a telling result in their bid
to win their first league title since 1990.
“We started really well, and did a lot of good things but lost the rhythm a bit,” the German said.
“I am not the most experienced manager and I have similar problems after UEFA Champions League games.
“First half a bit rusty. Second half we could have finished it off, and then it is clear at 1-0 if you don’t kill it off that can happen.
“They deserved a goal, but we deserved three points. A brilliant afternoon, I have to say.
“I am not in any doubt about my players’ nerves. It is about intensity. We go for perfection, but it is rare that you get it.”
Liverpool have 76 points from 31 games, two more than champions Manchester City who have a game in hand.
Fulham have 17 points and a mountain to climb if they are to avoid almost certain relegation from the top flight.
Mane scored his ninth league goal in as many games when he fired the visitors into a 26th minute lead with a classy
finish which typified Liverpool’s attacking mentality under Klopp.
The Senegal forward exchanged a blistering one-two with Roberto Firmino before he buried his shot from seven metres past Fulham goalkeeper Sergio Rico.
The goalkeeper then denied Andy Robertson and Van Dijk either side of halftime.
Mane shaved the crossbar with a glancing header before a calamitous Van Dijk error gifted Fulham a 74th minute equaliser.
The Dutch defender’s poor header back to goalkeeper Alisson Becker was intercepted by former Liverpool winger Babel.
Van Dijk’s fellow Dutchman then beat Alisson to the ball and refrained from celebrating against his former club after stroking the ball into an empty net.
“Obviously, I respect my old club,” Babel said after Fulham set a club record of seven successive EPL defeats. “I still support them as a fan. So, of course, I showed them respect.”
Another howler, this time by Rico, decided the contest as the goalkeeper spilled a tame Mohamed Salah shot and then hauled down Mane who pounced on the rebound.
Milner then stroked home the winner from the penalty kick spot.(Reuters/NAN)