Liverpool missed out on the chance to go top of the Premier League and were somewhat fortunate to come away with a draw from a game in which they were second best for large periods to an impressive Fulham.
Mohamed Salah earned them their point, firing a low penalty under home goalkeeper Alphonse Areola after Aboubakar Kamara leapt in the wall and blocked a Georginio Wijnaldum free-kick with his arm.
Bobby Decordova-Reid had given Fulham the lead during a first half that the home side dominated and would have scored more in, but for returning Reds goalkeeper Alisson.
The Brazilian, who had missed the last two games through injury, twice denied Ivan Cavaleiro with fine saves after the Cottagers forward had broken through the Liverpool defence.
The visitors also survived an early shout for a penalty, that required referee Andre Marriner to come to the touchline VAR monitor to assess Fabinho’s challenge on Cavaleiro, which saw him make contact with both man and ball.
They were further hampered when Joel Matip failed to come out for the second half, joining what is already an extensive injury list that has at times this campaign included most of their first-choice back five.
They stuck at the task, though, and improved after the break, with Jordan Henderson drawing a superb save from Areola before Salah was given his opportunity to salvage a point with 11 minutes to go.
With fans allowed into Craven Cottage for the first time this season, the home side were cheered from the pitch in recognition of their sterling efforts, and they now have eight points, two clear of the bottom three.
On a weekend that also saw Chelsea, Tottenham and both Manchester clubs drop points, Liverpool will be disappointed that they failed to take advantage, although they remain level on points at the top with Spurs, behind the Londoners only on goal difference.
Impressive Fulham rock sloppy Reds
.@Aina2Ola just spraying diags! ☄️
— Fulham Football Club (@FulhamFC) December 14, 2020
It was always going to be a tough task for Liverpool to match their Herculean efforts from last season, which saw them dominate the competition to win the league at a canter.
They remain a potent side, as evidenced in recent demolitions of both Leicester and Wolves.
But there is also a frailty to the Reds this campaign, particularly in games away from home, in which they have now conceded 12 goals – a tally only surpassed by the struggling West Brom and Sheffield United – and failed to win in five.
Some of this is down to the Reds’ well-publicised injury list, which still includes first-choice centre-back pairing Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, until today also contained Alisson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, and was added to when Joel Matip failed to emerge for the second half.
On top of that, they also have Thiago, James Milner, Naby Keita, Xherdan Shaqiri and Diogo Jota sidelined through injury, the latter confirmed to be out for at least six weeks by Klopp before kick-off.
Even so, the XI named by Klopp should still have been a match for a Fulham side that had previously taken just seven points from their first 11 games.
That they did not is down to too many sloppy passes, too much hesitancy in defence and an inability to get the ball to their stellar front three with any accuracy or regularity.
They marginally improved on all counts after the break and began to find a rhythm more in keeping with their usual selves without regularly carving their opponents open.
The handball rule came to their aid and Salah does not miss from the spot.
Most of the credit must go to the home side, who beat Leicester a couple of games ago, gave Manchester City more of a game than many in defeat at the Etihad last Saturday and were superior to the champions for much of the 90 minutes a week later.
They understandably dropped deeper as the game wore on and became less of an attacking threat and relied on Areola a couple of times to keep Klopp’s side at bay.
But on the evidence of a first half full of energy and endeavour, their current league position belies their ability.
‘I feel a bit disappointed’
Fulham boss Scott Parker to BBC Sport: “I feel a bit disappointed. The players do as well. It shows how far we’ve come.
“There were two different halves. The first half, we were every bit of what we needed – commitment, energy, desire, passion. We showed a real quality and caused Liverpool problems.
“The second half panned out like everyone expected. Overall I’m very pleased.
“We came out of the blocks flying today. We showed our quality. We can play. I thought we did that very well in the first half.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “In the first 30 minutes we were just not good. We could have lost the game in that period. After half an hour it was already better. The second half was good. We could have had more [goals].
“We are dealing with human beings and things like this happen.
“Yesterday all the teams that played in the Champions League had a tough one. It’s crazy. Maybe this was the weekend we felt it a little bit.
“It doesn’t help with the number of games that we have to play the same players. There was a push definitely – 100%.
“We move on. Tottenham is the next challenge.”
Klopp’s Reds the kings of recovering points
Since Jurgen Klopp’s first game in charge in October 2015, Liverpool have recovered more points from losing positions (85) than any other side in the Premier League.
Liverpool are without a win in five away league outings (D4 L1), drawing their last four in a row; it’s their joint-longest winless run away from home in the Premier League under Klopp (also five in March 2017).
Having only earned four points from their opening nine league games this season (W1 D1 L7), Fulham have picked up four from their last three, against Leicester, Man City and Liverpool (W1 D1 L1).
Fulham are the first newly promoted club to avoid defeat in a Premier League game against Liverpool since Newcastle United in October 2017 (also a 1-1 draw), ending the Reds’ 18-game winning run against such sides in the league.
Liverpool have now scored each of their last 18 Premier League penalties, with Mohamed Salah converting 12 of those.
Salah scored his fifth away Premier League goal of the season for Liverpool, more than he managed in the entirety of 2019-20 (4).
Salah has been directly involved in 20 goals in 20 Premier League appearances against newly promoted clubs for Liverpool, scoring 12 and assisting a further eight.
Fulham’s Bobby Decordova-Reid has scored in three consecutive home league appearances for the first time in his professional career. Seven of his nine Premier League goals have been scored in home games.