Liverpool may have lost Diogo Jota and Joel Matip and failed to retake the Premier League lead but at least they were not beaten at Craven Cottage.
They head into Wednesday’s summit clash with Tottenham behind Spurs but with a point after a dreadful first half, where Jurgen Klopp was yelling at his players to wake up, culminated in the departure of the injured Matip, their one remaining senior specialist centre-back.
But Klopp’s rejigged side, with two midfielders at the heart of the back four and the attacker Takumi Minamino in midfield, showed the mettle to equalise, even if they were given a helping hand.
Fulham’s Aboubakar Kamara had only been on the pitch for four minutes when he jumped in the wall and handled Gini Wijnaldum’s free kick. Mohamed Salah’s resulting penalty had enough power to defeat Alphonse Areola. Salah, who was about to be substituted, was instead the scorer.
Liverpool merited the draw for the pressure they exerted, the possession they had and the performance of Curtis Jones after the break. Fulham could nevertheless consider themselves unfortunate.
They were as energetic and inspired before the break as Liverpool were slow and sluggish. But for a superb display by Alisson, their lead would have been greater and their fans, attending a Premier League game at Craven Cottage for the first time in 19 months, had much to savour in a display that showed their improvement since those September days when they looked certainties for relegation.
They are a team transformed by signings and a change of shape, Liverpool one in a state of flux because of injuries. The bad news began before kick-off. Jota and fellow summer signing Kostas Tsimikas, who were both hurt against Midtjylland, could be out until February with knee problems.
Meanwhile, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s return to the Premier League side was rendered tough by the electric, elusive, former Everton winger Ademola Lookman but at least one returnee made a difference.
Liverpool would have trailed sooner but for the fit-again Alisson. Well as Caoimhin Kelleher has done in the Brazilian’s absence, there was no guarantee the young Irishman would have made some of the saves the regular mustered on his comeback.
Perhaps the best, a point-blank stop to deny Tosin Adarabioyo, came when the Fulham defender was offside, but it was stunning nonetheless.
His heroics were necessary. Fulham have made some wretched starts this season, but this was not one. They immediately assumed the initiative. The first chances fell to Ivan Cavaleiro, twice sent scurrying in behind the Liverpool defence.
A fierce drive and a low shot were repelled. Then Lookman tested Alisson with a crisp drive. It felt a case of Fulham against Alisson, but he could only hold them at bay for so long.
When Lookman released Bobby Decordova-Reid, the latter’s ferocious shot flew past the goalkeeper. A sometime striker who has been reinvented as an industrious wing-back, Decordova-Reid has been instrumental in Fulham’s revival but he showed he retained a forward’s finishing skills. Salah felt he had been fouled before the opener, but it was the gentlest of pushes on him.
But they had been aided by Andre Marriner. He became only the second referee to stick with his initial decision when VAR invited him to review a decision on the monitor, determining that Fabinho’s challenge on Cavaleiro was not a penalty. The fact the incident was viewed dozens of times showed it was not a clear and obvious error.
There had been rather less action in the other box. It took Liverpool 40 minutes to carve out a chance and then Sadio Mane headed wastefully over the bar as his goal drought continued. Salah was also off target with a shot on the turn and Areola was not called into action until the second half, when he made a flying save from the Egyptian.
He made a better stop from Jordan Henderson, who had become part of a centre-back partnership of two midfielders when Matip went off. Confusion reigned in the new-look back four when Cavaleiro charged down Andy Robertson’s clearance. Alisson had to make another save.
Yet having Henderson at the back gave Liverpool a midfielder’s distribution as they spent the second half on the front foot. Fulham defended with great resolve, but Liverpool still procured a point.