Milner keeps Liverpool title charge on track with late penalty at Fulham
Premier League, Craven Cottage - Fulham 1 (Babel 74) Liverpool 2 (Mane 26, Milner 81 pen)
James Milner netted a late penalty as Liverpool survived a scare against struggling Fulham to return to the top of the table with a narrow 2-1 victory at Craven Cottage.
The Reds midfielder came off the bench to hold his nerve with a clinical spot-kick nine minutes from time after Ryan Babel had threatened to derail his old club's title aspirations with an equaliser seven minutes earlier.
The Dutchman took advantage of a mix-up between Virgil van Dijk and Alisson to cancel out Sadio Mane's first-half opener.
The Senegal forward capped a lively showing by making it 11 goals in his last 11 appearances in all competitions to take his tally to 20 for the season. Mane is now just one behind Sergio Aguero, who currently tops the goal charts with 18.
Sadio Mane of Liverpool celebratesGetty Images
Liverpool controlled the contest throughout, but struggled to put it to bed and Jurgen Klopp will be relieved that they didn't pay a hefty price. Fulham had rarely threatened despite showing good spirit and slumped to a seventh straight league loss to leave them 13 points adrift of safety.
City can return to the summit after the international break when they entertain Fulham on March 30, while Liverpool face a key clash with Tottenham 24 hours later.
Liverpool are beating their PL best - but will it be enough as Mo Salah's goal drought continues?
Liverpool almost let it slip and a draw would certainly have been a near-fatal blow, but the nature of such a dramatic win can also galvanise a team's belief. This hard-fought victory sees the Reds surpass their points tally for last season (75) with seven games still to play. They also have a better defensive record and overall goal difference than in any of their previous PL campaigns.
Mohamed Salah of Liverpool reacts during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage on March 17, 2019 in London, United Kingdom.Getty Images
Mane seems to have caught fire at a really important time and is leading the charge in attack, but Mo Salah's seven-game barren run is of concern. The Egyptian seems obsessed with ending his drought and at times is guilty of taking the wrong option. If he hasn't already, Klopp should have a quiet word with his talisman and alleviate some of the pressure the striker is putting on his own shoulders.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Sadio Mane (Liverpool). The forward followed up his Bayern brace with more heroics to once again demonstrate that he is Liverpool's main man at present. He was typically industrious and linked well with Andy Robertson on the left to cause Fulham plenty of problems. Took his goal with confidence and earned the penalty that won the game.
Sadio Mané (Liverpool),Getty Images
26' - GOAL! Fulham 0-1 Liverpool. Mane continues his hot-streak! The forward jinks in from the left and feeds Firmino, who cuts it back from the byline for the Senegalese star to coolly fire home.
Jurgen Klopp, Manager of Liverpool celebrates at the full time whistle after the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Liverpool FC at Craven Cottage on March 17, 2019 in London, United Kingdom.Getty Images
52' - LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Wijnaldum heads over from inside the six-yard box after rising well to meet Robertson's clipped cross.
56' - LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Fabinho's raking ball to the left of the area picks out van Dijk, who sees his header across goal pushed to safety by Rico.
73' - LIVERPOOL CHANCE! Mane rises at the near post to meet Alexander-Arnold's left-wing corner, but sees his flick header crack the top of the bar.
74' - GOAL! Fulham 1-1 Liverpool. Fulham are level! A long clearance from Rico is miscued into the air by Milner. Van Dijk looks to mop up with a header back to Alisson, but there's a mix up and Babel is allowed to ghost in and easily convert against his old club.
Ryan Babel of Fulham celebrates with Aleksandar Mitrovic of FulhamGetty Images
81' - GOAL! Fulham 1-2 Liverpool. Milner restores Liverpool's lead with a clinical spot-kick down the middle. Rico was at fault for Fulham as he fumbled Salah's shot and then took down Mane as he looked to follow up.
Milner has scored 13 of the last 14 penalties he has taken in the Premier League.
Babel is the first player to score for and against Liverpool in the Premier League since Christian Benteke in April 2017.
Mané has scored 17 goals in the Premier League this season, overtaking Demba Ba as the Senegalese player with the most goals in a single campaign (16 in 2011-12).