From one of the more difficult weeks, this season for the red side from Merseyside to one of their best weeks in the last twelve months – Liverpool extend their incredible home record in the Premier League with their 64th unbeaten game at Anfield after trouncing Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-0 in front of 2,000 supporters.
Jurgen Klopp welcomed the crowd back to the stadium with the opening words in the matchday programme: ‘There is only one place for me to start today: welcome back to Anfield.’
The camera panning to the famous Kop before the whistle blew to start the fixture whilst those lucky season ticket holders serenaded Klopp’s men with the club anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was not just a sight that sent chills down the fans of the champions at home, but was almost definitely a welcoming scene for football fans across the country that the normality of the game we cherished so much before the pandemic sent the entire industry into a tailspin may just be on the verge of returning – even if it will take just a few more months for larger capacities to enter into the grounds.
Adama Traoré caused problems in the first half for Andrew Robertson with Fabinho, acting as makeshift centre-half once again for Liverpool, not making up for the Scottish National side leader’s mistake and Traoré racing past the defenders it was down to 22-year-old Caoimhin Kelleher to poke the Spanish winger’s effort wide. Daniel Podence attempted a chip against the young Irish keeper but Klopp’s faith in the youngster continues to pay off with a superb save.
It was a mixed start for Liverpool who only named one change from the side that triumphed over Ajax in the Champions League in midweek with Diogo Jota benched by his manager for mentality reasons as the Portuguese forward had only transferred from Wolves in the summer, Jurgen Klopp thought the occasion of facing his former teammates so soon may be too much for him.
In his absence, Roberto Firmino returned to the lineup, but it was the Egyptian talisman, Mohammed Salah, who opened up the proceedings on the night after capitalising on the mistake of the former academy and minor first team player of the Reds, current Wolves captain Conor Coady whose chest control of a wayward pass from opposing captain Jordan Henderson left much to be desired.
With the clock running down and halftime looming all Liverpool had to do was stop any advances from Wolves who were growing momentum going into the break, and when the man who’s error opened the scoring at the other end of the pitch for his boyhood club went down in the box under a supposed acrobatic failed clearance from Sadio Mané it seemed as if things would not go to plan for Klopp’s men.
That was until VAR official Jon Moss suggested matchday official Craig Pawson should look over the decision again at the pitchside monitor. A familiar sight for the Liverpool support with one contentious decision at Brighton the week before still playing on their mind – this time, however, the penalty ruling was overturned after Mané withdrew his attempt at a clearance and Coady seemingly dived under no contact, although not cautioned by the referee.
Half time: Liverpool 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
The second half had the home side shooting into the Kop end. With plenty of incentive to ignite the passions of the fans seated exclusively in the famous stand, Gini Wijnaldum fired past Rui Patricio in the 58th minute with a right-footed shot curling into the top-right side of the goal as the Wolves defenders gave the Dutchman too much room outside of the box.
The celebrations from the No. 5 seemed to gesture towards the visiting Virgil Van Dijk, still recovering from serious injury and in attendance with the matchday party but once again it was Fabinho once again standing in for the man who can ‘pass a ball, calm as you like’ who blocked Coady last ditch before the second goal who kept the game in the hands of the Reds.
Salah the scorer in the first half but the provider in the second as nine minutes after the second goal the winger crossed the ball into the box as part of a quick freekick routine that was converted by Joel Matip. From there on Nuno Espirito Santo’s team conceded a fourth goal, and despite Jota coming on for Firmino, it was the returning Trent Alexander-Arnold who came off the bench whose cross aimed for Mané ended up connecting with Nelson Semedo who unwillingly put the ball in the back of his own net, thus capping off a rather poor performance from the West Midlands side.
With the game wrapped up and another three points on the board for Jurgen Klopp and after thanking his players with his trademark hugs at fulltime, the German went straight to the Kop – saluting the crowd with three pumps to the supporters and patting the liver bird on his chest, the manager’s smile was from ear to ear and continued throughout his post-match interviews.
No doubt the lack of Raul Jimenez for Wolves has had a severe tole on the output from the attacking players. The forward is likely to be out for some time after suffering a skull fracture against Arsenal the week before.
What will be most concerning for the manager will be how such a high-quality defensive outfit in the back four of Wolves last season has shipped so many poor goals – plenty of food for thought and head-scratching to be had going into the Christmas period.
For Liverpool though they remain second. After already qualifying for the Champions League knockouts as the group leader, a small matter of an unimportant fixture away to F.C. Midtjylland on Wednesday may allow Jurgen Klopp to rotate and grant game time for returning from injury players.
The take away from this game is that despite the absences in the team, in particular in the centre of defence, there is no drop in performance levels or quality when Klopp has a full week of recovery to work with his players.
With one eye on the away trip to Fulham at the weekend, there is no doubt Liverpudlians will have their thoughts mostly on the clash on Wednesday 16th December against the top of the table Tottenham Hotspur when the 2,000 supporters will hope for another home win for the men in red.
Full time: Liverpool 4-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Liverpool: Kelleher (8), Williams (7), Fabinho (8), Matip (7), Robertson (8), Henderson (8), Wijnaldum (9), Jones (7), Mané (6), Firmino (7), Salah (8).
Subs: Alexander-Arnold (6), Jota, (6), Keita (n/a).
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Patricio (5), Semedo (5), Boly (4), Coady (4), Marcal (6), Neves (5), Moutinho (5), Dendoncker (6), Podence (6), Neto (5), Traoré (5).
Subs: Silva (5), Aït-Nouri (6), Vitinha (n/a).
Man of the match: Georginio Wijnaldum