Liverpool secured top spot in the Premier League at Christmas, overcoming Nuno’s Wolves 2-0 away from our beloved Anfield. It’s all here:
A cold night at the Molineux Stadium was never going to be easy, with Wolves getting commendable results versus the ‘Big 6’ this season.
Liverpool seem to have started to ditch the 4-3-3, bringing in the 4-2-3-1 used against Manchester United. Milner and Clyne will rotate at right-back until Trent Alexander-Arnold is fit, reportedly in contention after Christmas, it shouldn’t be too much of a worry.
A poor early giveaway from Fabinho gifted Wolves the first chance of the game, with Adama Traore running at Van Dijk, our Dutchman, flawless as ever, funnelled him wide and made the shot a hard task, fizzling wide when hit by the winger.
Most of the players were just outside the hosts’ box, looking for threaded through balls, a clear foul on Naby Keita floored the midfielder, who looked in some discomfort around his abdomen. Countering from the poor challenge from ex-Liverpool academy captain Conor Coady, the hosts looked to turn defence into attack, with Jimenez taking a long ball down superbly, giving the ball again to Traore who -again- fires wide.
Comfort again for Liverpool, patiently playing around the back, awaiting the right time to play the correct forward pass, a chance comes, finishing with a Firmino shot which is then deflected behind for a corner. The subsequent corner is taken by Milner, finding Van Dijk floating around the back post, who takes it down, executes a fake-shot wonderfully, but seeing his shot blocked and the home side regain possession.
A spill from Alisson due to the poor, poor conditions at the Molineux Stadium sees a clearance chased down by Boly and Otto, and Mane has Boly keep the ball in at the expense of his spot on the pitch, the momentum taking him into the stands. Not the type to give up, however, he paces back on, only to catch his own man in the challenge, required a change of shorts after a stud tore them open. Despite a few counters from Wolves, Liverpool looked in control of the game, and the Reds got what they deserved before the twenty-minute mark.
A free-kick Liverpool’s way following Naby Keita finally being rewarded for his pain, Salah gives it short and gets it straight back, boxing it to the back post, ending up with Fabinho running at the defence. Two assists in two games for the Brazilian he cuts it back to Mo Salah, it is tucked away with the outside of the Egyptians boot, beating Rui Patricio easily. 18 minutes, Wolves 0-1 Liverpool.
That’s really got the crowd going, both sides, boo’s all around from the home supporters, whilst the famous “Allez Allez Allez” is belted out at some volume by Kopites in the away end. Naby Keita is causing Wolves so many problems, floating in between the lines, making Ryan Bennett unsure whether to drop in or try and man mark the Guinean. Heavy challenges directed the midfielders way because of this silky movement is what got us the opening goal, and they aren’t stopping.
Fabinho has really found his place in this side, cutting out the build-up play of the hosts whilst still managing to get involved in attack heavily, providing two assists in his last two games. Promising for Liverpool, Mane is running at two defenders with Firmino and Robertson running next to him, pass cut out, he resorts to shooting, that too blocked, Milner has space and the ball, rocketing one at Patricio’s bottom left, a good save, however, sees the danger cleared.
A quiet few minutes as a result of Liverpool being all over the possession, was very pleasing to watch from a Liverpool fan’s eyes, a poor giveaway had Salah and Mane chasing through with no pressure from the defenders onto a loose ball, Rui Patricio was quick off his line, however, beating our front-men to the ball due to a huge head-start.
Ruben Neves has a crack from range, last season, every attempt from over 18 yards out seemed to nestle into the goal but always rising, it clears the crossbar considerably. Jonny has a shot from 16-17 yards, side-footed towards the far post, Alisson equal, the score remains stagnant from Salah’s goal 20 minutes prior.
Nervy for Liverpool fans, Alisson is seemingly caught with the ball a good distance outside his box, never phased, our keeper comes out with the ball and a very disappointed Jonny, who felt he could’ve come out of the challenge with a clear path on goal.
Milner seems in pain, words exchanged with Jurgen Klopp as he makeshift full-back is parallel to his coach whilst taking a throw-in, Clyne features on the bench after an impressive performance against Manchester United as a potential replacement if the poor performance along with the knock he picked up is reason for a removal at the half, speaking of the half, it’s the first one over. Half-time, Wolves 0-1 Liverpool.
The Reds are out in presumably dry shirts, short-lived, however, as the rain is plummeting down onto the players and pitch simultaneously. Bright start gives Liverpool a corner early into the second half, an outswinger from James Milner means Salah needs something special to bring it down and make something happen, and as gifted as that man is, the result is a shot over the crossbar.
Almost an unfortunate own goal that would’ve doubled Liverpool’s lead, as an acrobatic dive out proceeding a ball into the Wolves’ box sees Patricio dive onto it, punching it into an unaware defender’s back, a fortunate connection meant it lacked any sort of velocity and trickled into a clearance.
A forced substitution sees 20 replace 8, Lallana replace Keita. Naby goes down after struggling to get into the game on the left-wing despite some good moments. Shaqiri would’ve perhaps been the fan choice, but it’s Lallana given a rare opportunity to try and impress. Two Liverpool corners in quick succession both result in nothing.
Double substitution for Wolves, Morgan Gibbs-White replaced Moutinho, and Cavaleiro replacing Adama Traore. Nuno still feels from the touchline that Wolves can get something out of this game, hoping to dethrone Liverpool from the top spot in the league on Christmas Day. Both hosts and visitors have had plenty of chances to equalise and double their lead respectively.
A lighting counter ends with Lallana winning a corner, superb football from Mo Salah. Lacklustre has described our corners of late, can we change that now? Yes, we can!
Milner hesitates before playing it short to Lallana, back to Robertson a looping ball into the box is cleared by Wolves, Salah with a delightful third delivery to none other than Virgil Van Dijk who is hovering in a striker’s position on the edge of the box to strike past the Wolves’ keeper. A first Premier League goal for Liverpool and a second in his history with the Reds. 68 minutes, Wolves 0-2 Liverpool.
Alisson with another close-range save at an important time, Romain Saiss gets a lash at it following a corner, but it’s low and central, therefore also being straight into the keeper’s arms. There is no getting past Virgil Van Dijk, he directs you right where he wants you and wins the ball back all within an instant, an absolute monster.
A second change introduces Gini Wijnaldum to the game for the last 15 in the place of Firmino, who has been widely off the mark this game, frequently misplacing passes by a matter of inches. Wijnaldum has proved to be arguably our most important midfielder this season, despite the signings of such names as Keita and Fabinho. Bobby walks off with a little limp too, perhaps a precautionary move at the same time, as with the injuries we already have, any more would be tragic.
A third change is perhaps lacking the intention to get back into the game, more tuned towards resting Jonny, who has been recently brought back to the Starting XI after an injury. Vinagre replaces him at left-wing-back, another young player brought on, adding to Morgan Gibbs-White, combined age of 37.
A third and final change for Jurgen Klopp and his side is Nathaniel Clyne being introduced for Sadio Mane, who has been very involved for the 86 minutes he featured for, a bump to the Senegalese man’s eye should hopefully heal quickly.
Big chance for Wolves to add a nervy atmosphere for the last few minutes. Andy Robertson gets the ball caught up in his legs whilst running instead of clearing it for a corner, leaving Gibbs-White 1 on 1 close range. Robertson gets away with it, with the hosts’ forward only finding the outside of the side netting, close.
Top of the league on Christmas day thanks to Mo Salah and Van Dijk, 8 of the 9 teams in previous seasons who were top of the league on December 25th have gone on to win the league, make of that what you will.