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Reds win away at Wolves

Back from an international break, early kick-off, away from home, forced lineup changes and a gloomy day. These were the ingredients before today’s match against Wolverhampton Wanderers. Ibrahima Konate only came back from international duty two days before the game, Trent Alexander-Arnold was injured, Virgil van Dijk was suspended and Darwin Nunez and Luis Diaz started on the bench after long trips and two back-to-back matches in South America. They were accompanied by an incredibly strong bench consisting of Konate, Endo, Gravenberch, Tsimikas, Elliott, Bajcetic and Kelleher. The other big news was a full debut for Jarell Quansah at centre-back meaning a shift to right back for Joe Gomez, a start for Curtis Jones and Andy Robertson was named captain on the day. The stage was set and after a minute’s silence reflecting on the tragedies in Morocco and Libya, the game began.

The home team began well and certainly dominated the opening encounters. It only took until the 7th minute for the home team to take the lead. The excellent Neto made a great run on the left into the box, beating 3 or 4 players and then played an amazing ball across the 6-yard box to Hwang at the back post. Andy Robertson should have dealt with the situation twice, once when the cross came in and once when Hwang got his shot away but the South Korean kept his controlled shot low and hard enough to squirm under the covering Alisson. 1-0 Wolves.

Liverpool finally got into the game after 20 minutes. Jota had a chance from a pulled-back ball from Salah, by skied it horribly over the bar. Neto was running the show on Wolves left flank and in the 32nd minute, he controlled the ball and easily beat and out of sorts Gomez and then clipped in a delicious cross over Quansah and onto Cunha. What happened next is more difficult to explain than the Bermuda Triangle. He went for a header and volley at the same time and instead, the ball hit his midriff and fell haplessly to Quansah and the danger was over. It was honestly harder to miss than score and Liverpool could consider themselves very fortunate.

The best piece of play from the away team came in the 38th minute with a slick passing move that started with MacAlisster, who played a forward ball to Szoboszlai, who slipped in a through ball out wide for Robertson who whipped in a fast cross to a waiting Gakpo on the penalty spot. It was a difficult half volley that needed the perfect technique and timing, which the Dutchman could not provide, slicing the ball well wide. The half faded out and a Gakpo header followed by a flurry of chances in the Wolves box were the final chances of the first 45. Changes in attitude, application and personnel were required if the visitors were to get anything out of this game.

MacAllister was taken off at the break and Diaz was brought on. It’s a little unfair on the Argentinian because he spent 45 minutes playing a role that we did not bring him into play. He should still be able to do a better job than he did but he certainly can’t shoulder all of the responsibility. Gakpo and Jota were lucky to start the second half as their performances were well below par.

Diaz’s impact was immediate and a tweak in formation resulted in an instant change in approach and intensity from the visitors. The pressure told and in the 55th minute, Salah played a low hard ball to the far post. Was it a shot, was it a cross? We won’t know, but Gakpo tapped it in and Liverpool were level. Klopp was planning to make two changes and the goal turned out to be Gakpo’s final act of the match as he and Jota were replaced by Harvey Elliott and Darwin Nunez.

Wolves responded with a couple of changes of their own, bringing on Silva and Doherty for Hwang and Cunha respectively in the 61st minute. The home side was forced into a further change shortly after as Ait Nouri was forced to leave the field with an injury. He was replaced by Bueno.

With 20 minutes to play, Liverpool were well and truly in control and looking the more likely to score and in the 85th minute Andy Robertson picked up a poor clearance from Sa just inside the Wolves half and ran forward with the ball before playing it out to Salah on the right. The Scotsman continued his run and Salah found him only for the left-back to calmly slot the ball passed the hapless Wolves keeper in his 200th game for the Reds.

In the 91st minute, Darwin Nunez picked up the ball with his back to goal, rolled his defender and played the ball through to Salah. His first attempted cross was blocked and it fell kindly back to the Egyptian who rolled the ball back to the edge of the area for Elliott to hit a shot which took a wicked deflection hit the right post and crept in. Salah was taken off in the 93rd minute and Gravenberch was brought on to make his debut. For some reason, Oliver added on 11 minutes, 3 beyond the minimum 8 and the encounter just played out to see the visitors walk away with all 3 points. It’s great to see the character Liverpool are showing but surely that is not a sustainable formula for a whole season.

My takeaways from today’s match are this. Klopp got it horribly wrong in the first half. Playing MacAllister as a holding midfielder can not ever be an option again. He was not brought in for that role and with Endo and Gravenberch on the bench surely this should not have been an option today. Quansah put in a solid performance on his debut and the early kickoff curse is broken. To Klopp’s credit, he did make changes to the personnel and system which completely changed the game. So we sit top of the table, more points in the bank and our unbeaten run is extended.

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