By Matt Ramirez – @Matt_J_Ramirez
Jürgen Klopp saw his heavily rotated Liverpool side fall prey to Wolverhampton at Molineux in the FA Cup Third Round.
The German gave full debuts to teenagers Rafael Camacho and Curtis Jones, but a full-strength side put out by Nuno Espirito Santo proved too much for the young Reds to handle, running out 2-1 victors.
The game couldn’t have got off to a more disastrous start for the German manager, with Dejan Lovren being forced off with an injury within the opening three minutes of the game – being replaced by 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever.
Unfortunately for all those viewing the match, Lovren’s injury was the only thing of note to happen within the first half hour. Neither side managed an attempt on goal, with both sets of players seeming hesitant to attack and appearing content to play the ball round their respective defences to conserve energy.
The first half was full of mistakes, with both sides losing possession regularly whenever they attempted to enter the final third of the pitch. Due to this, it was fitting that the first goal of the game, came due to a midfield mistake. Unfortunately for Klopp, it was his captain on the night that fell prey to it.
A poor error of judgment by James Milner, saw Wolves win possession with a vacant Liverpool half to run into. Raul Jimenez advanced unchallenged with the ball towards Simon Mignolet, calmly strolling into the box before slotting it passed the helpless Belgian keeper and putting his side 1-0 up in the 37th minute.
Following the goal, Wolves began to grow more confident in the game and a few Liverpool errors almost saw them double their lead. Fortunately for the make-shift Liverpool defence, they were able to hold out until half-time only one goal down.
Klopp couldn’t have been happy with the first half performance, and whatever he said at half-time clearly worked, with Liverpool drawing level in the 51st minute.
A signature dinked ball forward by Xherdan Shaqiri found Milner with his back to goal in the Wolves box. The No.7 span and shot but saw his effort deflect off stout Wolves defence and bounce back out to Divock Origi.
The Belgian took a touch, before swivelling onto his left foot and releasing a sweet left-footed strike which arrowed past a flailing John Ruddy and into the top left corner of the Wolverhampton net. After almost an hour of play, Liverpool had an attempt on target, and a goal on the night.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, they weren’t level for long courtesy of Ruben Neves. The Portuguese starlet received the ball from Ruben Vinagre 30-yards-out, and with Molineux calling for the number eight to shoot, he finally obliged.
One touch to set himself, before unleashing a venomous strike which dipped and swerved all over the place, beating Mignolet at his near post before coming to a rest in the bottom right hand corner of the Liverpool net. After 55 minutes of the game gone, Wolves regained their lead and looked to improve on it.
Following the Wolverhampton, Liverpool again seemed to crumble in defence, looking prone to making errors, and seeming unsure of how to deal with the ball.
With this being said, Liverpool got through the wave of Wolves pressure and almost levelled the score again through Shaqiri. A free-kick on the edge of the box was claimed by the Swiss powerhouse, who proceeded to release a curling, dipping effort that looked set to nestle in the top corner.
The shot cleared the wall and had Ruddy scrambling, but unfortunately for the winger, he could only watch on as his effort thundered off the post and went out for a goal-kick. Immediately following this, Klopp turned to his bench in a final attempt to alter the outcome – on came Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino.
Despite an improved second half performance and the introduction of Salah and Firmino, Liverpool were unable to breach the Wolves rear-guard for a second time, and therefore saw themselves eliminated from the FA Cup.
Unfortunately for Klopp, the loss may not have been the worst thing to happen during the night. Liverpool were already suffering somewhat of a defensive injury crisis before the Lovren was forced off, with Joe Gomez and Joel Matip still recovering from injuries. The addition of the Croatian to the treatment table now means that Liverpool’s only fit senior CB is Virgil van Dijk.
With this now being the Reds’ second defeat in a row, eyes will now turn to Saturday’s away fixture against Brighton, as Liverpool will look to bounce back and keep their Premier League lead to four points – The question now on the mind of Liverpool fans will be who partners VVD at the Amex?