Liverpool capped off 2019 with yet another victory after beating Wolves 1-0 in a Premier League match marred by controversy as VAR stole the headlines at Anfield.
Sadio Mané scored the only goal of the game as the Reds finished the calendar year 13 points ahead of second-placed Leicester City, despite having played a game less than the Foxes.
The visitors left with a sense of injustice after Pedro Neto was denied a first Premier League goal by a marginal offside call after a lengthy VAR review.
That came minutes after the winning goal was awarded by the controversial video review system, despite referee Anthony Taylor originally ruling it out for a handball against Adam Lallana.
Jürgen Klopp put out a strong Liverpool side, arguably one of the strongest available to him save for Lallana’s inclusion in midfield at the expense of Naby Keïta, who admittedly needed a rest after his recent exploits.
Jordan Henderson made his 350th appearance for the club, while Sadio Mané and Virgil van Dijk reached the 150 and 100 marks respectively.
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In contrast, Nuno Espiríto Santo sent out a much-changed Wolves side after their magnificent comeback over Manchester City, which kicked-off less than 48 hours before this one.
Star turns were rested, including all three goalscorers against Pep Guardiola’s Citizens — Adama Traoré, Raúl Jiménez and Matt Doherty all dropped to the bench while youngsters like central defender Max Kilman and Rúben Vinagre were given the nod.
The Reds almost got off to the perfect start on three minutes. Roberto Firmino laid the ball off to Trent Alexander-Arnold, who didn’t hesitate in drilling the ball into the box for Mohamed Salah, but his first-time effort flashed over the crossbar.
Two more chances went begging for the Egyptian, but it was Sadio Mané who gave the Reds the lead just before half-time amid yet more VAR controversy. Van Dijk’s ball over the top was knocked down for the Senegalese, who finished devastatingly into the bottom corner.
Referee Anthony Taylor initially ruled the goal out for a handball against Lallana, but replays showed that the England international had controlled the ball with his shoulder and, after a lengthy delay, the goal was eventually awarded.
It looked as if Klopp’s side would go into the break with a deserved lead, but that idea looked to have gone out of the window when Pedro Neto swept home in first-half injury time.
The Video Assistant Referee got involved again, though, and ruled once again in Liverpool’s favour as Jonny Castro was adjudged to be fractionally offside in the build-up. Manager Nuno Espiríto Santo was cautioned for his protests.
Wolves saw more of the ball in the second half but were largely unable to break down an uncompromising Liverpool defence, even after introducing the likes of Jiménez and Traoré.
Even after a hectic festive schedule, the Reds do not have long to wait for their next outing — they welcome Chris Wilder’s high-flying Sheffield United to Anfield on Thursday, January 2.