“Call it ugly, call it dirty, call it whatever you want. It’s three points.”
That’s how Jürgen Klopp described it in his post-match interview, after the Reds walked away from Molineux with the victory. The German described the game perfectly. The contest was a rather uneventful mess from a footballing point of view. No team could cleanly string five passes together throughout the 90 minutes and it became a lottery at whose feet the ball would eventually land.
If you were to show an example to players learning the game on how to not retain possession, this would fit the bill perfectly. For the first 44 minutes of the contest the standard was something that wouldn’t be out of place in your local weekend league.
Dropped catches, misplaced and overhit passes, out of shape teams and some horrendous ball control. This wasn’t a game for the neutral football lover put it that way. Anyone watching with knowledge of the game will have known that only one piece of quality would have been needed to separate the sides. Luckily for Liverpool, when that arrived in the game, it was in their favour.
After receiving the ball on the edge of the area, Diogo Jota – on his first return to Molineux since his summer move to Merseyside – struck sweetly towards the bottom left corner, beating a disappointed Rui Patrício at his near post to edge the Reds ahead in the final minute of the first half. As the ball nestled in the corner, Klopp’s and Nuno’s respective team talks and tactics will have altered, but both will have looked for their sides to improve upon there messy displays thus far.
The game promised so much and actually started in frantic fashion, after Adama Traore beat Robertson on the outside in the second minute, his cross was clumsily dropped by Alisson despite it being a regulation take. Trying to regather the ball, the Brazilian wiped out Nelson Semedo. This easily could have gone either way. With hearts in mouths – after a VAR check – the referees saw no foul play and continued to the relief of all in red. From there the encunter descended into a large pinball game and thus began an evening of untidiness.
Expecting much more from the second half, Klopp urged his side to push on to find a second to kill the game, but no major chance of note materialised. A half chance across goal from Salah was saved comfortably after 70 minutes and a shot straight at the keeper from Jota shortly after was the best his side could muster, which made him all that more dependant on his centre halves having another good game. They did not disappoint.
Kabak and Phillips once again put on a show, mainly aerially as many expected, as they kept the threat of Willian José and Pedro Neto under wraps. It is a partnership that is starting to flourish and with a fortnight until there next game, this will give them further time to build that understanding.
Obviously, the main talking point of the evening was that of the injury suffered by the Wolves goalkeeper. After a clash with captain Conor Coady, Portuguese international Rui Patrício was seen unconscious on the turf. With the recent memories of the injury suffered by onlooking striker Raúl Jiménez, the medical staff reacted brilliantly, taking every precaution in safely supporting and then removing the shot stopper from the field.
As the game restarted for the closing minutes, the Reds withstood the late Wolves pressure to secure a win that will once again raise the confidence levels within the side. Despite all the injuries and problems suffered domestically, Klopp’s side find themselves five points from fourth placed Chelsea. With a fixture schedule that seems to be in their favour – famous last words – a late run at the top four is potentially within their grasp again.
Liverpool where unchanged from the side who defeated RB Leipzig in Budapest in midweek.
Here are my winners and losers from the game:
Ozan KabakEmbed from Getty Images
Man of the match on the evening. It is great to see the young Turkish international grow his confidence. After his solid display against RB Leipzig, he produced a statement performance against Wolves that further established the argument that Klopp should make the loan move permanent.
With the sloppy nature of the game, it was key that Kabak was alert at all times. Expect the unexpected as the ball was flying around, with neither side establishing any kind of normality. What shone through was the 20-year-olds composure within all of the chaos. The way in particular that he dealt with Adama Traore was impeccable, as he provided that calming influence in front of Alisson, that the Brazilian clearly appreciated.
Like I previously touched upon, his partnership with Nat Phillips is going from strength to strength. The direct nature of the pair is very different from the way regulars van Dijk and Gomez have gone about their business over the last few seasons, but this is proving very effective against sides not accustomed to facing this kind of approach.
Even then when the chance is on to build from the back, Kabak once again showed that he has this ability is his skill set, with dissecting balls into midfield, offering wide to his goalkeeper and taking the ball forward when required to.
When the Reds signed him from Schalke, he could have easily had an negative effect on the team as his Bundesliga side where last in Germany and had only registered a couple of wins in the campaign. Instead, after his initial acclimatisation period, you can see the improvement every week. His performances will go someway to deciding where and how Liverpool finish the season. Hopefully, he can have three months to remember.
Nathaniel PhillipsEmbed from Getty Images
He is the immovable object at the moment. A force to be reckoned with. Even in his wildest dreams he couldn’t have imagined playing this well for Liverpool, never mind being in the starting 11. From outsider to trusted centre half, he has made some impact over the last month.
After his man of the match performance in his Champions League debut on Wednesday, the return to domestic matters will have had fans wondering whether he could carry it his form over. He answered these in emphatic fashion alongside Kabak, as they became a wall protecting their goalkeeper.
In an interview during the week, the 23-year-old admitted that he hates losing headers and 50/50 against anyone. This was evidently clear in the 90 minutes against Wolves, as he lost the first header in the game. Seeing the clear annoyance on his face and the grit and determination that burnt within, I knew then that he wouldn’t lose any more for the rest of the game.
He then proceeded to continuously beat every Wolves player to every ball regardless of where he was on the pitch, making sure that even if the ball was going out for a throwing, that he would win the tackle and leave his mark on the opposition player. Players in orange in the end looked reluctant to go near him, out of fear that they couldn’t win the ball.
Like most players during the evening, Phillips did have a few lose passes that went wayward, but overall, he will have thoroughly impressed his manager with another solid display. His surge into form looks like it has come right on time for the Reds. He will have a major test up next away at the Emirates but if he can perform to this level there, then fans should be confident in another Liverpool clean sheet.
Thiago AlcântaraEmbed from Getty Images
The Spanish international actually didn’t have the worst game in the world. He was able to affect the contest in a positive way in certain moments for the Reds, as he continues to learn about the Liverpool system and playing style. However, a number of uncharacteristic missed passes and ill discipline cost him in this game.
Since Thiago has arrived at Anfield, I think it’s fair to say, he has never shied away from a tackle. He actually looks like he relishes the physical nature of the Premier League, as he puts himself about making slide tackles left, right and centre. Unfortunately, with the sheer number of tackles he puts in comes the threat of a booking, something Thiago is now all too familiar with since arriving in England.
In this particular game his early booking and continuous fouling of the Wolves player curtailed his evening in the 67 minute, as the threat of a red card was just too risky for Klopp to keep the former Bayern Munich man on the pitch.
Klopp usually likes to keep Thiago on until the 80-85 minute since his debut, but the midfielder has been substituted early several times around the hour mark due to ill discipline during the opening moments of any game. The early yellow cards seriously effect his impact, as he is unable to make full blooded tackles from normally the half hour mark onwards.
This will be something that Klopp will have to discuss with Thiago. Personally, I am happy with him putting himself about but there are more efficient ways of him doing it. With Fabinho in behind him, the need for him to tackle is now less urgent and this will need communicating to the 29-year-old for future fixtures.
The fact that Liverpool have been able to secure a player with such quality for £20 million is extraordinary. He is brilliant in every way and we will likely see the best of him next season when all the Reds key players return. One thing that he needs to work on in the meantime however is the slide tackle in training.
Don’t miss a thing
Get new content delivered directly to your inbox. It’s free!