Starting the day equidistant from a Europa League berth and the relegation zone, Liverpool finished it closer to the happier place after easingto a first victory of Kenny Dalglish's second coming. On this form, it should be one of many.
Making light of a soft, bobbly pitch, the visitors created all the chances for half an hour, scored through Fernando Torres shortly afterwards and added second-half goals from the excellent Raul Meireles, early, and Torres, late. Meireles – whisper it – was signed by Roy Hodgson, for whom a home defeat by Wolves in December was the straw that broke the camel's back and shattered the owners' increasingly thin patience.
A repeat of that notable success was never on the cards as Liverpool won for the first time on this ground since March 1978, when Dalglish had scored twice. Yesterday, he was confined to raising both arms in that familiar fashion as the goals went in and emphasising the Liverpool virtues of collective effort and spirit, allied to individual talent. "The way the lads competed was fantastic," he said. "It may have been a comprehensive win in the end but only because of the hard work and effort we put in."
Mick McCarthy, the Wolves manager, pointed to the mistakes in trying to play offside that led to two goals, and admitted to a lack of killer instinct. "We let them off the hook," he said. Then there was the Dalglish effect: "Kenny's come out of the stand and is enjoying a support and warmth that Roy [Hodgson] didn't, and they're on a roll because of it."
Despite good work from Matt Jarvis down the flanks, Wolves were outplayed in midfield. When scoring opportunities materialised at 2-0 down they were unable to take one of them and are now in serious trouble. An FA Cup tie at home to Stoke next weekend offers only brief respite from a difficult run of games that will shortly land Manchester United and Arsenal in their path.
After the feast of 10 goals in the past three games, they were back to the famine of earlier in the season, even with Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher both operating in attack and Jarvis and the less effective Steven Hunt out wide. Not for 38 minutes did Pepe Reina in Liverpool's goal have shot to save – from Fletcher – and by that time his team were in front.
The goal owed something to the assistant referee, Sian Massey, who spotted Wolves' right-back Ronald Zubar was just playing Meireles onside as he took Christian Poulsen's pass and squared the ball for Torres to tap in. That was nine minutes before the interval and five minutes into the second half Meireles struck a beautiful 25-yard volley into the net when Daniel Agger's free-kick was headed out to him.
Midway through the half each team introduced a young substitute who almost scored immediately. Jonjo Shelvey, in whom Dalglish clearly has great faith, replaced Poulsen and with his first touch was narrowly wide on a swift counter-attack. Then Adam Hammill, the former Liverpool trainee just signed from Barnsley, scuffed his shot from seven yards. Wolves desperately needed a goal at that stage to take advantage of any lingering uncertainties in the opposition ranks. Doyle headed over the bar but the visiting defence, with Glen Johnson at left-back and Agger back for Sotirios Kyrgiakos, looked more secure than in previous weeks.
Further forward, Dirk Kuyt was a workaholic as usual, and when he was played onside by further careless defending in the final minute, Christophe Berra's challenge could not prevent the Dutchman finding Torres for a decisive last word.
The manager's last word on his Spanish striker was: "I thought he was fantastic and worked his socks off. It was the best he's played since I came in, the way he worked."
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Man of the match: MeirelesReuse content