Roberto Firmino hits late winner as Liverpool get the job done in absorbing encounter against Wolves

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-2 Liverpool: The visitors were far from their best and looked in danger of falling to defeat – but Jurgen Klopp’s men always find a way

Melissa Reddy
Thursday 23 January 2020 22:57
Liverpool celebrate after Roberto Firmino's late winner
Liverpool celebrate after Roberto Firmino's late winner

What more is there to say? Are there any unused superlatives left? In the absence of fresh words, perhaps it’s wise to borrow Kylian Mbappe’s recent ones.

Liverpool are like a machine,” the Paris Saint-Germain star said. “They win, they win, they win.”

Yes, they’ve done it again. At Molineux on Thursday night, the league leaders came, scored twice, sweated a bit, but ultimately conquered.

Liverpool have not lost a game in the division for 385 days. They have collected 94 points out of the last available 96.

The numbers don’t get any less impressive and neither does the relentlessness of this side, especially in arduous circumstances.

Nuno Espirito Santo had one big demand of his men: do not concede early. Eight minutes in, that message was voided as Jordan Henderson’s determined run and leap saw him head in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner with the help of his shoulder.

To Wolves’ credit, they did not allow that opener to knock them off their stride. Instead, they won a corner at the other end that Joao Moutinho played short to Ruben Neves. The midfielder curled the ball towards the back post and Matt Doherty got the better of Liverpool pushing up to play offside. Left completely unmarked, he inexplicably headed wide of the far post.

The first half was an absorbing, intense encounter with both teams typically aggressive in and out of possession.

Virgil van Dijk blocked a Raul Jimenez effort and Mohamed Salah could have passed to Takumi Minamino – on for the injured Sadio Mane – before he was thwarted by Doherty.

After the interval, the final-third play ratcheted up a notch. Adama Traore, a handful as expected, was fortunate that Rui Patricio saved a left-footed hit from Salah, who had so easily dispossessed him.

Joe Gomez then came to Liverpool’s rescue, with a fine block to deny Pedro Neto.

Jordan Henderson celebrates putting Liverpool ahead

Wolves did eventually get the goal their endeavour deserved and the protagonists were of no surprise. Jimenez played a neat one-two with Traore and continued his run into the box. The speedster delivered an inviting cross for the forward to head in – the eighth time the pair have successfully combined in the league.

The setting of Molineux under the lights looked the most daunting of Liverpool’s post-Club World Cup fixtures given recent battles with Nuno’s charges – and it proved to be an accurate assessment.

Since returning from Qatar, the Merserseysiders flawlessly navigated away trips to Leicester and Tottenham as well as the hosting of Sheffield United and Manchester United.

The reverse test against Wolves at Anfield less than a month ago ended in a tense 1-0 victory and Klopp predicted it would be another exacting encounter this time around.

“They are really difficult to play,” he said when previewing the match. “They make the pitch really big and ask you for a lot of footwork.

“You cannot play on a 50 or 60 per cent basis against Wolves, then you have absolutely no chance.”

Traore proved especially troublesome to contain and Alisson had to produce a superb, one-handed save low to prevent him from finding the bottom corner.

Raul Jimenez levelled the score with his headed effort

The winger was at it again, providing Jimenez but Liverpool’s goalkeeper averted the danger.

England’s pacesetters had not looked this pressured and panicked all season.

Salah shot wide at the other end in a reminder that the visitors possessed their own strong, speedy outlet, but it was Wolves who were asking the more telling questions.

But this is Liverpool and they always find a way. On 84 minutes, Salah’s fantastic footwork was taken over by Henderson, who slipped Roberto Firmino in.

The Brazilian cut inside and sent a smashed finish high into the net to score his sixth goal in his last five games away from Anfield.

Analysts and the club’s rivals had circled the section of the schedule post-Qatar as The Bit When Liverpool Slip. Instead, they have won six, scored 12 and conceded one.

"That's why they're going to be champions," a dad had told his young Wolves-supporting son on the concourse afterwards. And who could argue with that?

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