With Jota back at Molineux on his birthday, Wolves fans feared the worst. But those in attendance were pleasantly surprised with the fight on display as they fell late on to title-hunting Liverpool. Origi added to his ever-growing portfolio of clutch moments for the reds, inflicting damage in the dying moments, following a titanic defensive performance against one of the best teams on the planet. More importantly, the West Midlands teams put rivalry aside, as we remembered Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in a matchday tribute during the 6th minute.
After spending three days quietly concerned for how many Liverpool would put past us, the team was released, and confidence came from nowhere. Following his suspension, Neves returned for Moutinho, whilst Adama kept his place in the starting eleven. Much to the relief of Wolves fans, Liverpool were hugely off their game offensively, conceding possession too easily and not creating enough in terms of goal-scoring opportunities. Wolves held the ball well in spells whilst nullifying the likes of Salah, Mane, and the returning Diogo Jota for the first 20 minutes or so. Klopp’s men demonstrated their class soon afterwards, with arguably the best midfield in the world currently, Thiago and Henderson had the pack chasing side to side.
Unfortunately, despite the spells of possession in the first half, Wolves were unable to fashion any openings to test Alisson properly. There was a clear tactic was to utilise Adama as the out-ball, once enough Liverpool pressure had been soaked and possession was regained, a long ball was fired up to Traore, to engage in a tussle with either of the reds centre halves. Thanks to his freakish physical attributes, this worked a few times as a worried Van Dijk resorted to putting the ball into touch.
Again though, similarly to the Burnley match, Wolves’ positives remained in the defensive areas, with this art of defending episode provided by yours truly: Conor Coady. Saiss and Kilman were exceptional once again, with Saiss preventing an almost certain tap in from the form-man right now, Mohamed Salah. But our captain will receive the majority of my praise with one of the greatest goal line clearances anyone will see. Jota capitalised on a moment of miscommunication from Saiss and Sa, finding himself running in on an open goal with only a helpless Kilman and Coady to beat. What came next epitomised the word sacrifice, with Conor Coady leaving everything on the goal line.
Aside from Jota’s back post header, and the square ball with Saiss doing enough to prevent Salah, the back five were immense in keeping Liverpool’s world class talent quiet for 45 minutes. The second half became a game of maintaining a compact defensive unit and using Adama’s pace and physicality to generate counter opportunities. Managing to weather the storm for 94 minutes, Van Dijk reached Salah with a long-range pass, and the Egyptian’s touch took it way away from Hoever, who then found Origi, smartly finishing on the turn to send the Steve Bull lower into pandemonium.
Man of the match – Rayan Ait Nouri
You could choose any of the back five as the MOTM and there wouldn’t be many qualms. However, many hail Mo Salah as the best player in the world right now, many said how Rayan Ait-Nouri would be his next victim. Salah was lucky that our Algerian star boy got injured because I highly doubt Liverpool would have won if it would not have been for the 20-year old’s substitution. Rayan shushed the Premier League legend for 93 minutes, tackles and interceptions galore. Boss.
Defending brilliantly is wonderful, and the greatest teams often leave you with little choice in the matter. However, our attacking display was abysmal today, we were extremely one dimensional and Alisson had nothing to do all game. Wolves wasted possession cheaply, the front men lacked cohesion and the ball would not stick. Manchester City will dominate possession, replicating the defensive performance of today will help, but being more efficient in the final third must improve. Five shots on target in three games is embarrassing. Additionally, the concept of a substitution is to give an advantage to your team in the latter stages, ours seem to be aiding the opposition recently and this is no fault of Bruno, our squad depth is nothing short of comical. A message to FOSUN – January investment has to happen.
Sam Beeken is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him here