Wolves 3 Liverpool 0
Liverpool’s winter of gloom continues to plumb new depths. Their third thudding away defeat in a row was nailed on once Craig Dawson put Wolves two up before Jürgen Klopp’s players could hit any sort of stride. Nothing about what happened before or after it flattered an excellent home side, who profited from an early Joël Matip own goal and rounded things off through Rúben Neves.
Perhaps Klopp will point to a smattering of second-half chances but the fact is that Liverpool only brightened up once the game had already happened to them. Reverses at Brentford, Brighton and Molineux within five weeks, nine goals conceded and one scored, are no coincidence. This is a crisis and there will be no easy way out.
Of the £75m (€83.5 million) Wolves spent on new arrivals during January the £3.3m paid to West Ham for Dawson was outwardly the least noteworthy. But by the 12th minute of his debut he had buried their second goal and it was no more than a rampant opening deserved: Liverpool were outplayed, outpassed and beaten to every contest during that spell and had no answer to their hosts’ bright, snappy approach play.
There had been warning signs even before the opener, Matheus Cunha forcing Alisson to beat away a long shot and Pablo Sarabia dragging wide on his first start since arriving from Paris Saint-Germain. Sarabia would probably have been ruled offside had he scored but there was no conjecture around his next contribution.
A clipped left-footed pass sent Hwang Hee-chan away down the inside-right channel, aided by hesitancy from Matip. The defender would be doubly punished: Hwang looked to cut the ball back sharply but it pinged off Matip at a zany angle and flew in via the far post. Barely five minutes had been played but it had been coming.
Wolves were operating as if fielding at least one extra player, the left forward Matheus Nunes twice haring back to make interceptions. Liverpool had no answer and, with defending this inept factored in, an addition to the score felt equally inevitable. It was not that they lacked chances to avert danger: their problems began when Matheus Cunha was sharper than Andy Robertson and near the byline, could chip over a cross. The consequences were comical, Joe Gomez’s flick taking out Alisson and allowing a header for Max Kilman, whose effort was blocked by Cody Gakpo. The loose ball was smashed in by Dawson; it was emphatic from Wolves and shambolic from Liverpool.
Their plight could have worsened before half-time. Nunes got the better of Matip when chasing a long pass but was denied by Alisson’s block with the crowd expecting a third; Dawson headed over at the far post when gloriously placed and nobody in Liverpool colours could match the drive of Mario Lemina, who set the tone by hurling himself successfully into challenges all over the pitch.
Darwin Núñez forced an acrobatic save from José Sá after Dawson’s goal, while Mohamed Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold both shot over. But Liverpool were passive, flat, anodyne: even their more threatening work felt like an amble through the motions.
The loss of Hwang to injury was Wolves’ first real inconvenience. Another could have followed six minutes into the second half when Naby Keïta’s drive, deflected by Robertson, struck the arm of Kilman. Liverpool roared for a penalty but the defender had not outstretched his limb unduly.
Liverpool had at least re-emerged with an appetite to ask questions. Dawson blocked a Núñez piledriver and there were flickers of an understanding between Robertson and the hitherto anonymous Gakpo. While Wolves were hardly hanging on they had ceded control so it was little surprise when Julen Lopetegui enlisted the experience of Raúl Jiménez and João Moutinho for the final half-hour.
Salah immediately opened his body up but curled wide. Keïta, seconds after having been thoroughly bested by Lemina once again in a precis of the afternoon’s exchanges, was replaced by Jordan Henderson. Soon Liverpool came again but Núñez, rampaging through at an angle, was denied by Sá.
That was the final glimmer before they were finished off brilliantly. Adama Traoré, who had replaced Hwang, was sent away by Moutinho after the substitute twice won possession in midfield. Composure has not always been his hallmark but this time he adroitly picked out the onrushing Neves, who controlled in full flight and finished coolly. “You’re getting sacked in the morning,” crowed the Wolves support to Klopp. That is unlikely but he has never been this close to the mire. - Guardian