Liverpool’s top-four prospects were given a shot in the arm after a 1-0 win away to Wolves.
Returning to his former club, Diogo Jota scored the game’s solitary goal and gave the Reds what was — on the overall balance — a deserved win.
The visitors started the game in a shaky fashion and this was typified by Alisson. Coming to claim a routine cross from Adama Traore, the Brazilian made unconvincing contact and the ball spilled into the path of Nelson Semedo, and Liverpool number one clattered into the Portuguese wing-back in an attempt to win the ball. The referee waved play on and the Reds’ fanbase breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Semedo was proving the hosts’ most dangerous outlet and, after some slack Liverpool passing — a feature of the opening ten minutes — Adama Traore pilfered the ball near the goal. The Spaniard released Semedo on goal, but the former Barcelona player’s shot was weak and straight at Alisson.
Liverpool improved thereafter, with Sadio Mane offering himself as a deep recipient of passes and gliding through the pressure to get the away team on the front foot. The Senegalese only has one league in 11 and he ought to have scored when Thiago slipped a pass to Georginio Wijnaldum and the Dutchman in turn pick out Mane. Bearing down on goal, the Senegalese international attempted to round Rui Patricio but his touch was heavy and he forced himself too wide of goal and the chance evaporated. Arguably, the number ten ought to have gone down and bought a penalty.
It was a warning to Wolves of the quality of the Liverpool front three, even if they mostly failed to link up in a meaningful way with the synergy between Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Jota looking understandably like a work in progress.
However, when you have a forward line of players of that calibre — even if they don’t always dovetail perfectly — they will, by sheer talent alone, eke out opportunities and that’s exactly what happened on the brink of half time. Salah’s pass the moving Mane and the Senegal star hit a first-time pass to Jota. Back on his old stomping ground, the Portuguese forward let the ball run across his body before hitting a low, first-time shot past Patricio. His compatriot should probably have saved the effort, but Jota gave him no opportunity to settle, and the fact he hit the near post was surprising. One way or the other, Liverpool went into the break leading.
Looking more assured in the second half, the Reds — with Ozan Kabak and Fabinho in particular — dealt with everything the hosts threw at them with relative comfort. Trent Alexander Arnold had little trouble with Pedro Neto and Robertson, thanks to the assistance of Mane and on the left flank, had relatively few heart in the mouth moments against Traore.
A nasty-looking injury to Patricio — whose head clattered into Conor Coady’s knee — meant there were seven minutes of injury time at the end of the 90. Liverpool navigated the additional time well, with substitute Alex Oxlade Chamberlain offering energy and impetus to help stem the host’s attempted attacks and the Reds held on for what could be a big win.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Phillips, Kabak, Robertson; Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Thiago; Salah, Jota, Mane.
Replacements: James Milner for Wijnaldum, Naby Keita for Thiago, Oxlade Chamberlain for Jota.
Subs not used: Adrian, Tsimikas, N.Williams, R.Williams, Jones, Shaqiri.