Five months after the coronation the Kop finally reverberated to the sound of “champions”. Liverpool showed the watching faithful and the rest of the Premier League why with a ruthless dissection of a Wolves team that looked lost without Raúl Jiménez as their focal point.
Liverpool 4-0 Wolves: Premier League – as it happened
“If no one is injured then it was the perfect night,” said Jürgen Klopp, having dusted off his fist-pump celebration in front of the Kop for the first time since March. “When we came out for the warm-up and heard the noise it was a proper goose-bump moment. It was so nice to hear You’ll Never Walk Alone again too. It was nice that we could give them something back.”
Liverpool gave 2,000 fans a first-hand demonstration of their defensive resilience, with the goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher – who changed his shirt at half-time after starting with Kellher on the back – assured once again in the absence of Alisson, and their ability to punish any lapse in the opposition ranks. Unfortunately for Conor Coady and Nuno Espírito Santo’s team, they offered up plenty.
Coady endured a night to forget back at his old club as his error led to the opening goal for Mohamed Salah and VAR overturned a penalty he won with a dreadful dive. Georginio Wijnaldum, with a stunning second, Joël Matip and Sadio Mané – via a final touch from Nélson Semedo – completed what proved to be a rout. “The high standards we have set were not there,” the Wolves manager lamented. “No doubt we missed Raúl but we need to find a solution fast because we cannot repeat this performance and result again. It was bad.”
Anfield was less than 4% occupied but 2,000 people can make an impressive noise in an arena that has been uncomfortably silent for too long. The pre-match chant of “Bring on the champions” spoke of pride and also a longing for the arduous wait to finally end. Wolves players issued their own message during the warm-up, wearing tops that proclaimed: “Stay strong Raúl – the pack is with you.” Jiménez returned home from hospital on Sunday, having fractured his skull at Arsenal seven days earlier.
Liverpool were sharp and quick to exploit any lapse in the visiting ranks. Adama Traoré was initially dangerous on the right of the Wolves’ attack and both defences were regularly stretched in an entertaining first half. Kelleher, handed his Premier League debut for Liverpool after an excellent display against Ajax, produced a fine save to deny Daniel Podence when Jiménez’s replacement attempted to chip the young goalkeeper from Traoré’s lay-off. Traoré created another opening when he skipped away from Fabinho but good covering by Neco Williams prevented Neto connecting with his cross to the far post.
The game was finely balanced when Coady’s return to his boyhood club began its descent into a personal ordeal. The England international appeared to have a routine situation under control when Jordan Henderson guided a long ball into the heart of the Wolves defence. His attempted chest towards Willy Boly lacked power and accuracy, however, and with his central defensive colleague sold short Salah pounced on Coady’s error to drive low beyond Rui Patrício. Salah’s 11th goal of the season may have been gift-wrapped but was also reward for his predatory instinct.
Coady’s calamitous evening was under way. Wolves were awarded a penalty two minutes before the interval when the defender went down as he challenged for a loose ball inside the Liverpool area with Mané. The Senegal international made a risky attempt to clear Curtis Jones’s header with an overhead kick and the referee, Craig Pawson, immediately pointed to the spot when Mané appeared to connect with Coady’s midriff. But there was no contact. Mané withdrew his foot before Coady came into his sphere and, having been advised to study the pitchside monitor, Pawson rightly overturned his penalty decision. He should have booked the Wolves captain for his attempted deception, however. The Kop made its feelings clear with chants of “cheat, cheat”.
Wolves’ display deteriorated from that point. Mané served notice of a dominant second-half performance by the champions with two chances from fine passages of play. For the second opening, side-footed wide by Mané, Salah found Robertson with an inch-perfect cross and the full-back teed up the striker with a first time touch through the legs of Semedo. Liverpool were just getting warmed up.
Moments after Coady failed to capitalise on Traoré’s cross into the area Henderson launched a Liverpool counterattack with a first-time ball to Wijnaldum. As the midfielder attacked and surveyed his options, the Wolves defence backed off. Wijnaldum used Coady as a marker and curled an unstoppable finish around the defender and into the top corner from 20 yards.
Liverpool’s third arrived from a short corner and another wonderful delivery from Salah. His cross pierced the Wolves defence for Matip to head beyond Patrício from close range.
Harry Kane and Son Heung-min a lethal Tottenham double act against Arsenal
Alexander-Arnold had only been back in the fray for 10 minutes when he provided his latest assist for the fourth. Receiving Jones’s pass in space on the right, the full-back drilled a low cross into the visitors’ area where Mané’s mis-hit shot struck Semedo and trickled over the line.