Three things we learned: Wolves - Liverpool
Diogo Jota marked his first game against his former club with the only goal in the Liverpool’s 1-0 victory over Wolves at Molineux Stadium on Monday.
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The victory sees Liverpool climb up to 6th in the Premier League table, just a handful of points behind 4th-place Chelsea in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification.
Wolves, meanwhile, are down to 13th after starting matchweek 28 in 12th. Monday’s defeat was only the second in eight Premier League outings for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
3 things we learned: Wolves - Liverpool
1. Slow starters start even slower together: Monday’s game marked the first time since Jan. 28 (nine games) that Liverpool held a halftime lead in the Premier League, and they only managed to take said lead in the dying seconds of the first half. These are the defending champions we’re talking about, not a random side from the middle or bottom half of the table. Wolves, on the other hand, have failed to even score a goal — forget scoring more goals, but a goal — in 22 of 29 games this season. It’s not at all unreasonable to ask the following question this summer: “Has Nuno taken them as far as he can, or does he have different tactical ideas that can see them to a new level?”
2. Fabinho back at home in midfield: Prior to Monday, Fabinho hadn’t started a Premier League game at the no. 6 spot since Oct. 17, the day Virgil van Dijk tore his ACL and was lost for the season. In the five months since Van Dijk’s injury, Liverpool also lost center backs Joe Gomez and Joel Matip for the rest of the season, and as a result Fabinho was lining up exclusively at center back. Though he can do a job along the backline, it’s quite clear his future lines just ahead of the back-four, where on Monday he was back to marshaling traffic and stepping forward to aid the attack. The moment that Fabinho and two natural center backs — Ozan Kabak and Nathaniel Phillips — were all healthy and fit enough to start, Fabinho made his way back to midfield.
3. Top-four dream not totally dead: The gap between Liverpool and 4th-place Chelsea is now just five points (and two places) with nine games left to play, thanks to the Blues’ disappointing draw with Leeds. For all of their struggles over the last five months, they still have a chance.
Wolves kept Alisson plenty busy in the opening five minutes. First, the Brazilian goalkeeper found himself in hot water (once again) when he dropped a cross right into the lap of Nelson Semedo just outside the six-yard box. Alisson lunged for the ball and made contact with Semedo in the process. Referee Craig Pawson refused to whistle for a foul and penalty kick.
Two minutes later, it was again Semedo with the dangerous opportunity. Adama Traore played Semedo into space and Semedo cut inside to set up a shot on goal. He hit it hard and placed it low to Alisson’s left, but Alisson was well positioned to make the save in the end.
Liverpool’s first clear-cut scoring chance came in the 38th minute, when Sadio Mane made a late run into the box to get on the end of Trent Alexander-Arnold’s low cross. Mane still had much to do to redirect his header on target from 12 yards out and at a tight angle. In the end, he sent it just wide of the post.
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Jota broke the deadlock mere seconds before the halftime whistle, and Rui Patricio will be sick to his stomach over not keeping the ball out of the back of his net. Mohamed Salah and Mane combined to progress the ball into the final third and send Jota into the penalty area for a first-time strike, which Patricio couldn’t get to despite the fact it wasn’t struck particularly hard.
Wolves’ best chance to equalize came until the 79th minute, but Fabio Silva couldn’t put enough power behind his header when he got on the end of Semedo’s cross into the box. The fact he also headed it straight into Alisson’s arms didn’t help matters.
Salah slotted the ball home past Patricio in the 86th minute to make it 2-0, but the Egyptian superstar was narrowly offside when Jota played him in behind the Wolves defense.
Wolves were forced to make a fourth substitution — allowable in instances of head injuries — as the clock ticked into stoppage time. Patricio appeared to collide with captain Conor Coady’s knee as he tried to deny Salah on the offside attempt. Patricio was taken away on a stretcher after more than 12 minutes of on-field treatment.