Liverpool managed to grab all three points in what proved an extremely difficult match against a very resilient Wolverhampton Wanderers side at the Molineux on Saturday, courtesy of a late, late goal from Divock Origi.
With Chelsea previously defeated at the hands of West Ham, the Merseysiders had climbed to the top of the Premier League table for a few hours, before defending champions Manchester City beat Watford to regain the summit themselves. Liverpool are therefore in second place, one point behind City, and one ahead of Chelsea in third.
As for Wolves, this defeat didn’t do them much damage for the time being. They sit in eighth place with 21 points, just six off West Ham in fourth, though they could drop one spot lower if Leicester City triumph at Villa Park on Sunday.
The nervy Jota return
Diogo Jota, who fitted in so well at Liverpool following his arrival from Wolves, returned to the stadium of his former club to hear boos from the stands practically every time he touched the ball. It’s obviously extremely difficult for a player to stay focused on the task at hand in such circumstances, and the hostile reception definitely took toll on the Portuguese forward.
Though his movement was as sharp as always, his touch on the ball seemed to betray his nerves in every critical situation. His heavy passes ruined what would likely have been good attacking moves for Liverpool several times, he missed a header you’d expect him to score every time. He was also the central figure of a moment likely to be classified as the miss of the season as he charged towards the goal covered only by two outfield players, and from six yards, managed to hit his former captain Conor Coady on the goalline instead of the bigger, unprotected part of the net.
The man Liverpool so frequently turn to for goals had a really difficult time in this match, and his departure from the pitch in the 82nd minute to make way for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain arguably came much later than expected.
The Wolves resilience
The home side really did well for practically the whole game, and though they were undoubtedly lucky a couple of times to keep their net still, it was obviously very harsh on them to lose the match in the end through that late Origi goal.
Bruno Lage’s team defended really well throughout. Coady, along with Romain Saiss and Max Kilman, stopped the Liverpool forwards on countless occasions. Nelson Semedo and particularly Ait Nouri covered the flanks well, while Ruben Neves and Leander Dendoncker made sure no proper threat came through the middle.
At the other end of the pitch, Raul Jimenez and Adama Traore caused the Liverpool back line quite a few problems. The Spanish winger in particular proved very difficult to contain.
The feeling of regret for the final result will have only been made greater by the fact that they came close to scoring on several occasions; the contest could easily have gone the other way completely.
Divock Origi. A player that has defied the odds so many times during his Liverpool career that it’s sometimes very difficult to believe those moments actually happened.
Every summer (and January) the Belgian striker is heavily tipped to leave Anfield, being always on the margins of the team. He is now firmly the fifth-choice attacker in Jurgen Klopp’s mind, though that’s not really something to be ashamed of: Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota would be truly formidable competition for anyone.
Nonetheless, Origi is deeply engraved in the history of the club. His 96th-minute Merseyside Derby winner from three years ago, his double in the 2019 Champions League semifinal against Barcelona and the goal that wrapped up the trophy against Tottenham Hotspur in the final will always be remembered, and now he has added another chapter in that book.
It seemed a brave call from Klopp to send Origi on for captain Jordan Henderson with over 20
minutes to go. It obviously meant a shift from the usual 4-3-3 shape to a kind of 4-2-3-1, or 4-2-4 if you will, but Origi started repaying the manager’s faith straight away.
He worked hard and made his presence in and around the Wolves box felt, and as time went by, it seemed more likely by the minute it would make a difference in the end. Things still became notably nervy as the match went into the stoppage time, set to last five minutes because several Wolves players had asked for medical assistance, obviously playing for time.
But Origi kept his head, continued getting into the thick of things, and eventually did what he does best.