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Wolverhampton 0, Liverpool 3: Winning Ugly

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andy carroll goal celebration wolves
Wolverhampton 0
Liverpool 3 Carroll 52', Bellamy 61', Kuyt 78'

It was another chance for a struggling club to inject some life into their season by facing a Liverpool side unable to find consistent results against opposition below them in the table. Unlike Liverpool's last opponents Bolton, however, Wolves never really threatened to take control of the match, though it nevertheless seemed to be going down a familiar path for Liverpool for the first fifty minutes as chances were wasted and midfield devolved into an indecisive muddle. Still, for a side to be successful it needs to find a way to win even when the games are dull and performances sub-par, and for one of the few times in a season full of disappointing results against lower league opponents Liverpool managed to walk away with all three points in spite of a performance nearly as underwhelming as Wolves' was at times.

At times that quality of play—or lack thereof—made it seem as though a couple of friends had headed out with a six-pack to kick the ball about on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and a quiet, half empty Molineux didn't do a lot to alter such negative perceptions. Mick McCarthy meanwhile will have moved one step closer to unemployment, with his players turning in a passive, uninspired performance against a Liverpool side known for playing down to the level of their opposition. But only three days removed from an emotional victory over Manchester United in the FA Cup, it might very much be one of those times when for Kenny Dalglish and the Liverpool players a win is a win, and good enough in itself for that fact.

It wasn't all dull and dire, though, as Liverpool came out of the gates fired up, looking to carry over their cup form to the league. In fact, the first twenty-five minutes were almost entirely Liverpool's, even if that meant it was back to the theme the club ended 2011 on: An inability to consistently convert possession into quality chances, and an inability to convert any quality chances that were created into goals. First Kuyt bundled the ball into Hennesey in the opening minutes, his heavy touch at the edge of the six-yard area spoiling Liverpool's chance to take the lead when the game had just barely begun. After that, Liverpool would struggle and strain, seeing lots of the ball but to little effect until the twenty minute mark, when a perfectly weighted pass from Jordan Henderson sent Craig Bellamy flying between centre backs and clear on goal only for the striker's toe-poke to slide wide of the post.

charlie adam bad tackle

Soon afterwards, Daniel Agger's header was saved by Hennesey off a corner before an odd-man break broke down when Charlie Adam refused to slide the ball out to a wide open Dirk Kuyt. Then, with Liverpool growing frustrated and Wolves beginning to realise they might not be facing an especially clinical side, the game began to devolve. Sloppy midfield play dominated for both sides, with Spearing and Adam the primary culprits for Liverpool as the match carried painfully on through the end of the first half and into the second with neither side appearing at all interested in taking the three points. About the only impassioned moment in nearly thirty minutes of play would come when Craig Bellamy cut the ball back to Adam with five minutes left in the first only for Emmanuel Frimpong to bundle the Liverpool midfielder over in the penalty area. Referee Anthony Taylor, however, was unmoved, and despite that it seemed a clear penalty the reality was that Liverpool had only themselves to blame for failing to convert their early chances into a lead.

Fifty-two minutes in, they finally did convert a chance, and it was thanks to the unlikely pair of Adam and Andy Carroll. Coming off perhaps his best game in a Liverpool shirt on Saturday against Manchester United, Carroll had again put in a strong shift against Wolves, and when Adam swung a cross into the penalty area that hard work finally paid off with a drilled, left-footed finish from close range. As for Adam's role in the goal, while it's impossible to overlook the quality of the cross, it's also impossible to overlook that until that point he had been having one of his worst games in a Liverpool shirt—and that against a side with even a slight pulse, his numerous giveaways and sloppy defensive effort may well have seen Liverpool a goal or two down as had been the case against Bolton the week before.

Additionally, it's also impossible to overlook just how bad McCarthy's Wolverhampton Wanderers were on the night, a theme that would continue nine minutes later when the defence backed off from Craig Bellamy. The on-form striker accepted the room he was given on the edge of the area and slotted the ball under Hennesey to put Liverpool two goals up and seemingly put the game out of reach. The result would be confirmed not too long afterwards when Jose Enrique collected a poorly taken Wolves corner, shrugged off the disappointing Frimpong, and and fired a massive crossfield ball to Dirk Kuyt as Liverpool countered. Kuyt then passed square to a late-arriving Adam, who seemed to have held onto the ball too long before popping it back out to Kuyt at the last second for the Dutch attacker to drill home his fiftieth league goal from a tight angle.

Perhaps it was a far from a convincing display from Liverpool, and Wolves' poor play most certainly had a lot to do with the result. Still, after how many poor results this Liverpool side has had against opponents behind them in the standings so far this season a few goals, a clean sheet, and three points are reason enough to celebrate despite that almost every question that has been lingering around this group of players for the past few weeks remains.