Wolves and Nuno Espírito Santo made it harder for Liverpool than any team has in the Premier League for some time, but in the end Jürgen Klopp’s mentality monsters came through as Roberto Firmino scored a late second half goal to secure the three points and so the Reds’ potentially historic season continues. Now, we dig a little deeper into Thursday night’s victory.
Winners and Losers
We’re not entirely convinced any of the neutral fans commentator sorts like to talk about actually exist, but if they’re out there somewhere, tuning in to random mid-week Premier League football without any rooting interest whatsoever and hoping for a show, they got that here and then some. A frantic start, Wolves keeping their composure despite going down early and Liverpool’s strong first half play, and then the underdogs hosts coming out firing in the second half to level the score and make the Reds sweat.
The Injury Gods
It almost seemed too good to be true, all Liverpool’s injured players working their way back just in time for a final push in the league and a return to action in Europe with the Champions League knockout rounds. Fabinho was back and Joël Matip was back and Dejan Lovren was back and James Milner and Naby Keïta and Xherdan Shaqiri were all on the verge of coming back.
Which means that perhaps it shouldn’t be a complete shock that the injury gods got the last laugh and a win when Sadio Mané pulled up holding his hamstring with the first half winding down. If there’s any positive to be taken from it, at least Mané walked off under his own power and didn’t try to keep playing, suggesting a slight strain caught early. Or at least that will be the hope of every Liverpool fan and Jürgen Klopp as well. Even if things turn out for the best and it’s just a minor strain, though, it was a moment to remind everyone that things never go quite as easily or as well as they might, and if it’s more than just a mild strain Liverpool’s final push in the league and return to Europe just got a whole lot more difficult.
But let’s be honest, at least 97.3% of so-called neutrals aren’t actually if they’re turning in to a spot of the mid-week football. They’re big fans of football generally which means they’re fans of other clubs and so do have a rooting interest of some kind. And for those, or at least for the overwhelming majority of them who have an interest in Liverpool somehow managing to throw away their seemingly insurmountable lead, a tense and exiting affair that sees Liverpool take all three points in the end is hardly a win.
Credit to the Opposition
Some will say Liverpool weren’t at their best, but much of the talk heading into the match was about how Wolves were a side built to frustrate the Reds—a side that would work just as hard as Liverpool with an unusual tactical set-up that could make life difficult—and frustrate they did.
After a frantic opening, after Jordan Henderson’s opener, it turned into something of a cagey affair between a pair of hard running, hard working, uptempo sides—but Liverpool consistently looked the more talented. They looked as though, given time, the game was always going to be theirs. Only Wolves weren’t over-awed by their opposition. Unlike sides that kick off against Liverpool almost as though they believe they’ve already lost, Wolves didn’t believe that they’d lost even after going down.
They fully deserve credit for sticking to their guns, playing their game, and keeping things close through the first half, and for having the mentality—one could maybe call it a Liverpool-esque mentality—to go one better in the second half. They lost in the end, but they put in a performance as good as anyone has this season against the Reds.
What Happens Next?
The procession continues. Not that we’re convinced Liverpool have won the league yet. Mostly, maybe, but not completely. Never completely until it’s mathematically over. And speaking of mathematically over, as things stand Manchester City can hit 93 points if they win out from here. While unlikely, until the math says otherwise that’s the marker the Reds have to beat.
To do that, for Liverpool to get 94 points, they need to earn 27 points in their final 15 games, which means nine more wins—assuming, again, that City don’t drop any more points—if you’re fond of keeping the math simple. Which means the earliest Liverpool can actually, really, officially win the league is against Manchester City on April fourth. Which would be neat.