It took longer than it should have, and it was certainly a grindy watch at times, but Liverpool got the result they deserved in the end, running out 2-0 winners over Wolverhampton Wanderers courtesy of a point-blank Virgil van Dijk header and a close range Other Body Part tap-in from Mohamed Salah.
A couple recently injured favourites were back in the mix making an impact, and although they were tentative throughout, the Kop ended the night in full voice, as they begin to sense that perhaps a late run at the top four is coming.
Below, then, we talk winners, losers, defensive prowess, streaks, stats and referees.
The Portugal Son: Liverpool have really missed Diogo Jota. With Luis Díaz injured and the rest of the front line drifting in and out of form, the Reds have struggled for any consistency up top, and when he’s been able to get on the pitch in his Liverpool career, Jota has been very consistent, both scoring and creating goals.
He was a difference maker again tonight, alternating between dropping deep to link play, leading the line through the middle, and exchanging places with Darwin on the left flank. The Portuguese attacker set up what should have been the opener with a driving run into the box, then setting up what did become the opener with a combination of hustle, game intelligence and outstanding body control, as he chased a rebound and swung the ball back across goal to be headed home by Virgil van Dijk.
The Liverpool front line has seen many constellations this season, and having Jota’s dynamism back in the mix could be a game changer as the season reaches the pointy end.
A Sneaky Streak: The Real Madrid scoreline does a lot to hide it, but the Reds are putting together a sneaky little run of results recently. Since losing in embarrassing fashion to Wolves four weeks ago, they’ve taken 10 points from four games, and collecting four clean sheets in the process. They are six points out of the Champions League spots with a game in hand, and none of the teams in front of them appear in any way infallible, or even particularly stable from week to week.
There have been false dawns before this season, but should Liverpool be able to keep this late rally going, they are in with a genuinely solid chance of pipping Newcastle and Tottenham to a top four spot come the end of the campaign.
Núñez, Núñez, Núñez: The Kop loves him, and Darwin loves them. He was cheated out of his 13th goal this season tonight by another, let’s say inauspicious VAR intervention, and lead both teams in shots, shot assists and successful dribbles.
Recent numbers show that almost no player in the Premier League is as important to his team’s attacking potency as Darwin Núñez, and it is becoming increasingly clear that he is likely to be a massive contributor as Jürgen Klopp builds his next great team.
Wolf Pack: While they did look somewhat dangerous in the opening minutes, Wolverhampton managed only a single shot after the fourth minute tonight. If you add injury time, that means they took one shot in 94 minutes of football, and zero shots in the final 85 minutes, against a team they beat by three goals only a month ago.
Certainly, Liverpool’s defensive process appears to have improved recently, but this was a disturbingly toothless performance from a team that are only three points clear of relegation as things stand.
Paul Tierney: Absolutely dreadful. Pure drek. Utterly incapable of any sort of consistency throughout, while he tried his best — and did succeed in taking some of the joy out of watching the match — the man with the whistle was thankfully unable to impact the final outcome.
What Happens Next
Oh just a Sunday afternoon clash with high-flying arch rivals and recently crowned Carabao Cup winners Manchester United at Anfield. No biggie.