Sport

Wolves 1-2 Liverpool: Roberto Firmino’s past due stunner wins it for Jurgen Klopp’s males

For a long time, this looked like Wolves’ game to win.

Having drawn level with Liverpool through a superb Raul Jiminez goal early in the second half, Wolves had their foot on the throat of the Premier League leaders. Or so it seemed.

Twice in the period that followed Jiminez’s equaliser, Nuno Espirito Santo’s excellent team threatened to break through again. Both times Wolves seemed to be on the cusp of ending Liverpool’s long unbeaten run in the Premier League. They would have deserved it for their spirt and their ambition alone.

Roberto Firmino (right) celebrates scoring Liverpool's second and the winning goal against Wolves at Molineux on Thursday

Roberto Firmino (right) celebrates scoring Liverpool’s second and the winning goal against Wolves at Molineux on Thursday

The Brazilian cut inside before rifling a shot into the top corner to break Wolves hearts with just six minutes left on the clock

The Brazilian cut inside before rifling a shot into the top corner to break Wolves hearts with just six minutes left on the clock

Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio was left rooted to the spot as Firmino's shot flew into the top corner late on in the second half

Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio was left rooted to the spot as Firmino’s shot flew into the top corner late on in the second half

The Liverpool players rush to hug Firmino follow his stunning winner in the 84th minute on Thursday evening

The Liverpool players rush to hug Firmino follow his stunning winner in the 84th minute on Thursday evening

Jurgen Klopp acknowledges the travelling support at the final whistle as his side continue their unbeaten run

Jurgen Klopp acknowledges the travelling support at the final whistle as his side continue their unbeaten run

MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND LEAGUE TABLE

WOLVES: (3-4-3) Rui Patricio 7; Dendoncker 6.5, Coady 6, Saiss 6.5; Doherty 6, Neves 7, Moutinho 7, Jonny 6.5; Traore 8, Jimenez 7.5, Neto 7 (Jota 76min 6)

SUBS NOT USED: Ruddy (GK); Boly, Giles, Kilman, Ashley-Seal

GOALS: Jimenez (51)

BOOKINGS: None

COACH: Nuno Espirito Santo 7.5

LIVERPOOL: (4-3-3) Alisson 7; Alexander-Arnold 6, Gomez 7, Van Dijk 7, Robertson 5.5; Oxlade-Chamberlain 6 (Fabinho 69 6), Wijnaldum 6.5, Henderson 7; Salah 6, Firmino 6, Mane 6 (Minamino 32 6)

SUBS NOT USED: Adrian (GK); Matip, Jones, Williams

GOALS: Henderson (8), Firmino (84)

BOOKINGS: Robertson (56)

COACH: Jurgen Klopp 6.5

REFEREE: Michael Oliver (Northumberland) 6.5

MAN OF THE MATCH: Adama Traore (Wolves)

VENUE: Molineux

ATTENDANCE: 31,746

But both times Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson Becker denied them, diving to his right to save from Adama Traore and then at his near post to frustrate Jiminez. Both were great saves and they gave Jurgen Klopp’s team a platform not just to draw but to go on and win.

This is one of the things that makes Liverpool so impressive, so great. No matter how a game goes – and this one did not go their way for long periods – they never think that they will do anything other than prevail. As a sporting mindset, it would be worth something if it came in a bottle.

So that is what happened here. Liverpool won. Again. For the 22rd time in the league this season and for the fourteenth time on the spin in this competition. The new Invincibles? It’s a lazy description but they are starting to look very much like it.

With only eight minutes left, Liverpool won a throw in down the right and at the time it felt like respite. The flow of the game had been towards their own goal for too long and at that stage a draw was beginning to look like a very good result indeed. 

Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson (right) celebrates handing his side the lead early on against Wolves on Thursday

Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson (right) celebrates handing his side the lead early on against Wolves on Thursday

Henderson heads the ball into the Wolves goal following a brilliant delivery from Trent Alexander-Arnold from a corner

Henderson heads the ball into the Wolves goal following a brilliant delivery from Trent Alexander-Arnold from a corner

Replays showed that the ball came off Henderson's shoulder last but Rui Patricio is unable to prevent the ball from going in

Replays showed that the ball came off Henderson’s shoulder last but Rui Patricio is unable to prevent the ball from going in

Henderson is congratulated by Virgil van Dijk and the rest of his Liverpool team-mates after breaking the deadlock

Henderson is congratulated by Virgil van Dijk and the rest of his Liverpool team-mates after breaking the deadlock

Having lost Sadio Mane to a hamstring injury in the first half and with Mo Salah having one of those nights when he seemed to think he was the only player in red worthy of having the ball, Liverpool had appeared a little mute.

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But when Salah subsequently received possession with his back to goal on the edge of the 18-yard box, he sensed opportunity. Backing in to his man and drawing other Wolves players towards him, Salah allowed Jordan Henderson to take over and slide the ball through to Roberto Firmino.

Earlier Henderson and Salah had exchanged words over the Egyptian’s perceived selfishness but here they were brothers in arms once again as soon as Firmino had shifted the ball on to his left foot and buried it high above Rui Patricio.

It was a lovely goal, one born of patience and belief and a deep well of talent. And though it was hard on Wolves who had been quite brilliant in the second half, it said everything about Liverpool’s will. 

Wolves captain Conor Coady climbs on his team-mates following their second-half equaliser against Liverpool

Wolves captain Conor Coady climbs on his team-mates following their second-half equaliser against Liverpool

Raul Jimenez was found unmarked inside the Liverpool area and had the task of heading the ball past Alisson

Raul Jimenez was found unmarked inside the Liverpool area and had the task of heading the ball past Alisson

That's exactly what Wolves' Mexican striker did with Alisson unable to reach his header in the 51st minute of the game

That’s exactly what Wolves’ Mexican striker did with Alisson unable to reach his header in the 51st minute of the game

The Wolves players celebrate in front of the supporters near the Liverpool goal during the second half on Thursday evening

The Wolves players celebrate in front of the supporters near the Liverpool goal during the second half on Thursday evening

Klopp’s team had started the game well and were ahead in the seventh minute when Henderson rose to head Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner in to the net.

But it was a grip on the game Liverpool could not retain. There were half chances but nothing of note for the rest of the half. The loss of Mane was damaging, particularly as his replacement Takumi Minamino found it impossible to tune in to Salah’s wavelength.

Wolves, meanwhile, sensed opportunity. All things equal, they are the fifth best side in the Premier League. They have been hampered by a small squad and the demands of the Europa League but, on their day, they can be present formidable attacking problems and so it was here with Traore terrorising Liverpool’s left-back Andrew Robertson down that side of the field.

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Right wing-back Matt Doherty should have equalised in the first half – heading wide when unmarked – and when Wolves increased their levels after the interval they arrived back in the game with conviction. 

Sadio Mane dropped to the turf and was substituted in the first half after picking up an injury at Molineux

Sadio Mane dropped to the turf and was substituted in the first half after picking up an injury at Molineux

The Senegalese winger walks off before being consoled by boss Jurgen Klopp as he left the field with an apparent injury

The Senegalese winger walks off before being consoled by boss Jurgen Klopp as he left the field with an apparent injury

Liverpool's January signing Takumi Minamino was sent on in place of Mane during the first half on Thursday evening

Liverpool’s January signing Takumi Minamino was sent on in place of Mane during the first half on Thursday evening

It was from a clever Rui Patricio throw in the 51st minute that Wolves built the move that brought them level. Wolves quickly and simply built through midfield and when Jiminez found space to run at the Liverpool back four they were in trouble.

His slipped ball to the right was perfectly weighted for Traore to run on to and the first time cross found Jiminez arriving between defenders to glance a header across Alisson and in to the corner.

It was a goal that lit up Molineux and at times thereafter Liverpool didn’t always cope. Their offside trap was not functioning and the threat carried by Wolves when they lost narrowly and unjustly at Anfield at Christmas was evident here in magnified form.

It was a fantastic game for the final half an hour and Wolves could argue they shaded it. Nuno’s team are one of the must-sees of the modern Premier League and could have equalised at the death when Diogo Jota scooped over. But despite all this, Wolves still lost. There are others who know how that feels.

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