A pair of broken set pieces led to a pair of Liverpool goals – with man-in-form Mohamed Salah having a hand in both — as Liverpool maintain their hold on the Premier League’s top spot with a 2-0 win against Wolves.
Salah 18′ (Fabinho)
van Dijk 68′ (Salah)
On a rainy night at the Molineux, Jürgen Klopp rang in a pair of changes from Sunday’s triumph over United, with James Milner and Jordan Henderson taking the place of Nathaniel Clyne and Georginio Wijnaldum, respectively.
OFFICIAL: This is the official Liverpool lineup to face @Wolves in matchday 18 of the Premier League.
Initial thoughts? 💭 pic.twitter.com/fGT4OCyzTQ
— LFC Transfer Room (@LFCTransferRoom) December 21, 2018
Wolves fired an early warning shot after João Moutinho picked off Fabinho’s pass and played in Adama Traoré down the right. The pacy winger connected well, but his shot was well wide of Alisson’s net under pressure from Virgil van Dijk.
Traoré was the main source early on, and again flashed wide of net on nine minutes, following some strong hold-up play from Raúl Jiménez.
Van Dijk had the Reds’ first clear chance of the night, taking down a corner at the far post and patiently out-waiting his man before having his attempt blocked.
Wolves were then in at the other end through Roman Saïss but Alisson was on hand to parry away, though not convincingly, before Fabinho cleared the danger.
It proved to be a vital intervention as Liverpool took the lead a few minutes later. What looked like a broken free-kick routine fell to Fabinho on the right flank. He laid the ball off to Sadio Mané, who then returned it to play the Brazilian into the box. Fabinho’s cut-back was inch-perfect for Salah to stroke home with the outside of his left boot.
Milner tried to widen the gap broke inward off the right flank and struck a solid left-footed effort on goal, but Rui Patrício collected easily.
The hosts responded brightly after that, forcing Alisson into a number of saves through slick buildup play and well choreographed pressing. Matt Doherty’s header tested the Brazilian on 27 minutes before a sweeping move saw Jonny’s curled attempt force a good save down to Alisson’s left on 37.
Wolves made one last push before the interval. Doherty read Naby Keïta’s out-ball and nipped in ahead of Andrew Robertson before firing on goal.
The Reds started the second half on the front foot, nearly creating a few golden opportunities, only to see the final ball let them down.
Twelve minutes into the half, Klopp was forced into a his first substitution. Keïta stayed down with an apparent back issue, seeing Adam Lallana take his place.
Nuno Espírito Santo followed suit a few minutes later, bringing on Ivan Cavaleiro and Morgan Gibbs-White for Moutinho and Traore in search of an equaliser.
Lallana nearly doubled Liverpool’s advantage after a beautiful sweeping move between Salah and Mané. Wolves managed to recover and deny his chance from the edge of the six-yard box.
It was only stay of execution, however, as Salah picked out van Dijk in the second phase of the ensuing corner. The Dutchman poked Salah’s clipped ball past Patricio for his first Premier League goal for Liverpool.
A corner for the hosts on 71 minutes nearly cut into the deficit, as a ricochet fell to Saiss in the box. His tame effort was straight to Alisson, who held comfortably.
Klopp brought on Wijnaldum to replace Roberto Firmino on 75 minutes after a lively but understated performance from the Brazilian.
From that point forward, the Reds then seemed content to absorb pressure and try to hit Wolves on the counter, with Mane and Salah a consistent threat in transition.
Santo made his final change of the evening on 81 minutes, bringing on Ruben Vinagre for Jonny.
Moments later Salah drew a smart save from Patricio, with Mané playing in the Egyptian once again on the counter.
Clyne came on for a cameo appearance following a strong showing at the weekend. The once-forgotten right-back replaced Mané on 86 minutes.
A fizzed cross in from Vinagre almost gave the hosts a lifeline in the dying minutes of regulation. Robertson couldn’t sort his feet and back-heeled to Gibbs-White some 10 yards out. The youngster – who’s impressed in recent appearances – fired harmlessly wide as Alisson came out to pressure.
There was no comeback to be had, however, as the Reds saw out the five added minutes in professional fashion. The last play of the match saw Wijnaldum fire narrowly wide of Patricio’s net from the top of the 18-yard-box.
This win takes Liverpool to 48 points from 18 games. Four points clear of second place Manchester City at the top of the table.
Alisson; Roberton, van Dijk, Lovren, Milner, Keita (Lallana 58′), Henderson, Fabinho, Mane (Clyne 86′), Firmino (Wijnaldum 75′), Salah
Subs: Mignolet, Sturridge, Shaqiri, Origi
Patricio; Boly, Coady, Bennet, Jonny (Vinagre 81′), Neves, Saiss, Doherty, Moutinho (Gibbs-White 63′), Traore (Cavaleiro 63′), Jimenez
Subs: Ruddy, Costa, Dendoncker, Bonatini