Dalglish celebrates his first win
ROY HODGSON came in for heavy criticism during his troubled Liverpool reign.
But, despite the flak that came his way, there is no doubt he got one decision very right.
Raul Meireles was the 63-year-old's major signing for the Reds in August, a £11.5m purchase from Porto.
And on Saturday, the Portuguese star definitively showed why Hodgson had been so keen to get his man. The 27-year-old was by far and away the best player at Molineux in Liverpool's comprehensive 3-0 win at the weekend.
With a performance full of creativity and tireless forward running, it set the tone for a triumphant day for Kenny Dalglish's men against Wolves.
It was Meireles who scampered away to provide Fernando Torres with a simple tap in for the Reds' opener.
But Liverpool's second was the one that took the breath away, a brilliant right-footed volley that flew into Wayne Hennessey's top corner.
With Steven Gerrard ready to come back into the line-up against Fulham on Wednesday, the Reds central midfield suddenly has a look of real quality.
Torres provided the gloss for this much-needed victory in stoppage time as relief spread visibly through the Reds' ranks.
The win gives Dalglish his first win as caretaker manager and Liverpool only their second away victory of the season. In this topsy-turvy Premiership, it pushes the Scot's men up to tenth position in the table, just nine points away from a Champions League spot. And this desperately-needed result will give the Reds fresh heart going into two winnable home fixtures at home in the next fortnight.
Wolves were rugged and committed in their approach, but ultimately Liverpool had far too much class and cutting edge for Mick McCarthy's men. While Meireles was the shining light, Torres again continued his good form under Dalglish with a showing full of menace and vigour. And Christian Poulsen, handed a start in central midfield, was hugely effective, particularly in the first half, at nullifying Wolves' physical approach.
The Reds came under concerted pressure at the start of the second half, as the Black Country side tried to mount a fightback.
But the Liverpool backline, at fault in recent games, stood firm with Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel in miserly mood. Some of the passing and movement from midfield will have delighted Dalglish, who has already stamped his mark on the club with the Reds playing a markedly more attractive passing game than under Roy Hodgson.
Liverpool made one change from the side which drew 2-2 in the Merseyside derby at Anfield on Sunday. Jay Spearing made way for the Dane Poulsen in midfield as captain Steven Gerrard served out the last game of his three match ban. The Reds had started the game four points above the relegation zone with their opponents rooted second from bottom on 21 points as they endeavoured to turn around the 1-0 defeat suffered at Anfield at the hands of Wolves around three weeks ago
There was impressive travelling support at Molineux and banners were unfurled in tribute to Joey Cummins, 25, shot dead in Fazakerely this week.
Both sides started scratchily as the initial football served up was high on application but low in quality. Liverpool, however, showed an appetite not to succumb to Wolves' physical approach and Torres was soon embroiled in a series of feisty exchanges with Richard Stearman which demonstrated the Spaniard's lust for the fight.
On an uneven pitch, Liverpool weathered some early Wanderers' resolve and it was Poulsen who got the first sight of goal when his shot was blocked by Christophe Berra. As referee Martin Atkinson awarded a number of free-kicks to the Reds, for challenges from behind on Torres and Rodriguez, the striker was soon in the action, latching onto Meireles' flighted long pass and turning inside to fire a left foot strike at Wayne Hennessy, who parried.
Wolves remained energetic but it was Liverpool who were carving out the chances and Meireles gave a hint of what was to come with a 20-yard shot which flashed past the upright. Rodriguez next tested Hennessey before the pressure finally told when the influential Portuguese international broke clear from a Poulsen pass and he waited patiently before squaring for Torres to tap home.
It was no more than Liverpool deserved as the Spaniard once again proved his barren scoring run is well and truly behind him. After the break, the Reds were braced for a Wanderers fightback, but Dalglish's men quickly grabbed the ascendancy once more as Rodriguez's through ball found Dirk Kuyt sprinting clear whose prodded shot was easily blocked.
But it mattered little as Molineux was soon treated to a strike that will be hardly bettered at this stadium this season. It was more Meireles magic as Daniel Agger's free-kick was headed clear by Berra and the former Porto man lashed an unstoppable volley into the top corner. It was a goal good enough to win any game and it sent waves of ecstasy through the Liverpool dugout.
The travelling Reds support were soon eulogizing the King Kenny impact through the words of The Fields of Anfield Road, and three points were on their way back to Merseyside.
Mick McCarthy's men rallied as Matt Jarvis began to threaten on the left, but a Steven Fletcher drive that Pepe Reina gathered at the second attempt was the best they had to offer.
There was plenty of huff and puff from Wolves, but Liverpool dug in and showed a defensive resilience missing in recent weeks. Jonjo Shelvey, on as a substitute, had a golden opportunity to put the Reds out of sight, but he skewed badly wide from a Meireles pass. That gloss, however, was applied in injury time when Torres lashed home from close range after Kuyt had been denied.
Three unanswered goals, away from home, and if there was the sound of a slight wind passing through Molineux, it was more probably the outward sighs of relief from the jubilant travelling Liverpool supporters.
This was not just a comprehensive league victory away from home, but a Reds side playing with skill, verve and craft. The Dalglish factor is starting to take effect.
“I know the fans sometimes shout at me, I did really good in the first half, but I had two or three misplaced passes in the beginning of the second half. Of course, I want to improve my game and I hope I can do that here at Liverpool,” CHRISTIAN POULSEN reflects on trying to win over the Liverpool fans.
“Kenny (Dalglish) coming out of the stand doesn’t make it any easier. He is enjoying a support and warmth that Roy didn’t and he has garnered that and nurtured it. They are certainly on a better roll because of it.,” Wolves manager MICK McCARTHY on the Dalglish effect.
Dalglish could not hide his glee at Molineux on Saturday, whether discussing the teamwork that underpinned an emphatic 3-0 victory over Wolves or his personal goal celebration — arms aloft, beaming grin across his features — which harks back to his playing days. ‘I used to wear shorter trousers back then, but that’s it,’ he said. ‘I’d be disappointed if I didn’t have a smile. It’s not an act. It’s just spontaneous. ‘If you’re standing there and you can’t enjoy somebody scoring a goal for you, or winning a match, then you shouldn’t be standing there.
‘This football club means so much to so many people and it’s done so much for so many people. I’m just one of the fortunate ones who’s been the recipient of that. The players wanted everything against Wolves. They wanted to win. Now Wednesday is an important game for us and we’ve also got our captain back, which is a big plus. He (Steven Gerrard) has been champing at the bit to get here, and then in February we’ll get our other talisman back because we’ll get Carra (Jamie Carragher) back.’
‘It’s nice to be back in the Liverpool way, where the business is talked about behind closed doors until we have something tangible to say. I know it’s a different era than it was before, because of the social media, networking, all the things you have, like Facebook and Twitter. But the principles are the same. It’s not dictatorial. It’s just being responsible. I can only be what I am and only treat people as I would like to be treated myself. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, nobody is going to be happy, myself included. We just stand beside each other. And help each other. And we make sure that what we’re doing, we’re doing correctly.’ KENNY DALGLISH HAPPY WITH A WOLVES WIN.
WOLVES (4-4-2): Hennessey, Stearman, Henry (capt), Fletcher, Ward, Hunt (Hammill, 71) Berra, Jarvis, Milijas, Zubar, Doyle. Subs: Hahnemann, Craddock, Jones, Vokes, Hammill, Mouyokolo, Davis
LIVERPOOL (4-5-1): Reina, Johnson, Meireles, Agger, Torres, Rodriguez (Aurelio, 80) Kuyt, Leiva, Poulsen (Shelvey, 72) Kelly, Skrtel. Subs: Gulasci, Aurelio, Cole, Pacheco, Kyrgiakos, Spearing, Shelvey.
REFEREE: Martin Atkinson
ATTENDANCE: 28, 869
BOOKED: Poulsen, Torres, Meireles.
GOALS: Torres, 35, 90, Meireles, 49
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