Ruben Neves wonder-strike punishes Jurgen Klopp gamble
Ruben Neves wonder-strike punishes Jurgen Klopp gamble as Liverpool dumped out of FA Cup by Wolves
Jason Burt, Chief Football Correspondent, Molineux Alan Tyers, live updates
7 January 2019 • 11:11pm
Liverpool were the biggest victim of the FA Cup third round, as they lost to Wolverhampton Wanderers, but Jurgen Klopp will worry more about another casualty.
Defeat with a weakened team came at a price with the loss of Dejan Lovren to a hamstring injury in the opening minutes which means they may go to Brighton for Saturday’s Premier League fixture with Virgil van Dijk as their only fit central defender.
The league, and the Champions League, are the prizes Liverpool are chasing this season and no-one could blame Klopp for the nine changes he made – although he may regret retaining Lovren as one of the two players who also started last Thursday’s defeat to Manchester City.
The manager’s frustration will have been compounded by the fact that illness to others meant he used Lovren, for a seventh consecutive game, when he had planned to name him on the bench. Had he therefore been considering using Jordan Henderson there?
Klopp showed his irritation by later saying “very smart people” might have accused him of “not respecting the cup” had he played 16-year-old Ki-Jana Hoever, who replaced Lovren, from the start but that would not have been the case. Either way, Liverpool are out.
This result means it is back-to-back losses for them and although this was a far different occasion from the City game, they will obviously want – and need - to bounce back. For Wolves, despite the relatively depleted opposition, this was a famous cup win and they should now go on and give it a real go in this competition knowing they are safe in the league.
Certainly there is no reason for them not to do so with this result meaning they have also now either beaten or taken points from all the so-called ‘Big Six’ in the league or cup since being promoted. They are an admirable team.
The loss of Lovren led to a slice of history for Liverpool with Hoever making his debut, becoming the youngest player to ever represent the club in the FA Cup and the third-youngest ever for them. The Dutch defender, from Ajax’s academy, impressed. In particular one late run stood out as Hoever brought the ball out of defence skilfully before springing an attack.
He was not the only debutant, and not the only teenage debutant, with Klopp turning to 17-year-old midfielder Curtis Jones and 18-year-old defender Rafael Camacho as he shuffled his squad. The trio were beyond reproach but fingers could be pointed at the likes of Daniel Sturridge, a senior player who made minimal impact, Alberto Moreno in defence and Naby Keita who did not offer any midfield control. Meanwhile, Adam Lallana did not play because of a “minor issue” which would have disappointed the watching Gareth Southgate, although the England manager may have also been running the rule over Wolves captain Connor Coady.
Indeed, Wolves, despite making changes of their own, were far closer to their strongest team and deserved to go through but were nevertheless indebted to a brilliant save by stand-in goalkeeper John Ruddy who got his fingertips to a curling Xherdan Shaqiri free-kick to push it against the inside of the post.
That would have earned a replay which, although they may not broadcast it, is probably not what Liverpool would have wanted either. Still, Klopp eventually turned to big guns Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino to try and rescue the tie as he felt compelled to do.
Despite Liverpool’s obvious vulnerability, Wolves laboured to create chances and it was typical of the disjointed nature of the first-half, in blustery conditions, that the only goal came from a mistake. Or two mistakes. Or even three mistakes. The first was by Moreno playing James Milner into trouble with the midfielder miss-controlling, before standing on the ball and being dispossessed by Diogo Jota. Fabinho, a makeshift centre-half who may now have to play there against Brighton, dived in and Jota quickly found Raul Jimenez who ran from half-way before calmly arcing his shot around Simon Mignolet and into the net.
Liverpool had offered very little threat with Sturridge and Divock Origi failing to combine but, out of nothing, hauled themselves back into the contest with a fine strike. The ball fell to Origi, just outside the penalty area after Milner was challenged, and he shifted it away from Willy Boly before shooting powerfully and with minimal back-lift through the legs of Leander Dendoncker. It left Ruddy unsighted and was a superb, crisp finish.
Remarkably Wolves then topped that.
They worked the ball from right to left and back into the centre with Ruben Neves pulling the trigger from 25 yards, as Shaqiri tried to close him down, and his fierce drive bounced as it skidded beyond Mignolet’s dive and into the corner of the goal.
Liverpool had been level for just four minutes and it is the kind of strike Neves is so capable of but does not, frankly, do often enough for a player of his prodigious talent. But it was worthy of winning any tie and won this one.
Wolves threatened again with Jimenez charging down a clearance and stealing the ball away from Hoever as he tried to run it out of play – only for the forward to fail to connect strongly, with his weak shot drifting the wrong side of the post.
Liverpool applied pressure but after Shaqiri’s free-kick, and a deflected Salah shot being headed away, they offered little. Wolves had their win, went through and Liverpool will go on to fight for those other glittering prizes. Going out here was a price worth paying, although they will desperately hope they have not paid a price with Lovren’s injury and Joe Gomez and Joel Matip still out. It could be testing times.
Ooh and another moment, Keita has a chance to play Salah in but his pass is wretched.
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