Liverpool verdict - Man City left with unassailable task
By Paul Gorst Liverpool FC correspondent
23:01, 23 JAN 2020
One game down, nine to go, Liverpool’s sheer bloody mindedness is dragging them to a place in history.
In the bowels of the Black Country, the Reds were given their most stern test yet against Nuno Espirito Santo’s likeable Wolves.
Once more though, the Reds found the will the win, the strength of character and the stomach for the fight.
Roberto Firmino’s 84th-minute winner ensured the winning run which stretches back to October goes on. Still, just the two points dropped. Still, on course for league title No.19.
The last meeting between these two teams was barely a month ago, but coming towards the end of the energy-sapping festive period, both sides failed to sparkle as the Reds edged out a 1-0 win on December 29.
With Wolves drained from a 3-2 win over Manchester City less than 48 hours earlier, however, the Reds were spared two of Nuno’s big guns as the Portuguese started without the in-form pair of Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez at Anfield.
There would be no such luck for the league leaders this time, though, as Nuno included the big-hitters who were vital to the 3-2 comeback against Southampton on Saturday. Together, they caused havoc to give the Reds one of their most taxing evenings of the season to date.
Once more though, the Reds answered the call. For the umpteeth time this campaign, the deep reservoir of reserves were tapped into to seal the first win of a 10-game stretch that could see them become champions of England for the first time since 1990.
With the mammoth caveat of an Academy side's Carabao Cup loss at Aston Villa aside, Wolves were the last team to beat the Reds domestically, having knocked them out of the FA Cup at Molineux over 12 months ago.
And with just the five defeats prior to the game for Wolves - a run only bettered by their Thursday night visitors - this was always going to be a difficult task for the runaway Premier League leaders, particularly given Manchester City's reduction of the points gap against Sheffield United earlier in the week.
With the busiest sides in the country coming head-to-head, having already shared a total of 77 games matches this season, this was a test of endurance as much as anything else. And while the Reds, almost to a man, endured something of a rare off night, that rock solid mentality once more came to the foreground.
It is an unshakeable, irrepressible mindset more than anything else that has put Liverpool on the brink of title glory. It is now 11 games that have been won by a one-goal margin. Somehow, they always end up on the right side of history.
They will do too in May when the winners’ medals are handed out. An unspeakable collapse will not happen for Klopp's fabled 'mentality giants' now. The 16-point lead is restored and looks unassailable for Manchester City.
It didn't take the visitors long to stamp their mark on the game as captain Henderson headed home a delicious delivery from Trent Alexander-Arnold inside the first 10 minutes.
Liverpool, though, were rocked when Sadio Mane pulled up as the Reds looked to threaten with a counter-attack. The sight of the Senegal superstar hobbling off was a worrying one for Jurgen Klopp and the travelling supporters.
A muscle injury is the vague diagnosis for now but Klopp will know more about the injury once he is assessed on Friday at Melwood. With the weekend off for the big attractions at Shrewsbury in the FA Cup, he will be given every opportunity to ensure his absence isn't a lengthy one.
On came Takumi Minamino in his place and it was in difficult circumstances for the Japan international who probably would have preferred a more gentile introduction into the English top flight.
Minamino will enjoy more fruitful matches in his new red strip but it was curious to see Klopp opt for the new-man with Divock Origi the natural option off the bench for the injured Mane.
Mohamed Salah was denied by a great block from Matt Doherty after his pace and trickery had taken him clear at the end of the first half before Rui Patricio's smart save kept out another attempt after the restart.
Wolves restored parity with a sharp counter-attack that started with Jimenez and ended with the Mexican heading past Alisson. It was the first goal the Reds had shipped in 726 minutes and immediately gave the hosts the impetus.
Andy Robertson then went into the book for a last-ditch foul on Traore as the Spanish speedster threatened down the Wolves' right side.
Salah had another chance for the Reds but flashed it wide inside the area as the Reds managed a rare venture forward.
Klopp's response to the turn the tide of the game came in the form of Fabinho on 70 minutes with the Brazilian brought on to stem the flow of Wolves attacks.
After missing 13 games through injury, the defensive midfielder appeared rusty. He will improve over the coming weeks.
Firmino then had a glorious opening to give his side the lead before he was denied by the excellent Rui Patricio. However, when he was handed another opportunity moments later, he made no mistake, rifling home with his left foot to send the travelling Kop wild.
The Anfield drought goes on, but that means very little right now after his latest away goal sent him into double figures for the campaign.
The No.9's latest intervention means his goals have now been responsible for 15 points for Klopp's side this term.
One down, nine to go. The title is firmly in the Liverpool scope.
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