In a match that may be seen as a turning point in their season, Liverpool endured a lousy pitch and some inspired second half play from Wolves to lodge a 3-0 victory.
Wolves Form: The home side was organized in a standard 4-4-2. The only change from their previous lineup was the return of skipper Karl Henry to the starting lineup in center midfield.
Reds Form: Kenny Dalglish lined up Liverpool in a 4-2-3-1. Fernando Torres headed the formation, with Dirk Kuyt and Raul Meireles providing most of the offensive support. Glen Johnson continues to start at left back for Dalglish, a sign that Paul Konchesky has fallen out of favor on the squad.
First Half: Liverpool began the game with a much stronger effort than in recent weeks. Even with that, the center of the pitch was extremely crowded, especially with the central presence of three defensive-minded midfielders: Christien Poulsen and Lucas Leiva for the Reds, and Karl Henry for Wolves. Liverpool seemed to have a better formation to strike into the flanks, with Maxi Rodriguez and Kuyt both running onwards with balls, and even Torres and Meireles moving into flank positions to find the space behind Henry. Wolves didn’t seem to have that kind of momentum going forward. Wing midfielders Stephen Hunt and Matthew Jarvis had some space, but even when they got free their delivery into danger areas wasn’t adequate.
The one player who was most able to find open space was Meireles. He has seemed to thrive in Dalglish’s first few matches. Coincidentally, this has also been a period where skipper Steven Gerrard has been unavailable due to suspension. His forward run in the 36th minute provided the break Liverpool needed to get ahead. Meireles entered the box, and passed across to a wide-open Torres 8 yards out for the easy score. Wolves fans were unhappy with the pass to Meireles, but a mistake by right back Ronald Zubar left the midfielder onside.
Second Half: Wolves came back from the half with a much better effort. Manager Mick McCarthy juggled his wide midfielders, and put the more-effective Jarvis on the left to matchup against youngster right back Martin Kelly. Unfortunately, their home pitch seemed to hamper the wide play towards the end of the pitch, and instead favor the break, which Liverpool worked to success. While new Wolves signee Adam Hammill came in for Hunt late and enjoyed better success in crossing towards threatening zones, they were unable to break through with a goal in the game.
Liverpool was content in the second half to play direct and simply counter off Wolves’ attack, and it was successful. Meireles scored an amazing goal off an aerial challenge at the edge of the area between Berra and Kuyt. Meireles volleyed the ball as it dropped to the ground, and it arced perfectly over goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and into the top right corner for 2-0. Liverpool’s final score came on the break, as Kuyt rushed down the left flank against Richard Stearman. Stearman challenged Kuyt, and the ball popped fortuitously to Torres for his second tap-in of the match.
Final Thoughts: One player who had a stellar match for Wolves the week before was Nenad Milijas. The defensive midfield combo of Lucas and Poulsen prevented him from having much impact on the match. It will surprise me if Hammill isn’t in future lineups for McCarthy, he added a level of quality that was lacking in Hunt.
Either way, I think Liverpool was due this victory, and weren’t going to be stopped from attaining it. Their defensive six, as well as goaltender Pepe Reina, worked hard to keep Wolves from having solid goalscoring opportunities. All-in-all, the Reds were the better side today, but Wolves deserved a better showing on the scoresheet.
I like to keep stats when I watch sports, so I’ll include this stuff. I won’t warrant their complete accuracy, but I hope they are close.