There were 94 minutes on the clock when Mohamed Salah took the ball in the close confines of a packed penalty area. Even for a man who had struck 19 times in as many previous appearances this season, the angle seemed too tight to shoot.
But there is a reason why he tops the Premier League charts for both goals and assists. He supplied a low cutback. Divock Origi met it with deft movement, turning and letting fire. A stalemate had become a victory. Origi had come to Liverpool’s rescue. Again.
“Divock Origi, the legend, came and finished it off for us,” grinned Jurgen Klopp. “Winning in the 95th minute is great but when Div scores it is even better. He has scored some of the most important goals in the history of this club.”
Origi has struck in a Champions League final. If Liverpool become champions again, this may seem a seminal moment in their season. This could be the kind of victory that wins titles. “If you do it 38 times, yes, if you do it once, no,” said Klopp.
But Liverpool did it. After Diogo Jota was guilty of an awful miss, Origi compensated. Wolves came agonisingly close to becoming the first team to keep a clean sheet against Liverpool in almost eight months, since Real Madrid. But while Liverpool were not at their most potent, their efforts were unstinting. “It is not a lucky win; we had chance after chance but did not score,” added Klopp.
His attacking intent was apparent when he replaced his captain Jordan Henderson with Origi. He delivered and while Chelsea could rue late drama earlier in the day, their title rivals could savour it.
“It is really important and it feels really big,” added Klopp. “It is an important skill to stay positive. It was not needed too often this season but it is still an incredibly important skill.”
The most significant of all is the ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Jota has demonstrated it. He returned to Molineux with six goals in his previous six games and memories of a winner against his former club last season. He departed responsible for perhaps Liverpool’s miss of the year.
It came after the only error in Wolves’ resilient rearguard. When a mix-up between Romain Saiss and Jose Sa left the goalkeeper stranded outside his box, Jota failed to find a net guarded only by two defenders, smacking his shot against Conor Coady’s thighs.
Coady personified the resistance of a team who have scored fewer league goals than Salah this season but who gave everything to stop Liverpool. There was Saiss’ goal-saving interception when Salah seemed set to convert Andy Robertson’s cross and Leander Dendoncker’s intervention when Jota’s downward header may have beaten Sa.
There were three saves from the goalkeeper, two from Sadio Mane and the best showing his athleticism and agility, and one denying Salah in the 90th minute.
There was also the organisation Wolves showed in a largely dull first half. For Liverpool, it had a rarity: with no shots on target and only five efforts in total, four from them. Wolves’ lone attempt by Rayan Ait-Nouri was so wild that it went out for a throw.
But while Liverpool lacked the brilliance they demonstrated in destroying Everton, they had persistence. They showed more urgency after the break. They ended with 17 shots, plenty of pressure and the vital goal. “It is really unlikely you have glamorous wins 20, 25 times a year,” said Klopp. “You have to win football games, however.” And thanks to Origi, Liverpool did.