‘We cannot go lower’: Liverpool’s dramatic decline now includes an FA Cup elimination to Wolverhampton
Liverpool 1-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
■ Liverpool: Divock Origi (86’)
■ Wolves: Richard Stearman (1’) Andrewas Weimann (41’)
■ Man of the Match: Matt Doherty (Wolves)
In the technical area, even Jurgen Klopp looked subdued. In the directors’ box, Kenny Dalglish looked downcast. On the pitch, Liverpool’s players looked bedraggled, even before they were beaten, and bemused at their dramatic decline.
They were outstanding until recently. Now they stand out for the wrong reasons.
They had traipsed off the Anfield pitch before their victorious Wolves counterparts performed the Viking thunder clap, introduced by their hyperactive substitute Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, in front of their delirious fans. The best result of their season was the worst of Liverpool’s. Knocked out of the EFL Cup on Wednesday, they departed the FA Cup on Saturday, similarly devoid of ideas and incision.
“If someone asks if this is the lowest point of my Liverpool time until now, I don’t know,” said Klopp. “But if it is, it is a perfect moment to turn it around because we cannot go lower.”
There were no excuses, no attempt to shift the blame.
“We were very bad,” Klopp added. “I am responsible and I feel really responsible because I thought we could do better.”
Their struggles to break down defensive teams are a recurring theme. Wolves drew upon the evidence of games against Plymouth and Southampton and inferred Liverpool were predictable.
“Everybody knows how Liverpool play,” said manager Paul Lambert. “I thought the way to beat them was to play counter-attack. It worked incredibly well.”
It did. Liverpool had 79 per cent of possession. Wolves had men behind the ball. They were sharper from the start, quicker on the break and more clinical in front of goal.
Bearing in mind Liverpool are the Premier League’s top scorers and were its most scintillating sight, the numbers are startling. After being defeated once in 23 games, they have now lost four times in six, three in a row, all at home. It is a swift, sorry decline. They are discovering that while titles are rarely won in a month, they can be lost in one. What was shaping up to be a superb season is now likely to end without silverware.
Having conceded in the 91st minute against Southampton on Thursday, Liverpool let in a goal in the first minute this time. Richard Stearman’s first strike for 1,013 days was rendered easier by Divock Origi, with desultory marking. The centre-back headed in Helder Costa’s free kick as Liverpool stood and watched.
Costa had threatened to score on one stunning solo run, only to skew a shot wide. But it was evidence of his dribbling prowess, displayed again when he pulled away from Alberto Moreno and found both a hole in the Liverpool rearguard and Andreas Weimann. His first touch took him past Liverpool keeper Loris Karius. His second amounted to an open goal. The Austrian did not miss.
Costa’s performance was almost too good for Wolves. He is only on loan from Benfica and, while they want to buy him, this may encourage other suitors.
“Huge talent, incredible speed, great feet,” said Lambert. Liverpool’s starting 11 was weakened but still cost around £90 million. Costa was the brightest talent on show.
Only Roberto Firmino of Klopp’s automatic choices started, and the German’s gamble on youth backfired. Substitute Daniel Sturridge set up a consolation goal for Origi. Wolves’ 20-year-old goalkeeper Harry Burgoyne then denied him a leveller.
Novices did prosper on Saturday, but only in Wolves shirts.
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Published: January 28, 2017 04:00 AM