Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Liverpool 2-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers: Talking points as Reds bid Klopp farewell with deserved victory

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The 2023/24 Premier League season is over, and in the final round, Liverpool beat Wolverhampton Wanderers by 2-0 at Anfield, courtesy of goals from Alexis Mac Allister in the 34th minute and Jarell Quansah in the 40th. The Reds’ job was made a little easier by a reckless moment from Wolves right-back Nelson Semedo, who earned a straight red card for foul on Mac Allister, six minutes before the Argentina international scored the opening goal.

But with the points from this game meaning very little for either side going into it, the focus of every home fan inside the iconic venue was on bidding farewell to Jurgen Klopp, who sat in the Anfield dugout for the last time.

Klopp’s farewell

Klopp succeeded Brendan Rodgers as the Liverpool manager back in October 2015. At the time, the Reds had fallen far from their glory from the late ’70s and throughout the ’80s. The entire Rodgers tenure went without a single trophy added to the cabinet, and though Liverpool came very close to winning the league title in 2013/14 for the first time since 1990, the campaign was mostly fueled by the brilliance of Luis Suarez who left the club the following summer, and the last season of strong influence from the iconic captain Steven Gerrard. Ironically, it was Gerrard whose infamous “slip” eventually lost his team the race, and Rodgers simply wasn’t able to build on what had been achieved.

Having been already known for his charisma from his Borussia Dortmund days, Klopp started building a similar reputation from his first interview as the Liverpool boss, stressing the need for the Reds to “turn from doubters to believers”, and pointing out that returning to the very top of football would be no easy task.

“If I sit here in four years, I am pretty confident we will have one title,” he said, and even such a cautiously optimistic statement, caused some from rival camps and the British media to smirk with skepticism.

But Liverpool’s progress under Klopp was evident rather quickly. In his fist season in charge, they reached the Europa League final, and the defeat suffered at the hands of Sevilla that day only spurned them on to make a stronger effort in the years to come. The lack of European football the following season helped them finish inside the top four, and in 2018, they reached the Champions League final, suffering another heartbreak as they lost to Real Madrid.

And it 2019, the first trophy came as they made a historic comeback in the Champions League semifinal against Barcelona and beat Tottenham Hotspur in the final to become continental champions, while finishing a point behind Manchester City in the Premier League title race. It was followed by a convincing triumph in the English top flight the following season, which they ended 18 points clear of City as their nearest rival and thus ended a 30-year drought.

Liverpool failed to defend that title in 2020/21, with season-ending injuries suffered early by their entire centre-back department playing a major role, but they did manage to finish inside the top four again against all odds. A domestic cup double came in 2021/22, followed by another appearance in the Champions League final, their third in five years, which they lost again to Real Madrid. And once again they finished the league season just one point behind Manchester City.

The 2022/23 season brought nothing but disappointment as Klopp’s team finished outside the top four for the first time since 2016, but they bounced back with a relatively strong 2023/24 campaign, though at a great cost. The German finally started feeling his energy levels were low, and in January this year, while still in the race for four trophies, he announced his departure at the end.

Injuries again plagued Klopp’s squad, but several youngsters stepped up admirably to fill in the gaps and Liverpool won the Carabao Cup again. However, the players too appeared drained of energy afterwards, and the team dropped out of the FA Cup at the hands of arch-rivals Manchester United, lost the Europa League quarterfinal tie against Atalanta, and lost too much ground in the Premier League title race to be able to recover.

Therefore, this game, Klopp’s last at the club, was bereft of competitive importance, but it was still very emotional as Anfield bid farewell to one of their greatest ever managers.

Speaking to the crowd after the final whistle, Klopp urged everyone at the club as well as their supporters, to remain believers, to do whatever they can for all the good work that has been done over the past nine years to be built on. The stands were full of banners with his name, and the songs that echoed through the stadium were sung in his glory. Though a great smile remained on his face throughout it all, there was a tearful glint in his eyes, as well as the eyes of the players who became what they are today under his guidance. He even took the opportunity to start a song of support for his successor, Arne Slot.

The fans of the rival clubs will surely be glad to see the back of Klopp, but even most of them have plenty of respect for everything he’s done for the club and for the way he livened up some old rivalries and created new ones.

The Premier League will miss Jurgen Klopp.

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The game

Liverpool dominated the contest against Wolves from the first to the last whistle. They easily kept the ball in the opposition half for long spells, with the visitors struggling to get it away from their box, let alone over the halfway line. However, playing with five men at the back, Gary O’Neil’s team defended resolutely, and the Reds weren’t able to create proper chances for a while.

But then came that moment of madness from Semedo. The tackle was obviously bad and referee Chris Kavanagh gave the foul immediately, showing the Wolves defender a yellow card at first. However, a call from the VAR room, a look at the pitch-side screen, and a just upgrade from yellow to red followed very quickly.

Even the Liverpool faithful would presumably have been happier had the entire match been played with 22 men on the pitch, but the damage was done and there was nothing but business to get done too by the Reds. Only six minutes later, the 5’10” Mac Allister got the better of the three Wolves centre-backs to head past Jose Sa in the Wolves goal, and another six minutes later, Quansah made sure a deflected effort from Mohamed Salah, likely to have been cleared off the line by Joao Pedro otherwise, went into the net.

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Liverpool would’ve scored more in this game but for a fine performance from Sa, who made a couple of excellent saves. The visitors threatened a few times themselves, and Alisson Becker in the Liverpool goal was thus able to prove his own class as well. Most notably, the Brazilian successfully diverted a shot by Hwang Hee-chan around the post in the 17th minute when Wolves pulled a fast counterattack. In the 68th, Rayan Ait-Nouri made fine run down the left, burst into the box and got the better of Trent Alexander-Arnold, putting himself in a great position with only Alisson ahead and Matheus Cunha in support. He chose to employ the striker, but Cunha overcomplicated things and enabled the Liverpool defence to crowd him and block his shot.

Liverpool finished the game with 68% possession and a total of 36 shots, 14 of which went on target, while Wolves took just four, three on target.

Final rankings

Liverpool were guaranteed the third place whichever way this game ended. As it happened, they end the campaign with 82 points, nine less than champions Manchester City, seven less than Arsenal in second place, and 14 more than Aston Villa in fourth. The title was obviously well out of reach, and they’ll have to settle for a place in the Champions League next term as they start their new adventure under Arne Slot.

As for Wolves, they finish 14th with 46 points, and though they may have hoped for better at the start of the season, they’ll certainly be happy to have stayed far away from the relegation scramble, which saw Luton Town, Burnley and Sheffield United drop to the Championship.


Veselin Trajkovic

Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.



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