Liverpool left the Molineux Stadium with three points in their pocket, having beaten Wolverhampton Wanderers by a single strike from former Wolf Diogo Jota in the final seconds of the first-half stoppage time.
Thoughts with Rui Patricio
It was an exciting game with plenty for spectators to enjoy, right until Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio ended up flat on his back after his head collided with the knee of defender Conor Coady. It happened with just a few minutes of regular time to go, when Patricio and his captain put in a joint effort to stop Mohamed Salah from scoring the goal that would have settled the game then and there, had the Egyptian not been (rightly) ruled offside.
The break in play lasted over 10 minutes as medics rushed onto the pitch to help Patricio. Wolves had been pushing hard to find an equalizer up to that moment, but their intensity and desire understandably dropped during the seven minutes played after the restart, with concern for their goalkeeper’s welfare creeping over them.
The incident did not pass without dampening the spirits for the winners either.
Three points but tonight our thoughts are with Rui Patricio ❤️
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) March 15, 2021
Nuno Espirito Santo had already made all three substitutions, and the introduction of John Ruddy instead of Patricio late on was done under the new concussion substitution protocol in the Premier League. Speaking after the match, the Wolves boss revealed that his goalkeeper was conscious and speaking to those around him, fully remembering what had happened to him. It is a good sign, but with concussion often showing its consequences up to 48 hours after collision, he’s not out of the woods yet.
It is to be hoped that everything will be fine and that Wolves will have their ‘keeper back for the next game.
Traore still lacks end product
Adama Traore is an extremely talented player. His electric pace, power, and close control of the ball make him a defender’s nightmare, though he has often been criticized for a lack of end-product in his career, and it was the case again on Monday.
The 25-year-old was by far the most active of the home team’s attackers, more involved in the game than either Pedro Neto or Willian Jose. He completed six dribbles (as per WhoScored.com), but he ended the full game with just one shot and two key passes. Several times he carried the ball far, beat his marker and then made a wrong final-third decision, or simply misplaced a pass.
There were many reports linking Traore with top clubs around Europe, but this game was one in a long line that showed why those clubs are reluctant to part ways with a big sum to obtain his services.
Fabinho’s place is in midfield
Not many would dispute that Fabinho should be playing in Liverpool’s midfield rather than the heart of defence. The Brazilian was often forced to play centre-back this season due to the well-publicized injury crisis in that department, but with Ozan Kabak now part of the team and Nathaniel Phillips playing reasonably well for several matches, there’s no reason why Fabinho shouldn’t return to his natural role.
It was the case in the second-leg triumph over RB Leipzig in the Champions League round of 16, and manager Jurgen Klopp stuck to it again against Wolves. Whoever forms the centre-back partnership, Fabinho’s presence as a shield ahead provides a lot of security and confidence, while it also enables Thiago Alcantara to think more about making an attacking contribution than his creativity being shackled by defensive duties.
But most importantly, Kabak and Phillips have now played several matches together and we seem to be seeing a beginning of a proper centre-back partnership at Liverpool, which hasn’t been the case since October when Virgil van Dijk suffered an ACL tear closely followed by a season-ending injury for Joe Gomez as well. Kabak and Phillips played the full 90 minutes against Sheffield United, Leipzig and now Wolves, and they helped their team keep a clean sheet on all three occasions. There have been a few shaky moments in these games, yes, and they didn’t always look completely secure, but both these players are still extremely inexperienced and that sort of thing is only to be expected. With that in mind, it happens very rarely.
This game didn’t affect Wolves’ table standings, nor probably their hopes and goals for the season. They are in 13th place, relatively safe nine points above the relegation zone, with practically no chance of securing a spot in Europe.
On the other hand, this victory means much for Liverpool, with all of their top-four rivals except Leicester City dropping points this weekend. There is still a lot to go, but if they manage to build on this result, they might just squeeze into the European elite next season again. At the moment, they are sixth with five points less than Chelsea in fourth, with nine matches to play. The international break that comes now should help them reset their engines before taking on Arsenal at the Emirates on April 4th.
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