Liverpool go into their odd three-week break on the back of Champions League quarter final qualification and a Premier League win, and although top four likely remains out of reach, it is good to see the Reds win consecutive games again.
Below, we take a look at some of the winners and losers in what was a characteristically scrappy affair against a game Wolverhampton side.
Diogoal Jota: Having looked somewhat out of rhythm following his return from injury, Jota displayed some of the same tendencies tonight, but it made little difference when a slick, decisive attacking move saw Sadio Mané play him in down the left-hand channel and the Portuguese attacker got a clear look on goal.
One could argue the Wolves keeper could have done better, getting a hand to the ball at his near post but unable to turn it around for a corner, but Diogo Jota won’t mind, taking his tally on the season into double digits in only 1100 minutes.
With Roberto Firmino — and Divock Origi — now injured, Jota’s return has come at a critical time, and if the Brazilian can come back from the international break healthy, we might get to see the Fab Four again before the season is up.
Ozan Kabak: Nat Phillips and his penchant for putting his head absolutely everywhere will get a lot of attention, but it was his younger partner who was the standout defender tonight, sweeping up behind the line on several occasions. Winning three aerial duels of his own, along with six clearances, three tackles and two interceptions, the 20-year old cut a sturdy figure throughout, culminating in a late recovery run when Morgan Gibbs-White looked to have a clear run at Alisson.
We’re not saying he’s a lock for a permanent deal when his loan is up in the summer, but Kabak is undoubtedly doing his best to make that decision on behalf of the transfer team.
Ox?: This writer has certainly signalled a willingness to give up on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s long-term future as a an athlete on a number of occasions, but the Englishman was a breath of fresh air for the 20 minutes he got tonight, including what should have been an assist for Mohamed Salah five minutes from time, slipping the Egyptian in behind the defensive line for an easy finish, but waiting just too long to avoid the offside flag.
20 good minutes in three years is hardly the stuff dreams are made of, but given just how off the pace and rusty the 27-year old has looked since his return from his latest injury, tonight was an immensely encouraging anomaly.
Brains: Rui Patricio took a very hard Conor Coady knee to the head and then bounced his brain stem off the ground with similar force and it was all very bad. The Portuguese goalkeeper stayed down for 14 minutes as medical personnel secured him before carrying him off the pitch on a stretcher and it was hard not to assume the worst.
The Premier League’s very sensible concussion protocol came into play, allowing Wolves to bring on a fourth substitute for their injured goaltender, but it is difficult to find positives in the west midlanders suffering yet another serious head injury, having already lost Raul Jimenez in similar circumstances back in November.
Reports from the Wolverhampton dressing room is that Patricio is conscious and speaking, having memory of the event, so fingers crossed the 33-year old will be safe and ready to return sooner rather than later.
Credit to the Opposition
Wolves always seem to play us close in games with weird dynamics, but they have lost nine in a row to Liverpool in the Premier League, going back a decade since their last win. Nuno Espirito Santo has built a squad that is undoubtedly more talented than would be expected for a non-Jorge Mendes-associated side coming out of the Championship, and they play an oddly anemic system that rarely leads to blowouts in any direction, but as long as they lack true elite talent at either end of the pitch, they will remain close to a three-point guarantee for the Reds, and that’s something you love to see.
What Happens Next
The Reds won’t play another game for nearly three weeks(!), traveling to London for a clash with Arsenal on April 4th. Until then, there’s the debacle of international football, with a number of players traveling across the globe in the middle of a pandemic to play qualifying games for a World Cup that might take place at some point in the next three years.
Hopefully, Liverpool will be arrive at the other end of the break in a healthier position than they are at the moment, continuing their long-shot runs at Champions League gold and qualification.