Wolves 0-2 Liverpool: Mohamed Salah helps Reds go four points clear

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Wolves 0-2 Liverpool: Mohamed Salah helps Reds go four points clear
Liverpool goals were perfect football – Klopp

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp praised his side’s “perfect football” as Mohamed Salah inspired a victory at Wolves that took them four points clear of Manchester City at the top of the Premier League.

The Reds have 48 points from 18 matches – a tally Klopp described as “outstanding” – and the only unbeaten league record in English professional football.

Defending champions City can cut their lead back to a point when they host Crystal Palace on Saturday (15:00 GMT).

In heavy rain, the Reds went ahead on 18 minutes when Fabinho played a one-two with Sadio Mane and crossed for Salah, who flicked the ball into the net with the outside of his foot.

The Egyptian set up Liverpool’s second with a wonderful lofted pass over the home defence, allowing Virgil van Dijk to side-foot a six-yard volley past Rui Patricio.

“I saw some really good things,” said Klopp. “The first goal was brilliant, it was cool, and the second goal – yes, well done.

“I’m completely happy with the result and it is big for us. It was brilliant – both goals. It was perfect football, especially on a night when it was difficult to play proper football.”

The victory ensures Klopp’s side will be top on Christmas Day – and eight of the past nine teams to have done that have gone on to win the title.

The one side that did not was Liverpool in 2013-14 – they finished second, two points behind Manchester City.

Unbeaten Reds impress again

Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren said earlier this week that his side could go through an entire league season without losing, replicating the achievement of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ in 2003-04.

Their win at Wolves takes them to 18 matches, with 15 wins and three draws. They are one of only three teams – along with Juventus and Paris St-Germain – in the top divisions in England, France, Italy, Spain and Germany to have not lost a league match this season.

This was another tough assignment – against a Wolves side that had already beaten Chelsea and taken points off Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal.

A beautifully crafted move gave the Reds the lead. Salah’s quickly taken free-kick led to Fabinho combining with Mane, the Brazil international getting to the byeline and pulling the ball back for Salah to finish with a deft flick past Patricio.

James Milner had a chance to add a second but his left-footed strike was well saved.

Salah, who won last season’s Professional Footballers’ Association Player of the Year award, then set up his side’s second goal as his clever pass was steered into the net by centre-half Van Dijk for his first Premier League goal for Liverpool.

Klopp was able to take off both Roberto Firmino and Mane in the second half to rest them for a busy festive programme, which includes matches against Arsenal and Manchester City.

Substitute Georginio Wijnaldum nearly added a third in injury time – after Salah forced an error from Willy Boly – and this was a well-deserved victory for the Reds, who are attempting to win a 19th top-flight title but first since 1989-90.

Mohamed Salah was the top Premier League goalscorer with 32 goals in 2017-18, and his strike against Wolves took him top of this season’s standings with 11

Wolves’ winning run ends

Wolves – on course for their best league finish since 1979-80, when they came sixth – entertained their fans before kick-off with a spectacular light and music show to create a fantastic atmosphere at Molineux.

And the home fans were almost celebrating after only four minutes when the recalled Adama Traore shot just off target after Fabinho sloppily gifted away possession.

Traore also had another strike at goal six minutes later, this time firing past the opposite post, before Salah’s breakthrough goal.

Despite falling behind, the hosts were still causing problems in the first half, and benefiting from Reds players being surprisingly loose with the ball.

Just before half-time, another Reds error – this time from Naby Keita – gave Matt Doherty a shooting opportunity, but he was denied by Alisson.

Those misses proved costly as Liverpool cut out the mistakes in the second half, and Van Dijk’s volley doubled their advantage.

Eighteen-year-old substitute Morgan Gibbs-White shot into the side-netting late on to deny the home fans a thrilling conclusion to the game as Wolves’ three-game winning run came to an end.

Wolves fans deserved a goal – Nuno

Analysis

Former Liverpool defender Stephen Warnock on BBC Radio 5 live

Liverpool played well, were well-organised and learned their lessons from the first half and fully deserved to win this game.

Many people thought it would be a tough game and were wondering if Wolves could upset a top-six side again.

Mohamed Salah is back to his best and this is a great win for Liverpool.

Man of the match – Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)

Since the start of last season, Mohamed Salah has scored and assisted in eight different Premier League games for Liverpool – more than any other player in the division

Another team Salah has scored against – the stats

  • Wolves have lost each of their past four Premier League matches against Liverpool.
  • Salah has scored more Premier League goals than any other player this season (11), netting four in his past two away games.
  • Only two teams – Chelsea in 2005-06 (49) and Manchester City in 2017-18 (52) – have had more points after 18 Premier League games in a season than Liverpool do (48).
  • Salah has scored in each of his past six Premier League appearances against newly promoted opposition, finding the net once in each game.
  • Wolves have lost four of their past six home league matches – as many as in their previous 34 combined.
  • Since the start of last season, Salah has found the net against 20 of the 22 teams he’s faced in the Premier League, failing only against Manchester United and Swansea City.
  • Liverpool are unbeaten in 10 away league games (won eight, drew two) – their best run in the Premier League and longest since also going 10 unbeaten between October 1991 and February 1992.
  • Klopp has now defeated all 32 of the British clubs he’s faced as Liverpool boss in all competitions – before this match, Wolves were the only side he’d failed to beat, losing in the FA Cup in January 2017 in their only previous meeting.
  • Liverpool have won 25 league matches in 2018 – their most in a calendar year since 1990, when they also won 25.

‘The table doesn’t mean anything’ – what they said

Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo told BBC Sport: “We started the game well, chances for both teams. We didn’t maintain the consistency through the game and the start of the second half was not good. Better decisions or composure and we could have harmed a very good team.

“The boys worked very hard and it’s difficult to play against Liverpool, especially when they’re in front. We deserved one goal at least. We have to now rest.

“I’m happy because of the way we work and pass the moments football gives. We are consistent – the table doesn’t mean anything.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaking to BBC Sport: “It was clear the whole game would be difficult. Everybody wants to press. We want to be compact but wide as well which makes it difficult.

“We defended it pretty well. The heavy rain was difficult for both teams. It was a big fight and we knew we needed to be ready.

“We will be training on Christmas morning so it is like every other day and we have Manchester City waiting so that will be really tough for the boys. We need to have different game plans but the boys showed they are ready for that.”

What’s next?

Liverpool host Newcastle on Wednesday, 26 December (15:00 GMT), before matches at home against Arsenal (29 December) and at Manchester City (3 January).

Wolves’ next three games are all against London sides. They play at Fulham on 26 December (13:30 GMT), at Wembley against Tottenham on 29 December and home to Crystal Palace on 2 January.

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