Liverpool 3-1 Wolves: Liverpool fall short of title despite Wolves win
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The similarities were clear and the ending was just the same. As in the 2018-19 season, Liverpool had taken Manchester City to the final day, sitting one point behind their title rivals, and did all they could against Wolverhampton Wanderers to keep Pep Guardiola’s team honest. On this occasion, it was an even closer affair.

Although Liverpool never had the title in their hands on this Sunday of climax and high drama, they were in a strong position when City were two goals down to Aston Villa and they were level with Wolves. A quick-fire hat-trick of goals from City did for Liverpool, who eventually won their game, but fell short of the Premier League title.

The afternoon ebbed and flowed with the type of consequence that this enthralling season deserved. As far as Liverpool were concerned, they needed to focus on their job and pull back the point which separated them and leaders City. Jurgen Klopp’s team have only lost twice all season in the league, and not at all this year, but last-day nerves can do remarkable things.

Wolves were quickly ahead through Pedro Neto and the home team struggled to find their way. When Sadio Mane equalised midway through the first-half, the home crowd must have felt that more were quickly to come. However, despite events at the Etihad Stadium, Liverpool struggled to get their own league campaign over the line. It was not until the final six minutes, and City were ahead, that Mo Salah and Andy Robertson scored to ensure Liverpool’s sixth league win in seven.

Their focus now turns to next weekend’s Champions League final in Paris where they will face Real Madrid. Klopp always recognised that a Quadruple of trophies was a tough ask, he will hope his team can achieve a Treble in their final game of the season.

Story of the game

The ‘what will be, will be’ notion that most of those of a Liverpool persuasion possessed was given a stark awakening with Wolves’ early breakthrough. Only three minutes were on the clock when Jose Sa, whose return from injury lasted only 45 minutes, hoofed a goalkick upfield which Ibrahima Konate misread and got underneath. Raul Jimenez capitalised, taking one touch to move the ball ahead of him down the inside right channel and then another to centre for Neto, who tapped in at the far post.

That wasn’t the start that Liverpool had been expecting or hoping for. Klopp had reverted to a much stronger side than that which defeated Southampton on Tuesday to take the title race to this final day. Yet, Virgil van Dijk and Salah started on the bench. The home side’s defence gave off nervous energy and Bruno Lage’s team should have found the net again when Leander Dendoncker only found the side-netting after good work by Neto down the left.

Diaz tried to get the home team level, and in the space of six minutes the Colombian had a one-on-one with the Wolves ‘keeper snuffed out and saw a fizzing centre just evade Diogo Jota yards out from the goalmouth. Conor Coady was also required to block an effort from Keita as Wolves had to put their bodies on the line to preserve their advantage.

Parity was restored on 24 minutes. Konate played the ball out from the back to Thiago Alcantara and the midfielder flicked a back-heel into Mane’s path. The finish hammered past Sa took Mane’s goal tally to 16 for the league campaign. If that gave Klopp’s team a boost after a somewhat disjointed opening passage, then news that Aston Villa had taken the lead against City saw the decibels and intent rise a little further.

Wolves remained a danger, as evidenced by Hwang Hee-Chan — off the bench in place of goalscorer Neto — escaping the offside trap and forcing Alisson into a near-post save, and the wide wing-backs were stretching Liverpool. The worrying sights for Liverpool continued as Thiago departed moments before half-time with a hamstring injury and was replaced by James Milner.

The nervous energy was palpable but Liverpool continued in their pursuit. When Milner found Mane and the Senegalese international shot past deputy goalkeeper John Ruddy, the crowd thought the home side had taken the lead, only for the linesman’s flag to be raised. Klopp sent on Salah, then to be followed by Roberto Firmino as Liverpool went for broke. The news that Villa had scored again through former Liverpool player Philippe Coutinho provided yet another boost.

Trent Alexander-Arnold brought a flying stop out of Ruddy, Salah was setting to shoot as Willy Body slid in to dispossess with a vital challenge. The search for a goal became all-encompassing. The Kop ushered their team forward, but the home side were beginning to force the issue, struggling to find a way beyond Lage’s well-drilled team. It was then that the energy drained out of Anfield as City scored three goals in a six-minute blitz to wrestle back command of the title race.

Still, Liverpool ensured that City couldn’t put another foot wrong. Diaz’s shot was deflected wide by Coady and from the subsequent corner, Matip’s header was cleared off the line but Salah forced the ball home. Then, in the 89th minute, Robertson ran into the area and played a one-two with Firmino before slamming in at the near post. Klopp’s men had done all they could, City though couldn’t be stopped.

Teams

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Konate, Robertson; Keita (Firmino 70), Henderson, Thiago (Milner 46); Jota (Salah 58), Mane, Diaz.

Subs (not used): Kelleher, van Dijk, Tsimikas, Jones, Minamino, Elliott.

Wolves: Sa (Ruddy 46); Boly, Coady, Gomes; Jonny, Dendoncker (Trincao 90), Neves, Moutinho, Ait Nouri; Neto (Hwang 22), Jimenez.

Subs (not used): Hoever, Marcal, Podence, Mosquera, Silva, Chiquinho.

Referee: Anthony Taylor.

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