There was plenty to celebrate as Liverpool turned on the style in front of 2,000 fans, re-joining Tottenham at the top of the table.
Liverpool 4-0 Wolves
Premier League (11), Anfield
December 6, 2020
Goals: Salah 24′, Wijnaldum 58, Matip 67′, Semedo (OG) 78′.
Fans Finally Return
The presence of fans in the Kop distracted Jurgen Klopp from his usual pre-match ritual of standing near the halfway line watching the opposition warm up.
He couldn’t take the grin off his face as he ambled towards the famous stand, acknowledging the lucky couple of thousand able to sit in it for this first game back in front of spectators since March 11.
“I’m really happy for the people first and foremost, that some of them at least can get back in,” he said in his pre-match interview.
You’ll Never Walk Alone rang out as the teams emerged onto the pitch, and there was no need for any ridiculous fake crowd noise.
Mohamed Salah‘s opener may have come at the Anfield Road end, but Georginio Wijnaldum further endeared himself to the Liverpool faithful with a wonderful finish on the break in front of the scattering of fans in the Kop.
Then cult hero Joel Matip headed home from Salah’s cross with a manic celebration for the fans to enjoy, before witnessing a fourth from an undefendable Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.
The night was rounded off with some much-missed Klopp fist-pumps.
Wijnaldum started the game as the deepest midfielder, in the No. 6 role, before swapping with Henderson and moving slightly further forward.
Curtis Jones was the more attacking of the three, as you might expect, but the Dutchman’s attacking instincts were on show in the second half.
He scores loads for the Netherlands but is often like a completely different player for Liverpool.
And the moment he’s very valuable to the team simply due to being a senior player well versed in Klopp’s system and regularly available for selection. Only Andy Robertson has played more minutes than Wijnaldum this season.
But here he was much more than available. Normally a shape player who can appear to go missing in games in possession but important to the structure off the ball, in this game he was able show some of the player Netherlands fans are used to seeing.
His goal came on the break, and the finish was that of a seasoned attacking midfielder after being released by an excellent ball from Henderson. That early tactical change producing a goal.
Kelleher Stengthens No.2 Credentials
Klopp alluded in his pre-match words that the Caoimhin Kelleher is in the side for his football ability, just as he had done following the Champions League game against Ajax.
The Irishman’s footwork was on show both on the ball and in a goalkeeping sense. He had to adjust his feet to drop back and tip a Daniel Podence chip wide early in the first half — the type of moment that can make some goalkeepers look ungainly as they scramble back only to fall into the net with the ball.
Caoimhin Kelleher (22y 13d) is the second-youngest goalkeeper in Liverpool's history to keep a clean sheet on his league debut for the club, after Elisha Scott (19y 130d) in January 1913. #LFC #LIVWOL
— Michael Reid (@michael_reid11) December 6, 2020
There was a nice take from a Pedro Neto cross, anticipating the ball in, and was generally in good command of his area, getting a hand to balls into the box when needed even if when wasn’t able to catch.
Though his name was spelt wrong on his kit, ‘Kellher’ didn’t put a foot or a hand wrong between the posts.
He did the simple things well, something which is often said of Alisson, but in order to do this, the goalkeepers need to be alert, well-positioned, and able to anticipate danger. Kelleher did all of this.
Formidable Fabinho & Matip Pairing
Kelleher played a big part in Liverpool being able to keep Wolves at bay, but he was helped out hugely by the quietly commanding displays of centre-backs Matip and Fabinho in front of him.
Matip may not have been too quiet when celebrating his goal, but he and Fabinho were the silent assassins in the Liverpool half, killing Wolves attacks dead, cleaning up, and providing a solid presence.
Liverpool have conceded six goals in ten games since Van Dijk’s injury — an impressive record given that during this time they have also had to deal with injuries to Fabinho and Matip themselves.
But once together it’s not an exaggeration to say this duo is one of the best centre-back partnerships in the league, as unlikely as that might sound.
Both finished the game with a pass success of more than 95 percent, and they weren’t troubled in the air at all in the absence of Raul Jimenez for Wolves.
Keita and the Cups
Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keita were back in the matchday squad for Liverpool, but even they might not be thrown into the side for the trip to Denmark on Wednesday.
Both were given some minutes in the second half here against Wolves with the game already won.
Alexander Arnold replaced Neco Williams – who put in another promising display on the right – and set up a chance that Mane couldn’t miss.
Keita came on for the final few minutes and didn’t get injured, which is a positive.
Liverpool don’t need anything from the game against FC Midtjylland, the final fixture of their Champions League group, and it will more about how the squad is managed than anything else.
Jake Cain and Leighton Clarkson have appeared on the bench in Europe but are yet to take to the pitch, but Klopp could still use the game to get some match sharpness for recent absentees.
A fit Keita could be important if Liverpool are to do anything in the cups.