Liverpool 2-0 Wolves: Talking points as hope and glory beckons in defeat

Alam Khan 12/05/2019
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Sadio Mane celebrates

Sadio Mane struck twice to take him joint top of the Premier League goalscoring charts – but Liverpool finished second as their title dream ended in disappointment.

The Reds duly delivered the win they needed in front of a raucious Anfield crowd, but it was not enough after Manchester City’s win at Brighton.

Jurgen Klopp’s men, whose 97 points in this memorable campaign fell one short of City, led from the 17th minute.

Trent Alexander-Arnold exchanged passes with Jordan Henderson and his deflected low cross fell perfectly for Mane to sweep home.

It was the frontman’s 21st goal of the season as he chased Mohamed Salah’s 22 in the race for the golden boot.

But it was the unlikely figure of Andy Robertson who almost claimed a spectacular second when his fierce 25-yard effort was pushed away by Rui Patricio.

The Reds were largely comfortable, but did have a scare a minute before half time when Diogo Jota found Matt Doherty in space and his drive beat Alisson but clipped the bar.

Jota was also denied by Alisson, but Mane settled the outcome nine minutes from time with a diving header from another Alexander-Arnold cross. He joined Salah and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in winning the golden boot.

HOPE AND GLORY BECKONS IN DEFEAT

Liverpool players celebrate

Liverpool players celebrate

In the end it was a brave failure for Liverpool.

They will look back to January 3 as the day the Premier League was lost. The 2-1 defeat at Manchester City provided a momentous shift at the top as a potential 10-point advantage was cut to four.

It was Liverpool’s only defeat of the season and significant in why they still wait for a first top-flight title since 1990.

But, with a Champions League final to follow, they should be proud.

They may not have won the title, have nothing yet to show for their efforts, but this side can stand alongside the great Anfield sides of old.

They have shown that same will to win and ruthlessness that is required to be the very best.

A ninth successive win meant they equalled the club top-flight record of 30, set in the 1978-79 season.

That shows just how good they have been and this is not the end, only the start of something special.

Both Liverpool and City have the quality, the ambition to do it all again.

There is every chance of a title rivalry as there was when Manchester United once battled with Arsenal and Chelsea to remain rulers under Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign.

Now City have replaced their neighbours as top dogs, it is Liverpool who look most likely to be snapping at their heels in the future.

UNSUNG HERO MATIP CAN SAVE MILLIONS 

Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk

Joel Matip and Virgil van Dijk

If there was one position where Liverpool fans would say they need to strengthen, it would probably be at centre back and someone to stand tall alongside Virgil van Dijk.

Matthijs De Ligt is the name on everyone’s lips to form a backline of brilliance and few better in club football.

But Joel Matip’s dependable displays will have left them heartened should anyone of De Ligt’s calibre not arrive in the summer.

Jurgen Klopp had seen his qualities in Germany while at Schalke, yet it was difficult to understand such faith when Matip did not entirely convince after his arrival in 2016.

The Cameroon international was probably fourth choice at the start of this campaign, behind van Dijk, Dejan Lovren and also Joe Gomez, who emerged as a fine talent.

Had Gomez not suffered a leg fracture in December, Matip might well have been warming the bench more.

Instead he has not only proved his worth, especially in the Champions League second leg win over Barcelona, but that he can be a reliable starter rather than just a squad player.

With patience and good positioning, he has grown assured, with van Dijk never shy of cajoling something extra from Matip with strong words to strengthen their partnership.

As one of the unsung heroes of this campaign, and with Gomez showing great potential, Matip could save Liverpool millions to use on other parts of the squad.

GOLDEN FUTURE FOR WOLVES

Raul Jimenez battles for the battl with Virgil van Dijk

Raul Jimenez battles for the battl with Virgil van Dijk

It is 2001 since a newly-promoted did so well, when Ipswich came fifth with 66 points.

Coming up from the Championship, most sides just try to avoid relegation.

Not Wolves, who have shown spirit and skill to survive with ease.

Nuno Espirito Santos has produced a classy collective and they have been a breath of fresh air in the top flight.

With a little bit of luck and more composure, they might even have left Anfield with a point.

They have taken 16 points from 12 games against the top six and it shows their relish for such a challenge.

With Raul Jimenez signed permanently and forming an exciting frontline pairing with Diogo Jota, and unheralded players like Conor Coady, Matt Doherty and Jonny gaining more experience at this level, it augurs well.

A place in the Europa League is on the cards should Manchester City win the FA Cup, and it could propel them to even greater heights. They have a golden future.

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Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold - Not winning the Premier League will hurt us massively

Alam Khan 12/05/2019
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Trent Alexander-Arnold wants to end the season with silverware.

As Trent Alexander-Arnold revelled in one of the greatest victories in Liverpool’s famed footballing history, he said the Reds would be the world’s best team if prizes were dependent on character.

But they are not.

It is why the local hero wants a trophy outcome after a memorable campaign that included the stunning win over Barcelona that sealed an all-English Champions League final meeting with Tottenham – and has left them still in with a chance of the Premier League title on today’s final day.

Liverpool need to overcome Wolves at Anfield and hope Manchester City, leaders by one point, fail to get victory at Brighton.

After the midweek miracle on Merseyside, the Reds – beaten just once in the league by City – and right back Alexander-Arnold will not give up hope.

As a Kop fan growing up in West Derby, the 20-year-old admits not even reaching a second successive Champions League final will soften the blow of being unable to bring a top-flight championship to the club for the first time since 1990.

“No I think it will still hurt massively,” he said. “We put so much into the Premier League.

“Thinking back to the round of 16 against Bayern, I think people were maybe saying it would be best for us to maybe just dismiss the Champions League and focus on the Premier League.

“But we showed we can focus on both. Both competitions are massive for us.

“I think it’s just that extraordinary season where I think if this is any other year we would have probably won it (the league), barring last season obviously when City got so many points again.

The young right-back is having a terrific season for Liverpool.

The young right-back is having a terrific season for Liverpool.

“We’ll learn from it, but we won’t look back and have regrets because we’ve been beat once this season and the draws that we picked up are mostly away games.

“In previous years you can afford to pick up them. You’re kinda glad if you’re going to Everton and Man Utd and picking up a point because those are tough places to go.

“But it just shows the nature of the Premier League now and just how good us and Man City have been to push each other and make results like that not really good enough.

“It is what it is. We’re not going to look back and regret it. We’ve got to take it and use it next year.

“If you look at the points and all the progress we made since the gaffer came in a few years back they point to the fact that each year we’re getting better as a team we’re doing better in the league and we’re reaching finals.

“So this season, we’ll be able to use it as motivation, look back at it and learn from it and get better next season.”

Like many Liverpool fans, Alexander-Arnold is yearning for a return to the glory years when the club dominated English football and won the European Cup five times.

The magnificent 4-0 win in the second leg over Barcelona, which saw them wipe out the three-goal advantage of the Spanish champions will help.

Alexander-Arnold set up Divock Origi for the decisive strike using instinct and intelligence at a corner as the Barca defence switched off. He said he had watched others do it and would have been “shouted at” if it had gone wrong.

“It was worth the risk,” added the England international, whose side were without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino against Barca and lost left back Andrew Robertson at half time to injury.

Alexander-Arnold was excellent in the comeback win over Barcelona.

Alexander-Arnold was excellent in the comeback win over Barcelona.

“We showed that we’ve beaten one of, if not, the best team in the world 4-0 when the odds were against us.

“I think it’s a massive statement for us as a club to show that we’re doing these sort of things.

“I’m sure people have respect for us already but I’m sure that’s taken us to the next level.

“We’ve shown the world-class nature of our team. And with two of our main players injured as well and with Robbo going off at half time, which was a blow for us.

“It just shows the character we have in the team. And if it was down to character we’d probably be the best team in the world.

“I think we showed that in the Champions League last season, where we’d been underdogs in many games.

“We’re showing that we are brave and a really good side and a team to be feared and that’s the main thing.

“It’s important for the club to be back amongst the best in Europe and in the world and that’s what we’re trying to achieve, to create a team that is feared throughout world football. We’re not too far away from doing that.

“I think silverware defines where you stand in terms of rankings. So the main thing for us is to go to the final and go that one step further than last year.

“I think it shows the signs of progression for us in terms of reaching the last day of the season and still being in the title race and reaching the Champions League final.

“It shows that we’re able to compete on both fronts and take it to the very end. We’ll be looking to hope for the best on Sunday and see what happens come the final.”

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Liverpool players pushing their bodies to the limits as Premier League title bid reaches conclusion

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Andrew Robertson.

Liverpool‘s squad are pushing themselves to their physical limits as their Premier League title bid reaches its conclusion.

Captain Jordan Henderson required a half-time pain-killing injection to make it through the 90 minutes of their famous 4-0 Champions League win over Barcelona, and while left-back Andy Robertson was forced off at the interval he too has already returned to training.

“The famous three words of this week in the dressing room is ‘It’s only pain’. Very important for all the young lads to learn,” said manager Jurgen Klopp ahead of what could be a historic weekend if results go their way.

“Hendo said ‘It’s only pain’, Robbo said ‘It’s only pain’ but it was real pain. Wow! Robbo could deal with the pain but he could not activate the muscle.

“They should be fine.”

Premier League top scorer Mohamed Salah is also set to return for Sunday’s match at home to Wolves after recovering from concussion sustained at Newcastle last weekend, although fellow forward Roberto Firmino is targeting the Champions League final on June 1 for his return from a groin problem.

Klopp added: “Mo looked good around the celebrations, and yesterday and the day before he was running outside. Today he will join in training. Bobby? Not for the weekend. But we have enough time (for the final).”

Liverpool have to win on Sunday and hope Brighton take points off Manchester City if they are to pip Pep Guardiola’s side to the title, thereby ending a wait stretching back to 1990.

It is likely to be the last time Anfield sees Daniel Sturridge and Alberto Moreno, who are out of contract next month.

Daniel Sturridge

“I don’t know, we will see. Both are out of contract? It’s possible, but we will see,” said Klopp.

“Nothing to say on that, now is not the time for these things. The only important thing is that the players know and we know. Not the rest of the world.”

That the issue of those, albeit fringe, players’ futures has barely registered in the final months of the season is due down to the brilliant season Liverpool are having on the pitch.

Having secured back-to-back Champions League final appearances they have pushed City all the way in the title race.

Even if they do not succeed on Sunday a win will probably see them finish second with the third-highest points tally in Premier League history, beaten only by City’s century last season and 98 in this campaign if, as expected, they overcome Brighton.

Jurgen Klopp masterminded a stunning Liverpool comeback.

Jurgen Klopp masterminded a stunning Liverpool comeback.

But having witnessed the remarkable comeback against Barcelona, having trailed 3-0 from the first leg, Klopp is still holding out for one more magic moment.

“It was a week of miracles, of big football moments, and from our point of view if there could be a big football moment on the weekend, that would be nice,” he said.

“The week is not over yet. Sunday still counts, so we still go for it. Nothing changed, we knew it before.

“I think most people expected me to sit here today and say ‘OK, after not being in the CL final, it’s difficult to be champions’. Well now we are in the CL final, and it is still difficult.

“But the only thing we can do is win the game. In this situation, it looks like Wolves and Brighton are only there, that City will win and we will win.”

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