Match report: Wolves spoil Gakpo’s debut

Wolves began the second half where they left off in the first, with high energy, quick passing, and a high press.

Credit: AFP

Liverpool will be returning to Molineux in 10 days to continue their FA Cup defence.

Liverpool hosted Wolverhampton in a FA Cup fourth-round match. Coming off a loss in the Premier League to Brentford, Klopp made 4 changes with Van Dijk, Tsimikas, Elliott, and Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced by Matip, Robertson, Henderson, and debutant Gakpo.

Liverpool started the match on the front foot with a high press yielding a free kick within the first 3 minutes. Salah and Trent Alexander-Arnold stood over the first real chance of the game and Salah put the ball just over Šarkićs goal. Wolves continued to have trouble passing out of their half as Liverpools’ press led to a tame shot from Gakpo after just 5 minutes.

Wolves began to grow confident in the game after a few misplaced passes by Alexander-Arnold and mistimed tackles by Konate and Matip. Lopetegui had clearly instructed his full-backs, Lembikisa and Ait-Nouri to target the space left by the opposing full-backs, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold.

Both Wolves full-backs got forward often, pulling Liverpool’s center-backs out of position and forcing Henderson and Thiago to drop deep and defend. Wolves then employed a high press of their own very effectively and had Liverpool pinned back in their own half. Unable to get out of their half, Liverpool made sloppy decisions as evidenced by Nunez’s foul on Ruben Neves in the 18th minute.

The free kick led to nothing but an easy catch for Allison and a chance for Liverpool to push up the field and enjoy some sustained pressure in the opposition’s half. However, just after a few minutes, Wolves had another fast break where both full-backs were too far up and both Matip and Konate were too slow to react to Adama Traore’s blistering pace. If it were not for a timely Henderson block, Liverpool could have been down 1-0 after 22 minutes.

Wolves continued to pile on the pressure with an accurate cross from Traore to Jimenez in the 25th minute, Konate was the defender in the way this time resulting in a corner. Allison caught the corner easily but when Thiago was released with the ball, he uncharacteristically gave the ball away sloppily which led to a back pass to Allison. Wolves did not have to wait for long for their goal as Allison then made a crucial mistake, passing the ball to an onrushing Goncalo Guedes, who had nothing but an empty net to slot into in the 26th minute.

Typical of this season, Liverpool showed more impetus after conceding and threatened with a free kick at 28 minutes. Trent rolled the ball for Robertson to get a better angle on a ball to the back post, but it was overhit giving Konate no real chance to play the ball into the box.

Liverpool continued to look leggy for the next 15 minutes, not getting to 50/50 balls, mis-controlling, and over-hitting passes. Wolves took advantage by taking on fast breaks at every opportunity. They could have almost gone 2-0 up in the 39th minute as Traore pushed out wide pulling Konate with him, he outpaced Konate and played a blistering ball across the face of goal which no one, not Liverpool defenders or Wolves attackers, could get to.

Liverpool tried to press up the pitch but in key moments lacked the final ball. Fabinho gave the ball away with an unnecessary dummy of the ball, Gakpo had a few misplaced final passes after good one-two passing with Robertson.

However, Liverpool scored through a counter-pressing move that would have made Lopetegui’s mouth salivate. After Traore was allowed to run right through the middle of the pitch, Liverpool won a throw-in in their own half. Darwin Nunez wins the initial header, Thiago then plays a ball cross field to Alexander-Arnold who picks it up just outside the center circle, and after a wonderful headed touch to displace the onrushing Wolves defender, Arnold plays a delightful cross right to the shin of Nunez who had busted a lung running from the header he won to get on the end of the cross and plays the ball right across the keeper giving him no chance of saving it. Liverpool are level at halftime.

Wolves began the second half where they left off in the first, with high energy, quick passing, and a high press. Like the first half, and against the run of play, Liverpool scored their second of the night by an incisive pass by Gakpo which was deflected by Totti, rendering Salah’s offside position null, and giving Salah the chance to side-foot the ball into the net.

However, Liverpool looked like they were reverting to their first-half selves, giving the ball up far too easily and being caught out of possession one too many times. There were mishit passes from a plethora of Liverpool players in a 10-minute spell where it looked like Wolves were bound to level the game. Ryan Ait-Nouri had a one-on-one with Alisson as he was released by one long pass from keeper Šarkić right after Darwin Nunez had put a Liverpool corner over the bar in the 56th minute. There continued to be messy play from both sides as they both gave the ball away and allowed each other to attack endlessly, making this a fantastic tie for the neutral fan.

Núñez played a great one-two with Robertson in the 58th minute, and played a cross to Salah who did not see it coming and spurned the chance to double Liverpool’s lead. Salah once again had a chance to release Núñez into a one-on-one situation with the keeper but took too many touches and allowed Wolves’ defence to reset.

Lopetegui noticed the tide was shifting and made 3 changes at the 63rd minute with Neves, Jimenez, and Guedes going off for Hee-Chan, Cunha, and Nunes. These changes proved fruitful as just minutes later, Wolves’ substitutes had brought much-needed energy to their midfield and allowed them to have sustained pressure in the Liverpool half. With Liverpool unable to get the ball out of the back, the ball found its way to Hee-Chan in the 6-yard box and a last-ditch tackle by Konate played the ball off of Hee-Chan, and into the Liverpool goal.

Klopp responded to the goal with his own changes, Liverpool had looked leggy in the midfield the whole game, and as such Keita was brought on for Henderson. Wolves also replaced their bright young fullback Lembikisa with Semedo. Unfortunately, this change did not offer Liverpool much in terms of control as they continued to overhit passes and mistime tackles, giving Wolves plenty of fast break opportunities. Alisson’s starting position just outside his 16-yard box was the saving grace as he was able to clear the ball before pacy players like Traore or Ait-Nouri could get a chance to control the ball.

Fabinho was taken off in the 75th minute for Harvey Elliott.

Matheus Nunes, a rumored Liverpool target, shows Liverpool what they might potentially be getting by running right through the middle of the pitch and displacing Liverpool players with just one pass time and time again. Nunes’ run and pass is what leads to Wolves winning a corner in the 80th minute. Wolves score off that corner by crowding the box and Liverpool’s inability to clear their lines. The cross is played back out by a Wolves player to Ait-Nouri, who then plays it into Nunes’ feet. Nunes, who is left unmarked in the box, then plays it to Totti who scrambles the ball over the line much to the delight of the Wolves fans and dismay of the Anfield faithful. However, all was not lost yet as VAR had called the goal offside, as Totti was in an offside position when the first cross was played. Lopetegui, clearly incensed by the refereeing decision, was then issued a yellow card for dissent.

Klopp’s lack of attacking options were clear when he decided to substitute Salah, Gakpo, and Arnold in the 84th minute for Ben Doak, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Joe Gomez.

The next 10 minutes for both sides looked like they were both exhausted and were running out of ideas. Liverpool pressed hard for the final minutes with over 90% possession in that time but were unable to create any real chance or shot at goal.

Klopp will not be too pleased about having to go to Molineux in 10 days time to try again, but after tonight’s performance he might be grateful that Liverpool have another chance to progress in the FA Cup.

Related articles: