football

Liverpool vs Wolves result: Returning fans give champions pronounced purpose in demolition of visitors


Jurgen Klopp could hear it before he emerged from the tunnel and walked out with a beaming smile, his right arm tapping his heart before waving towards the faces he had been desperate to see.

Liverpool had run out for their warm-up against Wolves to a backdrop of applause, cries of ‘come on!’ and, in some cases, tears.

After a lengthy 269 days, a period of no supporters at Anfield ended with 1500 of them on the Kop and 500 in the Main Stand.

Just as the manager soaked in the scenes and sounds of the two stands, so did his players: Trent Alexander-Arnold took a little longer to get into his seat among the substitutes, Jordan Henderson offered an extended clap and thumbs up.

There was feeling in the ground again, there was a sense of occasion and the purpose was more pronounced than just trying to get three points. What happened mattered more.

‘Bring on the champions’ dominated the pre-match soundtrack and there was a thundering rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone before loud applause for players taking the knee.

Every tackle, header and successful pass was roared on, there were appeals for everything. Of course, the defining moments drew a richer tone. Caoimhin Kelleher’s brilliant save from Daniel Podence’s delightful chip towards the far corner was well appreciated.

The young goalkeeper had kept his place following a man-of-the-match showing against Ajax in the Champions League and is cementing himself as Alisson’s deputy.

The noise was really amplified when Henderson directed a pass over the top towards Mohamed Salah, which Conor Coady failed to fully control off his chest. The Egyptian anticipated the mistake, took the ball down and finished past Rui Patricio.

The Wolves captain was livid with himself for making such a mess against his former club and his half wasn’t to get any better.

The defender won a penalty off referee Craig Pawson after going down when Sadio Mane tried an overhead clearance in the area. The Liverpool forward pulled his foot out before making any contact and VAR Jon Moss advised the official to look at the monitor.

The decision was correctly overturned, inviting boos from behind the goal that it was given in the first place.

A correct use of VAR and fans emotively reacting to everything felt like pure fantasy after the cold reality of the last few months.

Liverpool players celebrate during their victory

(Getty Images)

Without Raul Jimenez, missing after a sickening clash of heads against Arsenal last weekend that left him with a fractured skull, Wolves struggled to worry Liverpool’s rearguard much.

And when it looked like they might start applying some real offensive pressure, another long Henderson ball was collected by Georginio Wijnaldum on 58 minutes and wonderfully curled into the top corner.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side reduced their compactness in search of getting back into the game, but were further punished.

Henderson took a short corner to Salah, who supplied a stellar cross for Joel Matip to head in.

Neco Williams and Roberto Firmino made way for Trent Alexander-Arnold and Diogo Jota to enjoy the adulation of the 2,000 and it the former was immediately back into creator mode.

The right-back’s devastating low cross towards the far post was waiting for Salah or Mane to stick it in, but Nelson Semedo did the honours – sliding the ball into his own net.

‘Bring on the champions’ the supporters sang and Liverpool duly turned in a top-shelf performance.

The last time fans filtered into this ground on 11 March for the European Cup exit at the hands of Atletico Madrid, they shouldn’t have been here given the wider context of what was happening in the world.

Now, there’s nowhere else for them. They watched England’s best in the flesh for the first time since a 30-year wait for the title was ended, making football feel more like the game we love and not the version we’ve recently had to live with.

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