Andy Carroll marks transfer anniversary in style
Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-3 Liverpool: After 12 months of personal under-achievement, a revitalised Andy Carroll set Liverpool on their way to their first Premier League victory of 2012 against a Wolves team who folded once behind.
Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt added to Carroll's fifth goal of the campaign, and seventh since he arrived at Anfield, steering the Carling Cup finalists into fifth spot and leaving the relegation-threatened hosts without a win in 11 games.
Exactly a year earlier, Liverpool had stunned their supporters – and Newcastle's – by splashing £35m on deadline day to make Carroll the most expensive British footballer ever. His first touch, an embarrassing piece of control, was an inauspicious way to mark the anniversary, although within minutes he deftly headed Bellamy's cross into the path of Kuyt.
The same combination had accounted for Manchester United in the FA Cup, but this time the Dutchman's touch let him down and he overran the ball while attempting to round Wayne Hennessey. Even without Steven Gerrard, who was rested after his exertions since returning, Liverpool dominated the early possession. Wolves' lack of confidence was evident in their tentative build-up and hurried clearances, but they did fashion a scoring opportunity in the 12th minute: David Edwards met a low cross by Michael Kightly with a connection firm enough to bring a diving save from Pepe Reina.
Kenny Dalglish had initially sought to have the fixture put back until tonight, his Wolves counterpart Mick McCarthy meeting the request with a brusque "no chance". If the Liverpool manager was concerned that his players would be fatigued after two cup confrontations with the Manchester clubs in swift succession during the previous week, there were no obvious signs as they continued to look the more likely scorers. From a corner by Bellamy, Daniel Agger powered in a close-range header, which Hennessey saved with an outstretched foot.
Kightly, back on the right of McCarthy's midfield after a long struggle with injury, saw a lot of the ball, Wolves apparently believing he might have the beating of Jose Enrique. After forcing a corner off the former Newcastle defender, his delivery saw Steven Fletcher rise above his markers to send a header narrowly over the bar.
In an open game, Liverpool had a plausible penalty appeal rejected after Charlie Adam tumbled under Emmanuel Frimpong's challenge; Adam theatrically held his hands to his head in a display of disbelief. However, when the visitors did find the target, from Bellamy's 25-yard free-kick, Hennessey made a flying save.
Hennessey's heroics were central to Wolves' hopes of taking something from the match. Following another flick-on by Carroll early in the second half, the Wales keeper rushed out of his area to make a sliding tackle on Kuyt, but he was helpless as Liverpool stole ahead in the 52nd minute. The threat seemed negligible when Bellamy took a throw-in on Liverpool's left. Adam was able to take two touches and consider his options before crossing into Wolves' six-yard box; Carroll stole ahead of Roger Johnson to sidefoot an overdue goal.
Nine minutes later Liverpool doubled their lead, and again Wolves' defending was woeful, with even Hennessey culpable. Bellamy seized on the ball just inside the home half and ran, unopposed, before reaching the area. His low shot was not the most ferocious, but for once his compatriot's handling was poor and the ball trickled in for Bellamy's ninth goal of the season.
With 12 minutes remaining Liverpool put the outcome beyond any lingering doubt. A move that started with Reina culminated in a pass from Adam, which gave Kuyt the chance to beat Hennessey with an angled shot.
Substitutes: Wolves - Hunt 5 (Kightly 62), Ebanks-Blake 5 (Jonsson, 62), Milijas (Frimpong, 84). Liverpool - Carragher (Agger, 81), Shelvey (Adam, 81), Aurelio (Kuyt, 90).
Booked: Wolves - Edwards. Liverpool - Adam, Bellamy, Agger.
Man of the match Bellamy. Match rating 7/10.
Possession: Wolves 42% Liverpool 58%.
Attempts on target: Wolves 1 Liverpool 14.
Referee A Taylor (Cheshire). Attendance 27,447.