Wolves stun Liverpool in FA Cup giant killing - Reds out of second competition in space of week
Jurgen Klopp’s red cap had screamed a bit too much of ‘let’s make America great again,’ and by half time, it was gone; abandoned, perhaps, on the floor of the main stand’s new home dressing room after one of his dressing downs, who knows?
His team's reaction to a testing situation was, again, desperately lame. Liverpool were already 2-0 behind to what was more or less a second string side fielded by an opponent placed 18th in the Championship, one that had scored the game’s opening goal inside 57 seconds and never looked like losing from there.
Considering Klopp had made nine changes following defeat to Southampton; considering too the young players and more experienced back up proved to be so ineffective, there is obviously a huge amount of work for him to do if he is, indeed, to make Liverpool great again.
Liverpool’s shortcomings should not take away from what was a sensational result for Wolves and Paul Lambert – his third victory at Anfield since 2012. It was reflective of Helder Costa’s impact on the outcome that Lambert chose to take him off earlier than he probably normally would. Lambert had spent Friday morning trying to sign the Portuguese winger on a permanent deal from Benfica. This electric performance will alert those previously unaware of his attributes.
What a desperate seven days it has been for Liverpool, though. Three home fixtures against Swansea, Southampton and Wolves: three home defeats. And for the second game in succession, Klopp and Liverpool were unable to exploit at least glaring weaknesses in the other team.
Lambert had chosen Harry Burgoyne as his goalkeeper due to the suspension of Carl Ikeme. Like Jack Stephens who played so well for Southampton here on Wednesday night, Burgoyne’s pedigree was limited and at 20-years-old and one month exactly, this was the biggest game of his professional life. After loan spells at Corby Town, Lowestoft Town and Telford United last season, his first two league games for Wolves came last month against Fulham and Cardiff City, where he conceded six goals.
Surely Liverpool would test his confidence early? Burgoyne, however, did not touch the ball with his hands until 27th minute, his involvement only necessary because of an over-hit pass from Connor Randall, Liverpool’s third choice right back. By then Wolves were leading, of course. Their first goal came from a series of Liverpool mistakes and so did their second.
If there is club seeking to recruit a left back whose speed provides an occasional outlet in attack; one that is prepared to accept a left back who can be trusted with absolutely no defensive responsibilities, then Alberto Moreno is your man.
On this occasion, the game was 25 seconds old when his first error came, his trip on Costa resulting in a free kick. From there, Richard Stearman – unmarked – headed in Costa’s subsequent delivery. Replays may have shown Stearman’s leading leg standing in an offside position when the cross came his way but the sight of Georginio Wijnaldum and Divock Origi blaming each other for letting him go was reflective of Liverpool’s organisation.
Costa was playing like he saw this game as an opportunity to put himself in the shop window. He was unfortunate not to be awarded a penalty after his charging run had proven too powerful for Liverpool’s young players to deal with; only stopped from scoring thanks to Randall’s intervention, which had more than a whiff of a foul about it.
Liverpool created absolutely nothing and by half time, Burgoyne was still waiting to save his first shot (which eventually came on the hour mark). Wolves were 2-0 ahead and again, Moreno’s involvement was significant; caught out of position too far up the field, he made a rash decision to try and stop Costa with an unsuccessful swipe from behind that did not even bring him down. By going to ground, Moreno in turn reduced the number of Liverpool defenders trying to stop Costa to just one player and he was left with the easy option of freeing loanee Andreas Weimann who scored after rounding Loris Karius in front of the Kop.
Klopp’s solution was to take of Randall – who has barely played for the club’s under-23 side this season – to bring on Philippe Coutinho, and change Liverpool’s formation at the same time, removing the presence of full-backs; pushing Moreno further forward.
Origi reduced the margin of defeat with three minutes to go. But Liverpool were beaten again. Few seasons have unravelled as quickly or dramatically as this.