Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Reds humbled by Wolves

Roy Hodgson

Liverpool's lack of match practice cost them dearly as they lost an eighth Barclays Premier League match of the season as bottom side Wolves won 1-0 at Anfield.

Snowy weather had forced the postponements of games against Fulham and Blackpool, meaning the Reds had not played in the league for 18 days.

That showed as they lacked invention and energy - even with the return of Steven Gerrard from six weeks out - but the visitors did have that spark and ended a run of six successive defeats away from home thanks to Stephen Ward's first Premier League goal.

Maybe the lack of match practice contributed to Raul Meireles' failure to open the scoring after just seven minutes but it was a poor excuse if so. Fernando Torres' quickly-taken free-kick left George Elokobi floundering but the Portugal international shot straight at goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey and Richard Stearman cleared the loose ball.

With the visitors finding room on their left it prompted a tactical switch, with Gerrard moving to the right and Meireles returning to the centre where he had enjoyed his best performances. It lasted only until half-time as Gerrard reverted to the middle.

Again the Reds could have taken an early lead as Dirk Kuyt's pass to Glen Johnson inside the penalty area set up David Ngog but he hooked wide from six yards.

Wolves defender Ronald Zubar was slightly closer with his shot on the turn as he at least forced Jose Reina, on his 200th Premier League appearance, into a low save.

It was an omen of things to come as in the 56th minute the visitors took the lead after a mix-up between Martin Skrtel and Sotirios Kyrgiakos allowed Sylvan Ebanks-Blake's through-ball to squeeze between them. Ward raced in behind to poke home the first goal conceded at Anfield in 478 minutes in all competitions.

Ngog was replaced by Ryan Babel just past the hour, a decision met with derision by the Kop - who not for the first time this season briefly chanted the name of Kenny Dalglish.

Liverpool were wobbling and only a last-gasp block by Glen Johnson prevented Matthew Jarvis making it 2-0. Hodgson's final two substitutions sent on Joe Cole and Fabio Aurelio for Meireles and Paul Konchesky. Two minutes from time Skrtel headed in Gerrard's free-kick but he was well offside.