Football Features

Liverpool 2-2 Wolves: Chaotic FA Cup clash ends in VAR controversy

By Squawka News

Published: 22:28, 7 January 2023

Liverpool’s nasty habit of making defensive blunders at critical times hit them once again as their FA Cup third-round tie with Wolves at Anfield finished 2-2 on Saturday night. 

The Reds’ 2022/23 season so far has been hallmarked by losses in concentration, poor decision making and a basic lack of cohesion at the back. On Saturday, we were treated to a combination of all three.

Despite dominating the opening exchanges, the Reds found themselves 1-0 down in the 26th minute, conceding in absolutely comedic fashion. First, Spanish midfielder Thiago was caught out being way too casual with the ball deep inside his own half. Liverpool thought they’d recovered the situation, only for goalkeeper Alisson to pass the ball right into the path of Goncalo Guedes, who quickly fired the ball underneath the Brazilian from 10 yards out.

It was the sort of chaotic and frankly laughable sequence Liverpool supporters have seen far too often this season and, more recently, they’ve started to be punished.

But credit must be given to Liverpool for their reaction. It would’ve been easy for the FA Cup holders to succumb to nerves or a lack of confidence following their humbling 3-1 loss to Brentford during the week. However, Jurgen Klopp’s men picked themselves up and very quickly established dominance in the tie.

That dominance was rewarded shortly before half-time when Trent Alexander-Arnold delivered a world-class pass behind the Wolves defence, right onto the foot of Darwin Nunez, who applied an equally elite finish. It was the perfect way for Nunez to silence some of his recent critics, especially given it already puts the Uruguayan into double figures for the season alongside Mohamed Salah.

Speaking of Salah, Liverpool didn’t let up after half-time and it took just seven minutes after the restart for the game to be turned on its head, the Egyptian expertly bringing a deflected pass down inside the box and applying a clinical finish. Yet another historic goal for Salah, who moves ahead of none other than Kenny Dalglish to become Liverpool’s seventh-highest goalscorer of all time on 173.

You’d be forgiven for thinking Liverpool would’ve taken control of the game from there, putting a struggling Wolves side to the sword in front of an expectant Anfield crowd.

But no. Julien Lopetegui’s side just wouldn’t be silenced and after a flurry of chances, they found themselves level through another poor piece of Liverpool defending.

This time, it was Ibrahima Konate’s poor clearance that was loaded back into the final third by Wolves. Hwang Hee-chan picked the ball up on the edge of the box and played a quick one-two with Matheus Cunha before tucking the ball underneath Alisson, with a little bit of help from the sliding and somewhat unfortunate Konate.

Liverpool now face the prospect of heading down to Molineaux for a replay, offering a headache Klopp could do without. In reality, they were lucky to come away with that much.

Wolves thought they’d won it in the final 10 minutes as Matheus Cunha’s reloaded corner found Hwang, whose weak shot found its way through a crowd of players to Toti Gomes, who backheeled the ball into the back of the net. Toti and his teammates went through a full pile-on celebration in front of the Wolves fans, only to be left red-faced as the offside flag was raised.

Lopetegui was incensed after a VAR review by Mike Dean upheld the on-field decision, judging that Nunes ran from an offside position to collect the ball following his failed corner. But the on-field decision was only upheld due to VAR not having the camera angles needed to make a clear judgement.

“There was no camera angle available with any evidence to overturn the decision,” reports BBC Sport.

A desperately unfortunate blow for Wolves and perhaps just the bit of luck Liverpool need as they seek to defend the FA Cup and get their stuttering season back on track. Klopp will take all the fortune he can get right now.

“I’m not sure about their third goal,” the German told ITV reporters after the game.“We have one picture where it may look offside, but I can understand why they are angry about it. We don’t want the VAR to just have one angle.”

Even ex-Liverpool defender Jose Enrique, who is often very vocal about his support for the club on social media, understood how lucky the Reds were on Saturday.