Liverpool ended a remarkable 2019 with yet another win, seeing off a spirited Wolves 1-0 at Anfield on Sunday.
The Reds took the lead via a Sadio Mane strike, with VAR overturning Anthony Taylor’s decision to disallow the goal for an Adam Lallana handball in the build-up.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men hit back quickly as Pedro Neto fired home at the far post, but VAR decided to rule that one out, ruling that full-back Jonny was narrowly offside in the build-up.
Technology was at the centre of the drama once again, so what did we learn from a heated clash at Anfield?
1. How to solve (not) a problem like VAR
This again. Bear with us, we’ll make it quick.
First, Anthony Taylor disallowed Liverpool’s opening goal for a perceived handball by Adam Lallana as he laid the ball down for Mane to fire home. Upon further inspection, the technology found the ball had, in fact, come down off Lallana’s shoulder. A quick check to see if the referee hadn’t blown his whistle before the ball went beyond the line later — which in itself is a farcical check — and the goal was given. VAR did its job, the system works, right?
Well, not quite. Just a matter of minutes later in first-half stoppage time, Wolves worked the ball back into the box after Liverpool had cleared their initial corner. Full-back Jonny fired a low cross into the area, evading defenders and onrushing attackers, to find Neto at the far post, where the Portuguese fired home to level the scores.
Wolves manager Nuno Espírito Santo was shown a yellow card following Wolves' disallowed goal. pic.twitter.com/RAjb0qLP2P
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) December 29, 2019
Of course, it was never going to be that clear cut. VAR flagged it up, found that Jonny was offside by mere inches, if that, and disallowed the goal, keeping it 1-0 to Liverpool.
Was it a clinically correct decision? Yes. Was it the right decision? Well, we’ll leave that one with you…
2. Mane caps off an incredible year
2019 has been remarkable for Liverpool as a whole, so to pick out just one player is incredibly tough. However, Mane simply must be given special mention.
Once his opener was finally given, the Senegal international was added to an incredibly exclusive group of players to be directly involved in 30 or more Premier League goals (24 goals, six assists) this calendar year — Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy is the only other to achieve this with 34 direct involvements.
Sadio Mané has scored 10+ goals in each of his six seasons in the Premier League:
2014-15: 10 ⚽️
2015-16: 11 ⚽️
2016-17: 13 ⚽️
2017-18: 10 ⚽️
2018-19: 22 ⚽️
2019-20: 10 ⚽️
Double figures for Liverpool's Main Man(e). 😉 pic.twitter.com/L4wNmbJ4UX
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 29, 2019
Furthermore, Mane has now scored 10 or more goals in each of his six Premier League seasons for Liverpool and Southampton, showing an incredibly consistent appetite to be in the right place at the right time.
Klopp has Virgil van Dijk, Alisson, Mohamed Salah and all the rest at his disposal, but where would his side be without Mane?
3. Liverpool’s ridiculous 2019 in numbers
Champions of Europe, last season’s Premier League runners-up, most likely this season’s title winners. Nobody needs telling that Liverpool‘s 2019 has been nothing short of legendary. Just how ridiculous has it been though? Here it is in numbers:
- Liverpool’s total of 97 Premier League points last season was the highest of any runner-up and the third-highest in competition history.
- The Reds have won 55 of a possible 57 available points after 19 games this season — enough to finish in the top half of every 38-game campaign in competition history.
- Liverpool in the Premier League in 2019: 37 games, 98 points, 31 wins, five draws, one defeat, 88 goals, 28 conceded, 12 clean sheets.
- Number of games lost at Anfield: 0.
Liverpool have won 55 points out of a possible 57 available after 19 Premier League games this season.
Enough to finish in the top half of every 38-match campaign in the competition's history. 🤯 pic.twitter.com/J9RLFM47SQ
— Coral (@Coral) December 29, 2019
The Manchester United sides of the Sir Alex Ferguson era, Arsenal’s invincibles, Jose Mourinho‘s Chelsea, Pep Guardiola‘s centurions — has anyone ever had a more remarkable calendar year than this Liverpool side?
4. Wolves’ Anfield misery continues
Ok, so most teams struggle at Anfield nowadays. But for Wolves, it goes back much further than that.
Sunday’s narrow 1-0 defeat means they’ve now lost 16 of their last 18 top-flight games away at Liverpool — winning the other two in 1984 and 2010 — and have failed to score in 11 of their last 15 league visits to this particular stadium.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side really did give this a good go, and it proved to be terribly unlucky to have an equaliser chalked off, while they managed eight shots and out-dribbled Liverpool 19 to seven.
But they just couldn’t find the breakthrough and will have to settle for eighth place heading into the new decade.
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5. Back to functionality
Liverpool’s last win — that 4-0 thrashing of Leicester — sent out a real message that Klopp’s side are still capable of steamrolling sides, should the moment take them. However, Sunday was very much back to the grind, with the Reds having to stave off intense Wolves pressure in both halves of the match — Espirito Santo’s men were brave, expansive and impressive.
The fact that Lallana both provided the assist for the only goal and made nine tackles in just 67 minutes on the pitch tells you everything you need to know about this match, while the likes of Van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum had to win five aerial duels each. Whether it was on the floor or in the air, Liverpool were given another stern examination.
The thing is, despite the fixture pile-up and obvious tiredness, the Reds once again passed the test and have once again opened up a 13-point lead at the top of the table.
At this point, it seems to matter little whether Liverpool have to grind out the win or simply throw knockout blows at their opponents, the outcome remains the same — three points. They really are a winning machine.