A couple of minutes after the final whistle Jürgen Klopp stuck his tongue out, licked his lips and saluted the Liverpool supporters spread across the lower bank of the Steve Bull Stand. Seconds before, Klopp hugged Harvey Elliott and hoisted the substitute off the ground. Then it was Luis Díaz’s turn. The suspended Virgil van Dijk, hovering pitchside, high-fived his teammates off the field.
Ten minutes or so earlier Elliott jumped two sets of advertising hoardings to celebrate with the away fans after creating Liverpool’s third goal, another comeback victory in the bag; nine of Liverpool’s 13 points this season have come from a losing position. They are now unbeaten in 16 league matches, dating back to April.
It is fair to say there was a different mood in the away dressing room at half-time. “I thought a couple of times in the first half: WTF,” Klopp said, acknowledging this really was a game of two halves. Andy Robertson, who captained Liverpool in the absence of Van Dijk and the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold, admitted Klopp was not best pleased at the break.
Cody Gakpo prodded in a Mohamed Salah pass 10 minutes into the second half and it was Robertson who took matters into his own hands with five minutes of normal time to spare, earning Liverpool the lead after picking up another perfect but simple pass from Salah. “He probably only gets credit when he gets goals now, which is slightly unfair,” Robertson said.
The acting captain collected a shanked kick downfield by the Wolves goalkeeper José Sá close to the centre circle, burst forward and then punched a pass into the channel for Salah. Robertson carried on his run and arrived at the tip of the six-yard box to latch on to Salah’s pass and make an uncomfortable afternoon suddenly rather more bearable.
Once Wolves crumbled, Liverpool went for the jugular and Elliott’s strike from the edge of the box was deflected in by Hugo Bueno. “It was a result I didn’t expect after 20 minutes and maybe even not at half-time,” Klopp said.
The buildup to this entertaining early kick-off predominantly centred on Klopp’s grievances at the tight turnaround for his South American contingent – prompting him to use Díaz and Darwin Núñez as substitutes here – but by the end it was his opposite number, Gary O’Neil, who was clocking up the mileage, pacing the Wolves technical area wondering how Wolves lost their grip on the game.
Wolves deservedly led through Hwang Hee-chan after brilliant work by the electric Pedro Neto but Liverpool levelled when Gakpo struck with his final touch before being subbed. Núñez and Díaz applauded from the sidelines seconds before entering.
Liverpool were woeful for almost the entire first 47 minutes. Alexis Mac Allister was arguably the most off-colour of the lot, leading Klopp to joke that the Argentina midfielder should have stayed a little longer in the oxygen mask he used to cope with the high altitude on international duty in Bolivia in midweek.
Mac Allister was booked for a sly tug at the shirt of Matheus Cunha inside four minutes was replaced by Díaz, who himself flew back from Chile playing for Colombia, at the interval.
The 20-year-old Jarell Quansah, who spent the second half of last season on loan at Bristol Rovers in League One, deputised for Van Dijk and was the best of a bad bunch on his first start for the club he joined aged five. “In such a disorganised team like we were in the first half, being the one who looks kind of all right is a statement,” Klopp said with a smile.
At least this time Klopp could see the funny side. The introduction of Díaz and then Núñez – and shifting towards a 4-2-4 when attacking – allowed Liverpool to ask questions of Wolves who, aside from a desperate save from Dominik Szoboszlai on the verge of half-time, had been untroubled. Wolves’s all-action midfield trio of the debutant Jean-Ricner Bellegarde, Mario Lemina and the ubiquitous João Gomes was broken up with 13 minutes to play as fatigue set in.
Wolves’s energy dropped but it turned out Liverpool were only just getting started. “You know you’re not going to be the best side against Liverpool for the whole game,” said O’Neil. “If we were getting that much joy against Liverpool for 90 minutes, we’d probably be competing for the title.”