Joao Moutinho

Edgy Liverpool beat Wolves

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Liverpool beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 on Sunday at Anfield but it was far from routine for the Premier League leaders.

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Amid VAR drama in the first half which saw Sadio Mane’s goal ruled legit by video technology then chalking off what looked like an equalizer from Wolves’ Neto, the game was tight and tense as Wolves spurned several decent chances in the second half.

With the win Liverpool are now 50 games unbeaten at home in the Premier League and they lead second-place Leicester City by 13 points and also have a game in hand. Wolves sit in seventh place on 30 points.


3 things we learned

1. Reds grind it out as PL title procession begins: Liverpool are just a winning machine. They have won 17-straight games at home, they are 50 unbeaten in the PL at Anfield and they have lost just one of their last 36 PL games and none this season. Klopp’s side have been workmanlike during many games this season and they’ve shaken off the tag as the great entertainers. They can still do that but they can also grind out wins with ease. That is why they are 13 points clear at the halfway point and why their title procession has already begun.

2. Wolves livid but VAR followed the rules: Nuno Espirito Santo was booked, Wolves’ players fell to their knees and fans watching across the globe vented their anger at VAR. But, under the current laws of the game, the video technology worked well. That will not be a popular opinion but after 24 hours which has seen so many tight offside calls chalking off goals, it happened agains as Neto looked to have equalized right on half time. A tweak to the offside law is needed by IFAB otherwise we will have these tight offside calls for the rest of the time we have VAR.

3. Memorable 2019 for Liverpool: They won their sixth European title and are runaway leaders in the Premier League. 2019 has been kind to Liverpool even if they were pipped to the 2018-19 title. Many thought Klopp’s side would be demoralized by losing out on the title by one point last season but they’ve been utterly dominant in the last 12 months, losing just once in the PL, winning the UCL and they look set to smash several records on their way to winning the PL this season.

Man of the Match: Neto – He was absolutely everywhere, scored a superb goal which was ruled out and gave Alexander-Arnold a torrid outing. Superb display from the Portuguese teenager.


Liverpool started brightly as Trent Alexander-Arnold had a shot from the edge of the box which was blocked, then his cross found Salah who slotted just over the bar.

Salah then had a shot bravely blocked as Liverpool had plenty of the ball but Wolves were a threat on the break.

The hosts continued to huff and puff as Mane caused problems and Roberto Firmino nodded wide, as Wolves’ defense was just about holding firm.

Right on half time Liverpool took the lead as Mane finished off a flick from Adam Lallana. However, the goal was initially ruled off for handball on the pitch but VAR was used to overturn the decision as Lallana flicked it on with his shoulder instead of his arm.

Wolves thought they had equalized right on half time but Neto’s goal was ruled out by VAR for a marginal offside in the build up by Jonny Otto, as the visitors were livid and the hosts delighted, as Liverpool led 1-0 at the break.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Georginio Wijnaldum then had a header from a promising position deflected over as Liverpool started the second half well.

Wolves grew into the second half as Adama Traore came off the bench and Diogo Jota caught Virgil Van Dijk in possession but his shot was deflected wide as the hosts built up a head of steam.

As the game opened up Liverpool had plenty of chances to wrap it up on the break but Wolves dug deep to stay in the game as long as they could.

Substitute Raul Jimenez saw his effort deflected over by Joe Gomez as Liverpool were pinned back late on but Joao Moutinho, Romain Saiss and Ruben Vinagre all smashed over from good positions and Traore was denied by a superb block.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Wolves

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Wolverhampton Wanderers look preserve their good form – most recently showcased against Manchester City – when they visit Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday (Watch Live at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Sunday’s bout will see both clubs meet for the first time this season.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

With an instant-classic, 3-2 comeback win against City on Thursday, Wolves sit fifth on the table, while Liverpool – as we all know – are unbeaten and on pace to break the all-time most points record (100) set in 2018.

With four games in two days, are either side set to make drastic changes to their side? With the chance to leapfrog Chelsea with a win, it’s unlikely Wolves will, although it’s likelier Liverpool will elect to make a change or two.


Injuries/suspensions

Liverpool: OUT —  Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Fabinho (hamstring), Joel Matip (knee), Nathaniel Clyne (ACL), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle)

Wolves: OUT — Willy Boly (ankle), Morgan Gibbs-White (back)


Probable lineups

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Lallana, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Wolves: Rui Patricio; Dendoncker, Coady, Saiss; Doherty, Neves, Joao Moutinho, Vinagre; Traore, Jimenez, Jota.


What they’re saying 

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp on how dangerous Wolves will be: “Very – very, unfortunately. I really think the job Nuno is doing there is incredible with all the Europa League stress. I think at the beginning of the season they realized a little bit, ‘Oh, that’s different’. But now they are settled completely there, they are there again, Jimenez and Jota are scoring again. They had to change a little bit the last line to last year; Bennett and Boly are not playing consistently so they had to change that, but they have good options there. Traore finally found his manager, who found a position for him – he started as a wing-back and now he can even play in the front three. An exceptional player, as a kid he was already exceptional when he played for Barca I think, probably the quickest player in the league. So, a lot of really good things there and that makes it really difficult to play against them, of course. But it should be difficult against us as well, that’s the plan.”

Traore on Wolves’ thrilling comeback against Manchester City: “This team is amazing. We fight until the end, whatever the situation. That’s what we did today and I’m so happy for the team. Every one of us has worked so hard, we believed we could get this result.”

“Liverpool are a great team and are many points in front. We will fight to give our best.”


Prediction

13 points clear of Leicester City and with a jam-packed schedule ahead, it’s expected for Klopp and company to go into Sunday’s game with bit of a free-and-easy attitude. That said, an inspired Wolves will still remain outweighed by the Reds’ chemistry and excessive firepower, but the bout should still be an authentic showdown. Liverpool, 2-1.

Wolves come back to beat misfiring Norwich City

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Wolves were far from their best but came back to beat wasteful Norwich City 2-1 at Carrow Road on Saturday.

Romain Saiss and Raul Jimenez scored for Wolves, who sit two points back of fourth place Chelsea and a point back of Sheffield United.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Norwich was ahead on a Todd Cantwell goal, but finishes the day six points back of 17th place Saints.


Three things we learned

1. Bad Wolves still win: For more than an hour, Wolves looked nothing like a side competing for a place in the Top Four. But Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men found a way to get the job done in coming back for their three points. That’s a good sign against a desperate home side.

2. The Year of Raul Jimenez continues: El Tri’s star striker is going as well as any center forward not named Robert Lewandowski. So it comes as little surprise that the Mexican was the man to supply the match-winning goal at Carrow Road. The stats now say 16 goals and eight assists in 28 matches this season, and Wolves’ only worry is the amount of teams who will try to woo him in January.

3. Pukki loses his powers: On another day, the Wolves’ poor first half sees this match done at half. But Teemu Pukki uncharacteristically missed two prime chances to make the match 2 (and 3) to nil at home. Emiliano Buendia was phenomenal for the Canaries and Cantwell pretty good, but few others showed up over 90 minutes.

Man of the Match: Raul was great, but it comes down to the Adama “Mou calls me a train” Traore and Rui Patricio. We’ll give it to the Portuguese goalkeeper for his saves on Pukki and others in Wolves’ win.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Wolves supplied some dreadful defending to allow Norwich to its opener, the Canaries doubtlessly pleased with the ease of Cantwell’s opener.

Kenny McLean was wide open for a huge diagonal ball, his dribbles and cutback poorly cleared to Cantwell.

Teemu Pukki slipped a shot past Patricio but wide of the goal in the 24th. No party, and he misfired again in the 44th minute after driving toward goal.

Emiliano Buendia came very close to 2-0 when a Wolves giveaway provided a chance to rip from atop the arc. It was deflected, but a corner not given to the Canaries.

They paid for the misses, as Saiss headed home from a Joao Moutinho cross at the hour mark and Jimenez did what he does best 21 minutes later.

Jota takes super sub to new level in Wolves win

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Sometimes the phrase “game changer” is used a bit too loosely, but there’s no debating Diogo Jota fit the bill to a ‘t’ on Thursday.

Wolves scored four times in 11 minutes, three coming courtesy Jota, as the Premier League side buried Besiktas 4-0 in Europa League play on Thursday.

Jota entered in the 56th minute, scored in the 57th, and completed his hat trick in the 68th.

[ MORE: Who can Wolves draw in UEL? ]

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men had already clinched a place in the knockout rounds before the match day, and finish one point below Braga in Group K.

Jota has five goals in five days after scoring twice against Brighton on Sunday. The 23-year-old had an up-and-down season to start but has been mostly good over the past half-dozen games.

He has 37 goals in 107 matches with Wolves, including nine in all competitions this season. He scored nine times last season after a 17-goal campaign in the Championship.

Leander Dendoncker had Wolves’ other goal, with the day’s assists going to Oskar Buur, Joao Moutinho, and Pedro Neto.

 

Wolves see off 10-man Bournemouth

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Wolverhampton Wanderers beat 10-man Bournemouth 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday, as Nuno Espirito Santo‘s side rode two early strikes to victory.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Joao Moutinho and Raul Jimenez made it 2-0 early on and Simon Francis was then sent off to make matters worst for Bournemouth. The Cherries did valiantly fight back as Steve Cook scored in the second half and they went close to making it 2-2, but Wolves held on for a big win in a big week with their crucial Europa League game on Thursday.

With the win Wolves are up to fifth place on 19 points, while Bournemouth are in 11th on 16 points.


3 things we learned

1. Sloppy defending bites Bournemouth again: Eddie Howe‘s side have shored things up this season, but two sloppy defensive errors cost them for the second week running in the Premier League. Moutinho made the most of the first and Jimenez the second, while Francis was sent off. Bournemouth were their own worst enemies at the back.

2. Wolves grinding out wins: Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have now secured two-straight wins in the Premier League and they are unbeaten in their last eight games. They are on a roll and after a slow start to the season they are back in the top six. They had to suffer in the second half at Bournemouth but they got the job done, just as they did for much of last season. Wolves are tough to play against and were clinical.

3. Moutinho’s moments of magic: He flies under the radar a little with Jimenez, Neves and Traore capable of magic moments, but Moutinho keeps things ticking over very nicely for Wolves and is so consistent. His experience is key in Europe and the PL and his free kick for his goal and his clever quick free kick for Wolves’ second summed up his quality.

Man of the Match: Steve Cook – Even though he was on the losing team, Steve Cook stood tall. He pulled one back for Bournemouth and came close to scoring another and it looked like Bournemouth were the team with a one-man advantage instead of Wolves.


Wolves took the lead in stunning fashion as Moutinho stepped up on the far left hand side of the box and whipped home a delightful free kick into the far top corner after Francis has fouled Jota.

They then doubled their lead as Moutinho’s quick free kick found Adama Traore who crossed for Jimenez to slot home. Bournemouth’s defense had been totally caught out and Wolves were having fun in the rain on the south coast.

Things then went from bad to worse for Bournemouth as Francis was sent off.

In his first game back in 11 months, Francis was booked for the second time of the game for fouling Jota and was shown a red card.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

At the start of the second half Wolves had a goal disallowed via VAR for an offside, and then Bournemouth were back in the game.

The 10 men of Bournemouth battled back and made it 2-1 as a corner came in and Steve Cook flew in at the near post and the ball flicked off Wolves’ Traore and in.

Game on.

Cook and Nathan Ake went close as Bournemouth took the game to Wolves but the visitors held on to beat the 10-men and continue their fine run.