Analysis & Ratings: Liverpool v Wolves
What a difference a goal makes! that could stand as a headline to the game against Pool at Anfield yesterday. Football is soo much a game played in the head, apart from with the feet and the rest of the body.
Wolves started the best and showed no fear at all the first ten minutes of the match, but when Liverpool could benefit from Johnson being out of position after a Carroll attack – that surely should have rendered Wolves a free at Molineux – Liverpool could take advantage and the lead against play in the game.
The Liverpool confidence did grow from that and Wolves’ sank in about the same amount. Even in this first half the team looked much better than against QPR, though, but not when it came to free-kicks. We were given a couple but managed to miss them all somehow. An equaliser there and then and we would probably have a lift in the game regaining the momentum. That’s the difference a goal makes.
Then, in the 37th minute, a Wolves offside trap misfires a few inches and Suarez could speed ahead of Berra to the area and turn him inside out and get the ball past Hennessey from close range. It’s hard to stop a brilliant player like Suarez when he is given a head start towards goal. It was the faulting offside trap to blame, not Berra for not stopping him later.
So two goals down at halftime away against Liverpool. Two goals that actually could have been more if not Hennessey had made a couple of excellent saves. How many believed that Wolves still could make a game of it? Not many I can tell you, but as a supporter you always got to try to hold your hopes up, and when you have been around for some years you know that anything can happen on a football pitch.
It was no surprise that Fletcher came on at the start of the second half, but I was very surprised to see Doherty substituting Stearman at right back. He did a very good performance in the cup against Millwall, but not many had picked the young lad to make his debut in the Premier League on the night.
So Wolves were back in a 4-4-2-formation again, taking a chance to pressure for a goal and it took only four minutes of the second half before we got a goal. That it came from a Hunty corner and a Fletcher strike is no coincidence. Both are players getting better when pressured having that instinct of getting it in the net at any cost.
What a difference a goal makes. Most people may have it down to Wolves changing formation and playing two upfront that we dominated the second half, but it’s not that easy. The psychological impact of the goal was of course that the players realised that it was possible to get something from the game and they did go for it.
In fact they went for it so much that they were playing a very risky game and many times Liverpool were given great chances of adding to their lead on the counter. For instance when Carroll hit the post a couple of minutes after the Wolves goal. Hennessey also made some brilliant saves between the posts keeping Wolves in the game.
That should not obscure the fact that Wolves dominated the game in the second half and put loads of pressure on Liverpool. It was a very risky game, yes, but it showed that Wolves has a second gear and are able to apply pressure even on a very good side like Pool. That promises much for the future of season!
Should we have played like in the second half all game, then? Well, maybe in terms of confidence, pace and intensity, but don’t forget the risks you take opening up in the back when pressuring on. It’s a fact that Fletcher was not yet ready for 90 minutes, so the option to play 4-4-2 from start was not really there. I think we started with the right formation, but were unlucky to get a goal in the back, partly because of an error of judgment from the referee and lost momentum after that.
If we look at the game as a whole we dominated the first ten minutes before the Liverpool goal and in the second half, so we were worth at least one point in the game, but that was not going to happen. The play made me feel positive about Wolves future season, though. Bring them on!
Hennessey – 8 – A master between the sticks in this game. One of the best keepers in the Premier League now and I wouldn’t replace him for any other goalie in the world. What a bright future this young Wolves Academy product from the beautiful island of Anglesey has!
He saved us from a goal in the back on at least three occasions in the second half and a couple in the first. There is no substitute for a good keeper and nobody else to blame if you make a mistake. He has the reflexes of a tiger and nerves of pure steel. Wayne Hennessey is of course Paddytheflea’s Star Man for the game!
Stearman -5 – Had huge problems trying to stop Downing from coming through and was ill positioned at many times. When knowing how he can play at his best this was an under par performance. Deservedly he lost his place to Doherty in the second half.
Doherty – 7 – A very good Premier League debut by the 19-year-old lad from Belvedere, Ireland. Since spotted by McCarthy when he played his first game for Bohemians against Wolves he has made a comet-like career, to say the least. Better than Stearman in the first half, more successful passes and tackles and connected well with Hunty, Fletcher and O’Hara.
Went high up the pitch when wolves pressured and attacked, but still managed to defend against one of the leagues best wingers, Downing. The future is NOW for young Matt and he was, together with Jarvis, Berra and Henry, one of our best players in the second half. The bouncy smiley is his!
Johnson – 5 – I’m not punishing him for being involved in the first goal. He was not the dominating figure in the defence that I know he can be and could have taken care of Carroll better, even if he is a tough nut to crack.
Berra – 7 – One of our best in the second half when he had shaken off being outplayed by Suarez for the second goal. It’s no shame not to get a grip on the soap-like performance of that world star. The rest of his performance was better than that of his side-kick Johnson. He even had a couple of scoring attempts.
Ward – 7 – It was a little quiet on his side of the pitch defending, but Ward was very useful when it came to taking the ball up field. Ha almost acted as a midfielder, especially in the second half. Connected very well with O’Hara, Henry, Jarvis and Doyle and was very correct in his passes (88%).
Henry – 7 – Made a very brisk appearance already in the first half, which I thought was because he seem to be more comfortable in a 4-5-1-environment, when he can concentrate on only defending. But he continued to play even better in the second half and was one of the few in the team to make an overall good appearance on the night.
Connected very well with O’Hara, Ward and Jarvis and had a passing cuccess of 89%. He did not show the nervousness when on the ball as we have seen in previous games this season and the season before. A Henry in form and with confidence is very important for team play and he looks to go towards that. He will – with fierce competition from his team mates O’Hara and Ward – get my Little Star!
Hunt – 6 – Looked his old self from start in the game and was very energetic all over the pitch. Assisted to the goal and created a couple of other attempts. His was not very lucky with his free-kicks, though, and we lost a couple of chances from that.
O’Hara – 7 – Was our engine going forward and the spider in the web, bringing the ball up, often together with Ward. Often passing it on to Doyle, but without impact, unfortunately. Had four chances of his own, but only one on target. Looks to be hitting form which is absolutely crucial for Wolves attacking play.
Jarvis – 6 – A game of two halves for him more than most. Couldn’t get past his man in the first half, but in second half it loosened up and he went on the attack several times with some success. He must show that in a whole game in the future or other wingers waiting to play.
Edwards – 6 – Started the game very bright, but disappeared when Wolves lost influence of the game after the Pool goal. Had a shot blocked that was worth a better destiny as it was destined to go into the net. In Dave Edwards we have a player that can play right behind the striker or on the right. He is fast, wants to go for goal and has the technical abilities to snatch one. It was the right thing to do to bring on a striker in the second half, but Dave did an o.k. job in the first.
Fletcher – 6 – Not very involved in play, but one time is enough for the poacher, and he showed that with accuratess to the Anfield seated. Three other attempts but they were all blocked.
Doyle – 5 – Something is not right with Doyler’s game. He has much ball, his passing is very good for a forward (83%), but only one attempt (blocked) on goal all game. I think he may lack self-confidence and instead of going for a goal himself he often passes the ball on and not necessary to a player in a better position than himself. I believe he would have lost his place in the starting eleven already if not for injuries on other strikers. He must show his true self very soon, starting against Newcastle on Saturday.
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