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More VAR controversy in nervy Liverpool win


FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Wolves in the Premier League

FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Liverpool’s 1-0 win over Wolves in the Premier League

VAR was once again the centre of attention as Liverpool edged to a 1-0 win against Wolves, who had two huge calls go against them.

After a VAR-laden win against Manchester City on Friday, Wolves were again frustrated by the technology at Anfield. The first review looked at a handball against Adam Lallana, whose knockdown was slotted home by Sadio Mane in the 42nd minute. The goal was eventually given by VAR after referee Antony Taylor had initially ruled it out.

Wolves were already incensed by the decision, then Pedro Neto (45+3) thought he had levelled things up when he fired home deep in first-half injury-time, but VAR ruled it out for a tight offside call against Jonny in the build-up. Unlike the City game, Wolves were unable to get their revenge in a scrappy second half.

Liverpool’s win sees them go 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League with a game in hand while Wolves drop a place into eighth on goal difference.

How Liverpool rode their luck to win

Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and Sadio Mane celebrate going 1-0 up against Wolves

Liverpool went close inside four minutes as the warning signs flashed for Wolves. After some neat play across the top of the box from the hosts, Trent Alexander-Arnold swung a sensational cross into the area, but Mohamed Salah could only fire the effort over the face of goal from close range.

The Egypt international was once again involved in the 21st minute, but this time was denied by goalkeeper Rui Patricio. A sublime long ball from Virgil van Dijk picked out Mane at the top of the area. He nodded the ball across for Salah, who hammered it goalwards on the volley, but it went straight into the goalkeeper’s hands.

Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (8), Gomez (7), Van Dijk (7), Robertson (6), Lallana (6), Henderson (7), Wijnaldum (7), Salah (7), Firmino (6), Mane (7).

Subs used: Keita (6), Milner (n/a), Origi (n/a).

Wolves: Patricio (6), Dendoncker (6), Coady (7), Bennett (6), Kilman (7), Neves (7), Moutinho (7), Jonny (7), Neto (7), Vinagre (6), Jota (7).

Subs used: Saiss (6), Traore (6), Jimenez (5).

Man of the match: Trent Alexander-Arnold.

But VAR threw the end of the first half into turmoil. Liverpool broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute as another wonderful long ball from Van Dijk was bundled into the path of Mane by the shoulder of Lallana. The former then slotted home at the near post, but referee Antony Taylor blew his whistle and instantly ruled it out for handball. However, VAR intervened and after a lengthy review – which looked at the handball and when Taylor had blown – the goal was given to the indignation of the Wolves contingent.

Jonny was offside by the slightest of margins at Anfield

There was more to come as Wolves thought they had equalised in the third minute of first half injury-time. Jonny flashed a cross into the area from the right, which missed everyone inside a packed box, before falling to the unmarked Neto, who swept the ball past Alisson. He wheeled away in delirious celebration, but it was halted when VAR checked the goal for the tightest of offside decisions. The 3D lines were back out and adjudged Jonny to be offside by a shoulder, therefore ruling out the goal – the fourth such call seen in the Premier League this weekend.

Jurgen Klopp made one change with Naby Keita being replaced by Adam Lallana. Wolves made four changes with Romain Saiss, Matt Doherty, Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez all starting on the bench. Ryan Bennett, Max Kilman, Pedro Neto and Ruben Vinagre came into the XI.

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo was shown a yellow card by Taylor during the second VAR review after his explosive reactions on the touchline but the Portuguese showed little emotion as the half-time whistle blew just after. Wolves were also angry at a supposed handball from Van Dijk in the build-up to Mane’s goal and approached the officials at half-time to question it, but Stockley Park reportedly said the evidence was inconclusive and the strike remained.

The second half was a quieter, scrappier affair, with Wolves going close in the 68th minute. Some uncharacteristically lazy play from Van Dijk allowed Diogo Jota through into the area, leaving the Ballon d’Or nominee in his wake. The Wolves forward then powered a shot goalwards, but Alisson made a strong save to see the ball behind for a corner.

Wolves protest at VAR decisions during the game

With the memories of the comeback victory against Man City fresh in the mind, it was Wolves who pushed for the next goal as the half wore on. Substitutes Raul Jimenez, Romain Saiss and Adama Traore all went close – firing wide of the target – as Liverpool clung on for a 17th home league win in a row.

Man of the match – Trent Alexander-Arnold

After his sensational performance against Leicester on Boxing Day, Alexander-Arnold once again showed his incredible talent against Wolves. He made eight crosses and created two chances, with 112 touches of the ball in what was another stand-out game.

Sky Sports co-commentator Jamie Carragher said: “He’s the one who, at times when he’s had the ball, has shown real quality in his delivery and has looked a major threat going forward. we always say the same thing, he can improve defensively and has been fortunate to get away with it a couple of times today.”

What the managers said

4:17 Jurgen Klopp says he was confident that Sadio Mane’s goal would stand despite the VAR check, but believes the use of pitchside monitors would help with similar incidents

Jurgen Klopp says he was confident that Sadio Mane’s goal would stand despite the VAR check, but believes the use of pitchside monitors would help with similar incidents

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp: “It was a tough game – I expected it to be honest. If there is a team who is not fussed about playing two games in 48 hours, it is Wolves. Nuno has a sensational bunch of players there and he doesn’t make a lot of changes. They play Thursday-Sunday-Thursday all throughout the season so they are used to a tough rhythm.

“In the first half there were a lot of moments when we controlled the game really well, scored the goal which then looked a bit exciting because of VAR. But for me, in the first moment, it was not handball. We have already had an armpit offside this year and for me, it was a clear shoulder from Adam [Lallana], but it took a while, which you can imagine is not too cool for Wolves.

“The next goal I didn’t see that there was anybody in an offside position, but we were surprised ourselves but then they show that the guy who crossed the ball is offside then that’s what VAR is there for. It took a while in the end but it gave them a bit of momentum. They were really on their toes, really on fire.

“VAR is about decision making. I would prefer if referees went to the screen because it is directly next to us and never used, I don’t know exactly why. Especially with the first situation, it would have helped because if it is a tight offside with a small margin and it takes a while until the lines are there then I can understand it, but with the possible handball, I don’t understand it because it would have gone quicker [by going to the screen] I think, but that’s how we do it in England and we cannot change that.”

3:02 Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo says VAR is having too much influence on the game, and feels on-pitch referees should have more authority

Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo says VAR is having too much influence on the game, and feels on-pitch referees should have more authority

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo: “They fought very hard, I think it was a very good game. In the first half Liverpool were very strong, they are a team with immense quality, and I thought we controlled but we didn’t have the ball so much. The second half was much better and that’s what is the good part – the reaction we had, the way we did things in the second half makes us so proud in such a tight schedule that we have, the display of energy that we had was amazing.

“I have to apologise, I always have a word about the work of the referees, but today, I don’t feel like anything I can say will help.

“Anfield is amazing, but they were celebrating a non-goal – it doesn’t make sense. The referee should sustain their decisions because there is a referee miles away taking decisions of a lot of things that are happening here. Who feels the game? Who is inside of the game? Who feels the flow of the game? The distances of the game, the intensity of the actions, it is all from the referee.”

‘VAR cannot go on like this’

The Wolves players await a VAR decision after Pedro Neto’s goal

Analysis by Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness:

“I just don’t get it. We’re in the entertainment business. What we’re doing is denying the people the enjoyment of goals.

“What we should do is say that if any part of an attacker is in an onside position they can’t be given offside. We cannot go on like this. There’s too much frustration going on.”

‘Wolves one of the stories of the season’

Analysis by Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher:

“I think Wolves have been one of the stories of the season. They started really poorly and everyone was blaming the Europa League, saying they have to dismiss it, get out of it, which we hear so often, but they’ve actually stayed in it, qualified and are back in the middle of the table.

“We talk about Sheffield United a lot this season because they are new to the Premier League, but what Wolves have done with European commitments, the small squad that they’ve had – I think they’ve only used 19 players in the Premier League – I think the manager has done some job.”

Opta stats

Liverpool are now unbeaten in 50 home league games (W40 D10); this is only the third time any side has gone 50+ home matches without defeat in English top-flight history, after Chelsea (86 between 2004 and 2008) and Liverpool themselves (63 between 1978 and 1980).Liverpool have won 17 consecutive matches at Anfield in the Premier League; only Man Utd (19 ending in October 2011) and Man City (20 ending in March 2012) have had longer home winning runs in the competition’s history.This was Wolves’ first defeat in eight away league outings (W3 D4) and was the first time they failed to score on the road in the Premier League since their goalless draw at Leicester on the opening matchday of the season.

What’s next?

Liverpool will be back at Anfield on Thursday 2 January as they host Sheffield United in the Premier League (kick-off 8pm). They will then host local rivals Everton in the FA Cup on Sunday 5 January (kick-off 4.01pm).

For Wolves, they travel to Watford on New Year’s Day (kick-off 3pm) before welcoming Manchester United in the FA Cup on Saturday 4 January (kick-off 5.31pm).

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