Premier League - Improved Liverpool beat Wolves

Sat, 24 Sep 16:58:00 2011

Liverpool's convincing first-half display was enough to seal a 2-1 victory over Wolves at Anfield in a thrilling Premier League clash.

Liverpool 2 Wolves 1

A Roger Johnson own-goal had given the home side an early lead, and a classy second from Luis Suarez gave the hosts a big advantage going into the second half.

But in a topsy-turvy period after the interval substitute Steven Fletcher scored to drag Wolves back into the game.

Liverpool missed a string of chances to restore their two-goal cushion, with Andy Carroll hitting the post and Wayne Hennessey pulling off some sharp saves.

It made for a more anxious end to the game than the Anfield crowd would have wanted, but Liverpool held on to win their first Premier League match in September for two years, and arrest a run of successive defeats.

Kenny Dalglish kept his word on easing captain Steven Gerrard back into action gradually, naming him on the bench, and trusting Carroll to make up for a disappointing showing last weekend at Tottenham.

Wolves made two changes from the side that were humbled at home by QPR in their previous Premier League outing, with Kevin Doyle left to work alone up front in a conservative 4-5-1 formation.

The visitors had the better of the first 10 minutes, though, pressing, probing and fashioning the best early chance as Jamie O'Hara got on the end of Matt Jarvis's cut-back from the left-hand side, but could not put enough power behind it to trouble Jose Reina.

Liverpool's first goal, 11 minutes in, was a gift presented by Wolves' summer signing Johnson. Charlie Adam's shot from distance was destined to go wide of the target until the defender tried needlessly to head it away, succeeding only in glancing it past the helpless Hennessey.

That kick-started Liverpool's performance. Carroll might have made it two had he directed his free header either side of Hennessey just three minutes after the opener, but he, in harness with Downing and Suarez, was a constant threat to the visitor's defence.

Suarez gave a glimpse of his class by nutmegging Johnson with a spectacular backheel, but could not convert it into a scoring chance.

The movement and interplay of Liverpool's attacking players meant there was no pressing need for Gerrard, who nonetheless received huge applause as he warmed up on the touchline.

And Liverpool got a deserved second seven minutes before the interval thanks to their best move of the match. Suarez latched on to a sumptuous through ball from Jose Enrique, twisted right then left to free some space for a shot, before beating a flummoxed Hennessey at his near post with a drilled shot.

Mick McCarthy opted for a double substitution at the break, throwing Fletcher on to give Doyle some support.

It paid instant dividends as failed clearances from Jose Reina and Enrique allowed Stephen Hunt to set up Fletcher on 48 minutes.

What followed was an extraordinary passage of play where Liverpool should have restored and extended their two-goal advantage.

Moments after the restart Hennessey, under pressure from Carroll, fumbled his attempt to catch a cross. The ball broke for Suarez, but the Wolves shot-stopper recovered in time to make a crucial save.

Three minutes later Downing's devilish cross was met by Carroll at the far post, beating Hennessey but cannoning off the upright.

Immediately afterwards Adam led a Liverpool counter-attack in which Wolves were outnumbered - it was left to Downing to apply the finish, but Hennessey did terrifically to tip the shot around the post.

Wolves refused to go away, not creating clear-cut opportunities but causing a few nervy moments in the Liverpool penalty area.

Another goal looked inevitable, and yet neither side could score it.

Lucas Leiva's side-footed effort from outside the area whistled just past the post, while another moment of brilliant dribbling from Suarez in the penalty area almost laid on a golden chance for Carroll.

Suarez made way for Gerrard with 10 minutes to play, with both men treated to generous applause from the Anfield faithful.

Gerrard put in a lively cameo, flashing a dipping half-volley just high and wide of the target from 25 yards, while Carroll failed to get a shot away in the final moments of the match when it looked like he could grab the goal Liverpool deserved.

Liverpool will be pleased to record a victory before next weekend's Merseyside derby at Goodison Park.

Wolves will take some heart from a spirited second-half showing, but next they face unbeaten Newcastle United in their bid to end a run of three consecutive defeats in the top flight.

Mark Patterson - on Twitter @markjpatterson / Eurosport

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