Diogo Jota rekindled Liverpool’s Premier League top-four hopes with the winning goal on his return to Molineux in a game that ended with a worrying head injury to Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
Jota, who joined Liverpool from Wolves in September, drilled a low first-time shot under Patricio to settle a tight contest.
It was a fine way for the Portugal forward to mark his first appearance back at his former employers and it sees the Reds climb to sixth, two points behind West Ham in fifth and five off Chelsea in fourth.
In a game of few clear-cut chances, Mohamed Salah saw a late effort ruled out for offside.
However, more distressing for the hosts was the sight of Patricio leaving the pitch on a stretcher after a lengthy delay following a collision with his captain Conor Coady, while trying to prevent the Egyptian from scoring.
Patricio injury echoes Jimenez
The evening started brightly for Wolves who were hoping to win back-to-back games at Molineux for the first time this season.
And while they generally acquitted themselves well, all thoughts of their performance and the result faded late on with Patricio’s injury.
Sat in the stands, Wolves forward Raul Jimenez provided a painful reminder of the dangers that footballers can face, with the Mexico international still to return from the fractured skull he sustained against Arsenal in November.
There was a 15-minute delay until John Ruddy was brought on as a concussion substitute to replace the Portugal goalkeeper.
The referee’s assistant did not raise his flag for offside immediately, as is the guidance when the video assistant referee is in use, although it is unclear if an earlier decision would have averted the collision because of the speed at which it unfolded.
While the scenes on the pitch had echoes of Jimenez’s injury, thankfully Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo was able allay fears over the health of his goalkeeper in his post-match interviews.
“Rui Patricio is OK. He’s conscious, he’s aware,” said Nuno. “He remembers what happened. The assessment is positive, he is going to be OK.
“When it’s something so serious, you always get worried. It can happen in football. The law is clear. The referees keep the flag down and play to the whistle. Situations will happen. This won’t be the only time.”
‘A dirty three points’
The champions arrived at Molineux after an alarming run of six defeats in their past seven Premier League games.
But this result shows they cannot be discounted from being involved in the final reckoning when it comes to the Champions League places.
As the first half developed so too did Liverpool’s confidence.
And there were plenty of flickers of quality from the Reds, who so resoundingly won the reverse fixture 4-0 at Anfield in December.
Many of their best moments arrived courtesy of Sadio Mane’s intelligent movement, with the Senegal forward having three good opportunities to score before teeing up Jota’s opener.
That gave Jurgen Klopp’s side a welcome half-time lead for the first time in nine top-flight matches.
Yet while it was an improvement there were also plenty of signs that more must follow.
Fabinho and Thiago Alcantara’s partnership in midfield is a work in progress and despite all their neat interchanges there are still problems in attack which need to be resolved over the remaining weeks of the season.
That was underlined by Jota, Salah, Ozan Kabak and Mane all failing to add to their tally when presented with reasonable opportunities to make life more comfortable for the Reds.
“It’s all about the result,” Klopp told Sky Sports. “A big fight. If we want three dirty points, I’m fine with that. We had very good moments where we should have done better. Defensively the whole game was really good.”
‘We wanted the result’ – what they said
Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo told BBC Sport: “It was a very competitive game. We were able to control most of Liverpool’s situations.
“There are positives and things we have to improve – better passing and finishing. We must be accurate in the final touch. We know the players can do much better.”
On when Raul Jimenez may return: “We don’t have a date. We cannot rush things. He’s training, not too involved – he must avoid contact. He will join Mexico [to train]. Hopefully we’ll still have him this season but we have to be patient.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told BBC Sport: “It’s unfortunate [on Patricio’s injury]. In contact sport it happens time to time. I’m more relaxed because the first impression is it’s not serious. We wish him all the best. It should not happen, but it can happen.
“We had good moments but the final touch, final pass was not exactly there. We wanted the result.”
Perennial substitute Milner – the stats
- Wolves have lost their past nine Premier League games against Liverpool, their joint-longest losing run versus a side in their league history alongside nine consecutive defeats by Brighton from 1979-1989.
- Liverpool have only lost two of their past 100 Premier League games in which they’ve scored first (W84 D14).
- Liverpool have won four of their past five away Premier League games (L1), as many as they’d won in their previous 15 on the road in the competition (D6 L5).
- Only Sheffield United (22) have conceded the first goal in more Premier League games this season than Wolves (19 – level with West Brom).
- Only Raul Jimenez (18) has scored more Premier League goals at Molineux than Diogo Jota (11 – level with Steven Fletcher).
- Liverpool’s Jota became just the second player to score both for and against Wolves in the Premier League after Stephen Hunt.
- Liverpool’s James Milner made his 158th Premier League appearance as a substitute, the joint most in the competition’s history alongside Peter Crouch.
With the international break looming Wolves are next in Premier League action on Monday, 5 April (20:15 BST) when they welcome West Ham to Molineux. Liverpool travel to Arsenal for their next top-flight fixture on Sunday, 4 April (16:30).
- 11Rui PatrícioSubstituted forRuddyat 90+10′minutes
- 27SaïssBooked at 52mins
- 22Nélson SemedoSubstituted forGibbs-Whiteat 84′minutes
- 8NevesBooked at 37minsSubstituted forDendonckerat 76′minutes
- 28João Moutinho
- 19Castro Otto
- 12Da SilvaSubstituted forFábio Silvaat 70′minutes
- 17Fábio Silva
- 6Thiago AlcántaraBooked at 42minsSubstituted forKeitaat 67′minutes
- 5WijnaldumSubstituted forMilnerat 67′minutes
- 20JotaSubstituted forOxlade-Chamberlainat 82′minutes
- 46R Williams
- 76N Williams
- Craig Pawson
Match ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 0, Liverpool 1.
Second Half ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 0, Liverpool 1.
Attempt saved. Fábio Silva (Wolverhampton Wanderers) with an attempt from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Attempt missed. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Naby Keita.
Corner, Liverpool. Conceded by Leander Dendoncker.
Attempt missed. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Trent Alexander-Arnold with a cross following a set piece situation.
Foul by Willy Boly (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Leander Dendoncker (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Nathaniel Phillips (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. John Ruddy replaces Rui Patrício because of an injury.
Offside, Liverpool. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain tries a through ball, but Mohamed Salah is caught offside.
Foul by Adama Traoré (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Morgan Gibbs-White replaces Nélson Semedo.
Offside, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Romain Saïss tries a through ball, but Adama Traoré is caught offside.
João Moutinho (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool).
Substitution, Liverpool. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaces Diogo Jota.
Attempt saved. Diogo Jota (Liverpool) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Mohamed Salah.