Every Holiday Season, the Reds traditionally visit Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to cheer up the little patients.
The 2020 edition of such visit offered the definite confirmation (if any was needed anyway) of Andy Robertson’s boundless energy, enthusiasm and resilience. Because of Covid, the team made virtual visits through video links in December of that year.
Despite not being in person, Robbo’s enthusiasm was far from diminished, shouting, singing and punching the air in front of the camera so as to crack up the mood of the young patients and hospital staff alike. He indeed made the most of what could possibly be done to sprinkle some cheers during those very trying times.
His resilience was again particularly on display during this Saturday trip to Wolves where the Reds had a forgettable abysmal league game last season.
Despite the disappointment of his Scotland side losing at Hampden Park in midweek against the old enemy England, Robbo still managed to deliver a collector’s item: scoring Liverpool’s second goal on the 85th minute so as to tee up the Reds on their way to victory.
In the absence of Virgil Van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold, he was also handed the extra responsibility of the armband and it turned out the resiliency of the captain was likewise reflected by the whole team.
However, Liverpool were unrecognizable during the first half as compared to their own self before the much maligned international break.
But they gradually grew into the game, turned things around before finally snatching the three points thanks to another display of grit and resolve. After Newcastle 3 weeks ago, this is becoming an eye-catching ingredient in the art of the comeback.
With players returning from far-flung corners of the globe just before this lunch time kick-off, some of them inevitably had truncated preparations for this tricky away fixture. Liverpool indeed looked like they were struggling to recover from jet lag until the late stages of the first half.
Taking advantage of the visitors’ lethargy, Wolves pounced as early as the 7th minute. Down their left, Pedro Neto powered his way through 3 Liverpool players before crossing to Hwang Hee-Chan to finish.
Who likes international breaks?
We knew that everyone hates international breaks. We knew that Liverpool do not like Saturday lunch time kick-offs. However, it was still quite bewildering to concede that early and in such manner.
And that was only the beginning of Neto tormenting Liverpool. He kept attacking during the first half and the Reds were at pains to stop him.
In particular, on the 34th, he ghosted past Joe Gomez and delivered another threatening cross to an unmarked Matheus Cunha who unexplainably failed to properly connect for an easy goal scoring opportunity. It could have already been game over for Liverpool by then.
It also did not help that Alexis Mac Allister kept losing possession in midfield. It had been a lot of travelling for him to be on Argentina duty.
Drawing from recent experience, Liverpool finally woke up to ensure this first half was not entirely a one-way traffic.
On the 38th, Captain Robbo led by example to take the game to the opposition and created the first Liverpool real opportunity.
He delivered his famed cross from the left to an unmarked Cody Gakpo at the penalty spot. Unfortunately, the Dutch’s shot flew above. Nonetheless, Jurgen Klopp must have already sensed it was a turning point by the manner he applauded the move.
Effectively, all of a sudden the encounter was turned on its head as Liverpool carved out a series of decent chances. They should have equalized on the 45th but Wolves’ defence somehow found a way to block two fierce shots in succession from Mo Salah and Dominik Szoboszlai.
Thankfully, half time did not brake Liverpool’s ascendancy. After the interval, they picked up where they had left off with Luis Diaz coming on for the out of shape Mac Allister.
The Colombian took less than 2 minutes to head narrowly wide from another Robbo cross from the left.
Wolves must have already sensed the tables had turned as they spent most of the second half as a compact defensive unit, content to absorb the pressure and preserve their slender lead.
Nonetheless, out of seemingly nothing, Liverpool finally equalized on the 55th minute. Just inside the penalty box, Diogo Jota extricated the ball from a pack of Wolves players to lay it down the right to Salah. The Egyptian King’s swift cross was met by a simple tap in by Gakpo.
The reward for Gakpo? He immediately got subbed by Darwin Nunez!! A change which was probably planned well before as the unpredictable Uruguayan presumably has better ability to unlock such a compact Wolves unit which was visibly getting tired by the minute as well.
It took only 2 minutes for our Number 9 to have his first of several attempts. A long range shot which flew wide. On the 70th minute, he made a heart in mouth run into Wolves penalty box only to be denied by José Sa.
With the home side having to bear the additional concern of Nunez, Liverpool at long last took the lead in a most unorthodox manner.
Just outside the centre circle, Robertson collected a hurriedly taken clearance from Sa and he pinged the ball forward to Salah. As the Egyptian King ran down the right wing, Robbo did the same centrally and got the ball back six yards out to slot it past the Wolves keeper.
Hopefully this made up for his disappointment with Scotland a few days before. But with such turnaround, glimpses of the feel-good factor which frequently characterised the league conquering season of 4 years ago, seem to be again in the air.
Running down the clock does not look to be in the books of this vintage of Liverpool players. Edging into the lead after having conceded first early in a game would presumably coy any other team to close down shop and dash away with the points.
But just like Robertson’s boundless energy, the Reds still went for more and extended their lead in stoppage time, much to the dismay of Cunha who now on the bench, was seen ruing his missed chance on the 34th minute.
Harvey Elliot looks to have a particular fondness for playing at Molineux, having scored there during an FA Cup tie back in January.
He repeated the feat with a long-range strike from the edge of the penalty area after having been fed by Mo Salah who himself benefitted from a brilliant Nunez run from midfield. The 20-year could hardly contain his joy, deliberately jumping into the away section and indulging himself in getting mobbed by the travelling Red Army.
That’s what playing for Liverpool Football Club and its supporters means for him… and by the way, sod the yellow card.
For a couple of hours after that remarkable win, the Reds topped the table until under pressure Man City won at West Ham.
As Pep Guardiola completed his recovery from a recent back surgery, he has probably also started to look over his shoulder only to see his most dreaded sight and hear something that’s getting louder: the Redmen are back.