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Firmino fires rusty Liverpool another step closer to the title

Wolves 1-2 Liverpool

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Roberto Firmino finds a way through the Wolves defence to fire Liverpool back into the lead. Photo: Reuters

Roberto Firmino finds a way through the Wolves defence to fire Liverpool back into the lead. Photo: Reuters

Roberto Firmino finds a way through the Wolves defence to fire Liverpool back into the lead. Photo: Reuters

There will be a time, one must assume, when a Premier League team finds a way to stop Liverpool, and as the mist came down in the Black Country it seemed that the runaway leaders might have met their match at last, but these are days of wonder for this side.

The Roberto Firmino winner for Liverpool that came with six minutes of regulation time left was not in itself remarkable, but in the context of a game that had appeared to slip away from them in the second half it restated just how many ways Jurgen Klopp's players can win a game. They were in control and then they were not and finally they prevailed - over an impressive Wolves team.

With 15 games remaining, Liverpool's numbers are remarkable: 40 consecutive league games unbeaten and a run of 14 league victories.

Dominant

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Jurgen Klopp waves to the fans. Photo: Getty

Jurgen Klopp waves to the fans. Photo: Getty

Jurgen Klopp waves to the fans. Photo: Getty

Their 16-point lead at the top of the league is restored and they are, by all measures, a dominant force in English football in this era and perhaps to compare with any other. Yet this was a game that they had to fight to win until the end, one in which they could have settled for a draw, and yet that never seemed to be in their minds.

There was a hamstring injury for Sadio Mane that will cause concern, he was substituted in the first half and replaced by Takumi Minamino, making his Premier League debut.

They took the lead through Jordan Henderson early in the game but Wolves came back and a fine equaliser from Raul Jimenez, made by Adama Traore, was the least they deserved.

There was much to suggest that Wolves could live with the league leaders. Their passing in the first half and Traore's successful foraging down the right wing was causing Liverpool all sorts of problems.

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Liverpool midfielder Roberto Firmino (C) celebrates. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool midfielder Roberto Firmino (C) celebrates. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool midfielder Roberto Firmino (C) celebrates. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Even Trent Alexander-Arnold was beaten on a couple of occasions in the game's early stages, but Wolves' problem was that they did not have enough of the ball to ask serious questions.

That and an early goal from Henderson set them back, headed in from Alexander-Arnold's corner. It had come after a debatable free-kick awarded by Michael Oliver, won by Mohamed Salah, had been deflected wide and Alexander-Arnold trotted over to take the corner. None of the Wolves defence took charge of dealing with his ball in, and even Henderson's header was savable for Rui Patricio.

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There were moments from Klopp's players when they demonstrated the breathtaking passing sequences that can unlock defences. There were sweeping balls from Alexander-Arnold, but they did not take their first-half chances and Salah was the least composed. It was his misjudgment from Mane's ball from the left after 18 minutes, when he needed a better touch but cut back in on his left.

This Liverpool side have raised the standards to extraordinary heights. By the end of the half it was Minamino who did not quite have the seniority to demand the ball from Salah as he zagged in from the right wing.

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Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (L) vies with Wolverhampton Wanderers' defender Matt Doherty. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (L) vies with Wolverhampton Wanderers' defender Matt Doherty. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum (L) vies with Wolverhampton Wanderers' defender Matt Doherty. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Minamino struggled to fill Mane's boots after replacing him on 33 minutes. Mane is arguably the season's outstanding player and once again he had shown just what an important part of this team he has become. Of course, Liverpool have accumulated enough points to be able to afford a few absentees along the way.

The one major chance for Wolves before the interval fell to Matt Doherty, unmarked on the right side of the area and capable only of placing his header wide of Alisson's post with the whole goal at his mercy.

A different approach from Wolves in the second half - more of the ball and more chances. The partnership of Traore and Jimenez seemed to operate in closer proximity and they were already stretching Liverpool by the time the equaliser arrived six minutes into the half. While the two strikers in the Wolves side were excellent, this was also an occasion when Pedro Neto wriggled his way past Alexander-Arnold more than once.

The away side lost the ball in midfield and Jimenez turned it sharply to the right for the charging Traore to take it down the wing and cross. He accelerated past Andy Robertson's tackle and for the cross Jimenez arrived perfectly on cue as he steered his header way out of the reach of Alisson.

Wolves could sense a famous win and the stadium responded with the kind of noise you rarely hear these days. There were chances, too: first a big hit from Traore that Alisson got behind. Then this great force of nature played in Jimenez with a smart ball through Liverpool's defence and he tried to squeeze his shot in at the near post, thwarted again by Alisson.

Firmino had been denied a winner by Patricio before he struck at last for his goal. Salah had worked away at regaining possession and when it broke loose, Henderson slotted his pass through to the Brazilian to score.

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