Liverpool vs. Wolves: Ranking the Top 5 Reds Players in the 3-0 Victory
Liverpool ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League to boost their chances of a top-four finish and continue their good recent form after progressing in both domestic cup competitions last week.
After an interesting but goalless first half in which both teams had chances to open the scoring, it was left to Andy Carroll—marking the one-year anniversary of his signing for Liverpool—to put the Reds ahead following a fine sweeping cross from Charlie Adam.
Craig Bellamy netted the second goal minutes later after a solo run through the extremely accommodating Wolves defence, before Dirk Kuyt wrapped up the win with his 50th Premier League goal for the Reds.
Here are Liverpool's top five performers in a victory which sends them back up into fifth place.
5. Jose Enrique, Left-Back
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After a couple of below-par displays in his recent outings, Spanish left-back Jose Enrique was back to his best for Liverpool against Wolves.
Faced with adventurous winger Michael Kightly, Enrique never let the tricky wide man get the better of him and used a great combination of experience and pace to nullify the potentially dangerous outlet for the home side.
On several occasions Enrique succeeded where he failed—to Liverpool's cost—against Manchester United by keeping possession of the ball while making a challenge or interception in defence, and not allowing Kightly to blaze towards the byline or send over a telling cross.
In attack, Enrique was always willing to overlap down the flank, although several of his crosses were disappointing.
He also has a tendency to drift infield with the ball at his feet on occasions; fine when, for example, Stewart Downing is playing left wing, but when the likes of Craig Bellamy also like to come infield it can at times leave the Reds short of width.
Enrique's moment of the night, however, came with his quick break and pinpoint cross-field pass to Dirk Kuyt to set up the attack for Liverpool's final goal of the match.
4. Charlie Adam, Central Midfield
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It is the nature of the beast that is Charlie Adam that there will be both positives and negatives with most displays from the midfielder in a Red shirt, and so it proved against Wolves.
A first half where Adam gave the ball away too often and too sloppily was topped off with a yellow card for a cynical trip on an opponent.
To be fair, this was more or less a case of "taking one for the team" as Liverpool had been caught on the break and Wolves were looking to capitalise.
In the second half, however, Adam made a vastly telling contribution with assists for two of the three Liverpool goals, as well as leading the charge on a number of other occasions as the Reds went for the kill.
His sweeping cross from deep on the left was classic Adam; the fact that it was met on the bounce by a goal-scoring touch from Andy Carroll was the icing on the cake.
A pair of driving runs into the box with the ball at his feet earlier in the game had ended with tame efforts towards goal; later on he instead teed up Dirk Kuyt, who flashed home the Reds' third of the match.
An up-and-down game from Adam, but ultimately one which contributed hugely to Liverpool taking the three points.
3. Andy Carroll, Forward
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One year to the day after signing for Liverpool, Andy Carroll netted just his seventh goal for the club as he opened the scoring against Wolves.
Disregarding that disappointing statistic, this was a vastly improved performance from the big forward, in particular the second 45 minutes after his confidence was visibly boosted.
Following his more hard-working efforts of late, Carroll continued in that vein in the first half, closing down Wolves' fragile defenders and making a nuisance of himself aerially, though the service could often be called into question again.
On at least three occasions Carroll won super knock-downs inside and around the penalty area, only to be let down by his teammates not anticipating the dropping balls.
The next 45 minutes could yet prove to be pivotal for Carroll's season, or even his Anfield career.
A fine first-time finish on the bounce from Charlie Adam's excellent cross put his side in front and from then on Carroll knew in his mind that he had the better of Wolves defenders.
Carroll plays with his back to goal an awful lot these days and still needs big improvements on his movement off the ball, especially once he has played his lay-offs back into midfield.
But his control and immediate turn past Roger Johnson, followed by a burst towards goal—and eventual scuffed shot—evoked somewhat-dampened-of-late hope that Carroll could make a real, telling contribution to the Reds attack and be the driving force which Liverpool need him to be.
Another step along the path of gradual improvement—more of the same, Andy.
2. Craig Bellamy, Left Wing
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Another fine performance from Craig Bellamy, who was a frequent thorn in the sides of the Wolves players as Liverpool cruised to victory at Molineux.
Bellamy started on the left of a genuine front three for the Reds with Dirk Kuyt flanking Andy Carroll on the opposite side.
Several times in the first half Bellamy chose to keep the width of the team when running at the Wolves defence, going on the outside and driving towards the byline—but it was in the second half when coming infield and repeatedly hitting Wolves on the break where he did his real damage.
Bellamy scored the second goal of the match for Liverpool after he picked the ball up a good 40 yards from goal, ran into the space in front of him—and simply kept going.
Wolves were generous enough to allow Bellamy all the time and space in the world to meander towards the edge of the penalty area and pick his spot—and even when he slightly scuffed his shot, keeper Wayne Hennessey was just as forgiving as his defence, blundering his attempted parry and allowing the ball to trickle into the far corner.
That was Bellamy's ninth goal of the season—already equalling the total number of goals he scored for Liverpool during his first stint at the club.
1. Jay Spearing, Central Midfield
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Having missed a handful of matches with a hamstring strain over the New Year period, Jay Spearing came back into the side for Liverpool against Wolves and put in an accomplished performance to be the springboard for Liverpool's clean sheet and comfortable evening in defence.
Spearing misplaced the odd pass in the first half and let David Edwards get away from him on one occasion but even then was a constant menace to a potentially dangerous Wolves midfield.
After 20 minutes or so of the match, however, Spearing had stamped his authority on the middle of the pitch and never relinquished it.
The diminutive midfielder snapped into tackles, covered his attacking full-backs superbly and sent a pinged cross-field pass towards Dirk Kuyt with such accuracy over 50 yards or more that it would have had Charlie Adam blushing.
Another crunching challenge on the halfway line on the break almost set up Jordan Henderson for a free run on goal.
In the second half Spearing kept things ticking over with quick, incisive passes and let his partners in the middle, Adam and Henderson, do the attacking running while he covered the spaces behind them.
This wasn't a spectacular performance or a high-profile one aside from the odd long-range pass, but Spearing was magnificent in his covering midfield role and did all the dirty work for his teammates.
An excellent return to the first team for the local-born midfielder.