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Liverpool 1-0 Wolves: Reds round off 2019 with a win as visitors bemoan VAR

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Liverpool will begin the new year leading the Premier League by 13 points, with a game in hand on nearest rivals Leicester City, after rounding off a sensational 2019 with a 1-0 victory over Wolves at Anfield in which they benefited from two VAR decisions in quick succession.

Sadio Mane’s first-half goal ultimately secured an 18th win from 19 Premier League games for Jurgen Klopp’s side, whose only dropped points so far this season came courtesy of a draw at Manchester United in October.

However, Mane’s strike was only awarded after a VAR check, referee Anthony Taylor having initially penalised Adam Lallana for handball, and Wolves thought they had drawn level in first-half injury time, only for Pedro Neto’s strike to be retrospectively ruled out for offside.

An aggrieved Wolves showed more ambition after falling behind, with Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez both introduced from the bench in the second period, but Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson had little to do as the hosts maintained their relentless form.

After winning the Champions League and Club World Cup this year, Liverpool will now enter 2020 as overwhelming favourites to end their 30-year wait for a domestic league title.

Mohamed Salah and Georginio Wijnaldum both fired over from presentable positions inside the Wolves box as Liverpool dominated the first period against opponents who were content to play a containing game less than 48 hours on from their 3-2 win over Manchester City, while a Roberto Firmino header flashed narrowly wide.

The Reds did find the breakthrough after 42 minutes when Lallana diverted Virgil van Dijk’s lofted ball into Mane’s path and the striker stroked home a first-time finish. After a lengthy delay, VAR ruled Lallana had not used his hand, the ball instead striking the top of his shoulder, although it also appeared the ball had hit Van Dijk on the arm earlier in the move.

Wolves’ frustrations at the decision were soon heightened when Neto found the bottom-left corner from Jonny Castro Otto’s deflected cross, only for VAR to once more rule against them, with the latter player adjudged offside by the narrowest of margins.

The visitors understandably took more chances after the break and Alisson was forced to stand firm at his near post after Diogo Jota had caught Van Dijk in possession before shooting powerfully at goal.

Although Liverpool’s own threat faded, they faced few other moments of alarm until the closing minutes, when Joao Moutinho and Romain Saiss both shot wastefully over and Ruben Vinagre sliced an even better chance wide.

What does it mean? Liverpool round off 2019 in fitting fashion

This year will go down as one of Liverpool’s most memorable, no mean feat for a club with such a history of success. As if a sixth European title and a maiden Club World Cup win were not enough, Klopp’s side have been astonishingly consistent in domestic action, their only league defeat in the calendar year coming at Manchester City on January 3. Liverpool finished a point behind City with 97 points last term. They will surely not be beaten this time around.

Mane the man once again

Salah and Firmino both failed to take their first chances, but Mane was clinical for Liverpool’s opener. The Senegal forward has been involved in 30 Premier League goals this year (24 goals, six assists), a tally only topped by Leicester’s Jamie Vardy (34).

Dendoncker endures dismal day

Leandro Dendoncker completed fewer than half of his attempted passes and was particularly inaccurate in the opposition half before he was understandably withdrawn 13 minutes in the second half.

What’s next?

Liverpool, who are now unbeaten in 50 home top-flight matches, welcome Sheffield United to Anfield on Thursday, while Wolves have one day fewer to recover before they face Watford at Vicarage Road.

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