If we’ve learnt one painfully obvious lesson from our return to the Premier League, then it’s that you have to be 100% flawless to stand an outside chance of a point against Liverpool.
Statistics say they’re one of the most daunting sides in Premier League history. The naked eye suggests they’re mechanically perfect, like a Ferrari designed by Da Vinci.
On last night’s evidence, we looked like a Seat Ibiza with a spray paint, lacking any sort of code to keep up.
In fact, it was the Coad of Conor who made the first fatal error and against a machine like this, it’s one too many to even dream of sharing the spoils thereafter.
The Premier League’s supercar then screeched off into the distance in party mode, with too many Wolves players left to look like objects in the rear view mirror. Wanderers fan George Russell’s cruel puncture in his maiden Mercedes drive an hour earlier was an untimely coincidence, but in F1 terms, this 4-0 drubbing represented an out-and-out breakdown.
Unlike the F1, there’s no yellow flag Anfield to slow things down and refuel, only more unremitting attacks to stretch the gap until we’d pretty much been lapped. Wijnaldum, Matip, then a Semedo own goal made it mission impossible against this unerring side which is wired up to win and never seems to tire.
The second goal was a case in point, as we actually pressed Liverpool successfully in a rare dose of their own medicine, only for the ball to ricochet kindly into their path. Within a matter of seconds, the ball is nestling in the top corner of Rui’s net as if the returning Kop had placed it there by hand.
There’s no disgrace in conceding like that against a flying machine on 64-game unbeaten home run, but to be so far off the pace for 90 minutes – give or take a fleeting moment of promise – was a disappointing sight.
Nelson Semedo in particular was more carthorse than race car, putting in a genuinely concerning performance which still fails to shake off the nagging worry that he’s actually incapable of defending. And whilst Moutinho and Neves looked tidy whenever we found their feet, we were just squeezed into too many careless mistakes by a team that makes you feel claustrophobic just watching them. Dendoncker, with and without the ball, was another one below the required levels.
Sadly, you have to be absolutely perfect to induce a scouse software error. We weren’t, and a 4-0 drubbing thereafter is the remorseless result, transcending system, shape or personnel.
Yes, we desperately missed the presence and talismanic figure of Raul, but to quote an old manager now plying his trade in Nicosia, ‘they were just better than us!’
Before the game, the optimist pointed to a number of Liverpool absentees and a chance to pass them down the slipstream with our pace. The realist says that it doesn’t matter a Jota if your own team is stuck in second gear.