Liverpool 1 (Mane 42) Wolves 0.
Wolves were again nursing a deep sense of frustration over VAR after they pushed Liverpool all the way at Anfield only to lose 1-0.
Sadio Mane’s disallowed goal was overturned by the video referee while Pedro Neto’s effort was ruled out because his foot was offside as he turned Andy Robertson from Joao Moutinho’s pass in the build-up, before he crossed.
Replays showed alleged handball incidents by Virgil Van Dijk then Adam Lallana in the build-up to Mane’s 42nd-minute strike were actually chest and shoulder respectively.
Despite the setback, it was another hugely encouraging performance against another Premier League heavyweight to close 2019, coming just 45 hours after Wolves toppled champions Manchester City 3-2 at Molineux.
Not surprisingly given the quick turnaround, head coach Nuno Espirito Santo rang the changes for the trip to Anfield, resting four players from the City game.
Ryan Bennett, Max Kilman, Ruben Vinagre and Neto replaced Romain Saiss, Matt Doherty, Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez, who all dropped to the bench as Nuno switched from 3-4-3 to a 3-5-2 formation.
Liverpool threatened first when Mohamed Salah’s ambitious left-footed volley drew a routine stop from goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
Jurgen Klopp’s side went close soon afterwards when striker Roberto Firmino headed wide from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner as Patricio watched on.
The VAR drama came in the final three minutes of the first half, with Wolves losing out to two decisions – one at each end of the pitch,
Referee Anthony Taylor disallowed Mane’s strike due to an alleged handball by Lallana in the build-up, but replays showed the ball struck his shoulder and the goal stood.
Wolves were clearly rattled and grabbed what they thought was the equaliser moments later when Neto turned home Jonny’s cross after a corner had been cleared.
But the curse of VAR struck after Jonny’s foot was deemed to be offside as he spun Robertson to disallow the goal.
Undeterred, Wolves went on to produce a strong second-half performance, doing their level best to inflict the dent the champions-elect’s near-perfect Premier League record.
Just before the hour, Nuno made a double substitution with the arrival of Romain Saiss and Adama Traore for Ruben Neves and Leander Dendoncker ,which brought a switch back to 3-4-3.
Wolves went close to an equaliser when Diogo Jota robbed Van Dijk to bear down on goal, only to see his fierce angled shot beaten away by Alisson at his near post, when Neto was screaming for the ball to his left.
That proved to be the last we saw of Jota, as the forward was replaced by top scorer Raul Jimenez.
Wolves remained excellent value for a point and continued to create chances, but Moutinho and Saiss blazed over towards the end as that reply they surely deserved proved elusive.
Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum (Milner 86), Henderson, Lallana (Keita 67); Mane, Salah, Firmino (Origi 86).
Subs not used: Adrian, Jones, Elliott, Williams.
Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio; Bennett, Coady, Kilman; Jonny, Neves (Saiss 58), Dendoncker (Traore 58), Moutinho, Vinagre; Neto, Jota (Jimenez 72).
Subs not used: Ruddy, Doherty, Otasowie, Cutrone.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.