Jurgen Klopp praised Wolves as a ‘proper team with a lot of strength’ after his Liverpool team squeezed a 1-0 win over them at Anfield.
Wolves pushed the champions-elect all the way, as VAR ruled twice in Liverpool’s favour to help them win the game.
First the video referee overturned match referee Anthony Taylor’s decision to disallow Sadio Mane’s goal for handball against Virgil Van Dijk and Adam Lallana, before the new technology disallowed Pedro Neto’s equaliser for Jonny’s foot being offside before he crossed the ball.
Liverpool boss Klopp followed Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho, who said Wolves are ‘sniffing’ the Champions League, in praising Nuno Espirito Santo’s side.
“It was (a hard-fought game), it was indeed. That’s no surprise because Wolves are a proper, proper team with a lot of strength,” sad Klopp.
“It was not a game for two or three goals for us, so we had to fight until the end. But I have no problem with that.
“In the first half we controlled the game like we wanted, like we should. We had chances, and we scored the goal.
“We had to defend, the counter-attacking threat is massive – (Pedro) Neto and (Diogo) Jota were on their bikes immediately, but we defended it well.”
Klopp applauded VAR’s decision to overturn Mane’s goal, saying: “I think Nuno was not happy with the VAR procedure probably, I am not sure if it was with the decision,” he said.
“What can we say about the decision? For me, for the first second I was surprised when the whistle came and it was handball.
“I thought it was a clear shoulder from the first second, but how can you be sure? So it took a while.
“Then we scored the goal, after three minutes the decision was done. I saw immediately this kind of relief for a second – we are all human beings and it is normal.
“But for the next long ball we were not there for the second ball, Adam (Lallana) made a foul, which led to a free-kick, corner, and goal. It didn’t count, but it brought the momentum on their side.
“They were really aggressive, really angry with us as well, even though we had nothing to do with that situation to be honest. But that’s how sometimes in sport, it happens.”
Stung by a perceived injustice of having Neto’s effort ruled out, Wolves put in a strong performance after the break and Klopp admitted he wasn’t happy with how Liverpool managed the second half.
“No, not always. We had moments,” he added. “We had these passing options – that’s what we were asking for constantly – but in football there is no chance to recover in a game if you don’t keep the ball.
“You cannot recover while the other team has the ball, so you have to do it in possession but that’s not the calm thing – it is a very lively thing, just not with the highest intensity.
“It is just smart; you play against their movement, you play in half-spaces. Naby (Keita) and Millie (James Milner) helped immediately, you could see that.
“My God, Adam Lallana and Gini (Wijnaldum) what they played effort-wise and miles-wise, was really great, but then fresh players there in the half-space helped obviously.
“Then we caused them problems again but didn’t finish them off.”
Klopp admitted he was concerned Wolves would come out in the second half and respond like a wounded animal.
“That’s how they came out of the dressing room; I can imagine what Nuno said at half-time, ‘everybody is against us so let’s fight back’ – it’s easy motivation,” he reflected.
“They came out, pressed us a little bit higher, and we were not fresh enough in mind to adapt to that immediately and caused ourselves some problems in the build-up.
“Alisson wanted to make the game quick, but 10 other players didn’t want that and he threw the ball still there, that didn’t help.
“We calmed everything down a bit again, we controlled it more, then they made some changes, brought on fresh legs, we tried to react, it was an open game now.
“There wasn’t too much threat, but there were a couple of situations and Ali had to make a save or two.
“If it would be easy to win that number of games, a lot more teams would have done it.
“It is not easy and you have to fight with all you have. Sometimes we have more and sometimes less and the boys do that all the time, so I couldn’t be more proud of what they did again.
“To get that result over the line is just impressive and I am really happy about it.”