Divock Origi had been overdue a potentially season-altering goal but chose some moment to provide it. Titles are won on days like this and everyone present knew it, not least all of those who leapt off the Liverpool bench and celebrated extravagantly when Wolves’ resistance was finally broken.
A match whose tenor rose as the temperature plummeted had looked certain to be remembered for an astonishing miss by Diogo Jota before his teammate, finishing clinically four minutes into added time, ensured there would be no regretting an opportunity squandered.
Wolves, who were always in the game but weathered spells of heavy pressure in each half, appeared to have survived when José Sá made a stupendous late save from Sadio Mané. But they were hanging on and had one last hurdle to vault when Virgil van Dijk considered his options before sending a long, diagonal pass to Mohamed Salah.
Perhaps the Egyptian’s first touch, taken perfectly on the bounce and sending him into the box, was simply too good; perhaps the substitute left-back Kia-Jana Hoever, introduced against his former club in the 90th minute and left trailing, had not yet got up to the pace. It was probably a bit of both but there was no questioning Salah’s composure in picking out Origi and no conjecture about the finish, cracked under Sá on the turn after taking a touch.
“We had to keep going and Divock Origi, the legend, finished it off for us. Love it,” beamed Klopp, whose post-match comments constituted a paean to his perennial deputy striker. “He is an incredible finisher and, if we don’t know it at Liverpool, who should know it? Winning in the 95th minute is great but, if Divock scores, it’s even better.”
It meant Liverpool could doubly profit from Chelsea’s misstep at the London Stadium and finish the day in second place.
They took control from around the 25th-minute mark but, against opponents whose matches are rarely high-scoring at either end of the pitch, had thin gruel to feed on by half-time. A header by Jota, directed wide at the far post to jeers from his former public, was as close as they came although Salah was denied by one superb piece of defending by Romain Saïss.
Wolves were increasingly scratchy but compact and, as Bruno Lage explained afterwards, intent on not getting caught in the transition.
Sá saved smartly from a ricochet off Thiago Alcãntara soon after half-time and on the hour Wolves had cause to feel fortune was smiling their way. When Sá raced out to clear near the left touchline but succeeded only in taking out Saïss, the ball ran free for Jota to advance into the penalty area.
With Sá nowhere he had a clear run and time to pick his spot, even with Conor Coady and Max Kilman retreating towards goal, and once he had reached the six-yard line it was a case of waiting for the net to billow.
Instead he blasted straight into Coady’s midriff, to universal amazement, when the slightest precision would have sufficed. Jota had returned to haunt Molineux with a winner last season but this was an error that could have been hanging over Liverpool next May.
As the wind swirled and the rain fell in sheets, it came to feel like the kind of winter evening this ever-atmospheric venue might cherish. Adama Traoré forced Fabinho and Andy Robertson into rash lunges and, accordingly, yellow cards but Wolves were imprecise when they did break and Lage could constantly be seen urging them against impetuosity. “It’s frustrating, because when I come in the dressing room and see my players’ faces, they did everything planned and did not deserve to lose,” Lage said.
Given that Chelsea are the only other team to have restricted Liverpool to a single goal all season, Lage’s side can certainly be said to have performed respectably. But they were at full stretch by the end and Klopp was ultimately rewarded for his boldness in bringing on Origi for Jordan Henderson in the 68th minute, upping the ante further.
“It is really important and it feels really big," Egli ha detto. “It was like in our good old times, two years ago, when we really needed it.
“It is an important skill to stay positive: it was not needed too often this season but thank god we could show it today.”
The warmest thanks went to Origi. “Top striker, top boy, that’s how it is,” Klopp continued.
“He has scored some of the most important goals in the history of his club.” This could yet have been another.