They always said there was something about Molineux under the lights. I always took it with a pinch of salt to be quite honest. I mean when I think about midweek floodlit matches I actually immediately spring to the likes of Wolves 0-4 Barnsley and Wolves 0-1 Wigan, possibly the worst game of football in living memory.
Maybe this was mystical notion from years gone by, all the talk of Spartak and Honved and Real Madrid all coming to Molineux and getting their arses handed to them on a plate before trotting off home. There’s a new chapter in the storybook of great Molineux floodlit matches now.
I sat at work yesterday with a real anxiety to get away and head down to Molineux. Most games bring that feeling with the current set of players available to us, but last night felt different. Much like the build-up to our stunning victory over Manchester City, there was a palpable sense that Wolves could produce another epic performance and more pertinently an epic result. The thing with this though is that it would not have been just a symbolic victory – a win would take us to 5th in the table, just three points off a Champions League spot. There was a real sense of occasion.
With that in mind we have take stock of where we are as a club, a team and our own performance levels. And the fact of the matter is this was a missed opportunity. We know we’re a good team, we eulogise over ourselves enough and the rest of the world is either telling us we’re phenomenal or tired – at some point we’re not just putting in good performances, we’re putting in the kind of performances that are expected of us. This is the level we have reached now.
It’s worth looking at last night in that context. Firstly, both teams essentially fielded their strongest sides, barring perhaps Fabinho for Liverpool and Willy Boly for Wolves. Pedro Neto has deservedly earned himself a starting slot ahead of Diogo Jota for now. Of course, as is the way with Wolves at this moment in time, we went a goal down. The manner in which this happened is irksome, given it was a set piece and Jordan Henderson was the one who got his head on to it. Now we don’t have the commanding aerial presence of Willy Boly, but fundamentally we should not be conceding from these situations and especially not to someone with the aerial prowess of Henderson. This isn’t a dig, or a lack of gratitude, it’s just a fact and something Nuno will no doubt be discussing with his time as an issue to be rectified. If he can come to that conclusion, then so can we.
There were further moments to pick out in the first half as well. Matt Doherty heading wide from a glorious position, Mo Salah almost going through one-on-one to put Liverpool 2-0 up and a couple of other shaky moments at the back. This was all in the context of Liverpool losing their best forward, Sadio Mane, midway through the first half as well. The second half was much better of course, with a sumptuous goal, but there were still opportunities to grab victory. Traore was a menace, Neto was sublime and Raul had the bit between his teeth but there was a lack of cutting edge. Throw in the fact Patricio had to make two very good saves from Firmino and Salah, before we contrived to concede again and it makes for a real feeling of frustration, especially after the way Jota didn’t take his chance in the dying minutes.
I am of course talking details, but this is what sets teams apart. Nobody can tell me there was much between the sides yesterday aside from some more clinical finishing from Liverpool. Did they look like a team that has won 22 of 23 league games this season, gone 40 league games unbeaten? So why are we not frustrated at the fact we didn’t get a result from this game? Yes, we were excellent in parts and deserving of the plaudits and it was an entirely enthralling watch.
But, in the cold light of day, we all know that it could have been so, so much more.