Jurgen Klopp bemoaned a sluggish first-half display from Liverpool against Wolves but praised the resilience of his side as they fought back from a goal down to win for the third time in five Premier League matches.
Wolves dominated the first half and deservedly opened the scoring when Hwang Hee-chan fired home at the far post after some excellent wing play by Pedro Neto.
The Reds were much improved after the break and drew level when Cody Gakpo converted Mohamed Salah’s fizzing cross-shot.
Andy Robertson then marked his 200th Premier League appearance by putting the Reds ahead for the first time on 85 minutes, before substitute Harvey Elliott’s shot deflected off Hugo Bueno for an own goal to seal the victory in stoppage time.
The win moves Klopp’s side up to second in the Premier League, two points behind leaders Manchester City.
“It was like we had just met in the car park before the game with the organisation in the first half,” Klopp told TNT Sports. “The good is that it was so bad we couldn’t play that bad in the second half.
“We changed the system and one player and we had a bit more natural speed up front. We controlled the game better.
“We have a good squad, no doubt about it. We had a super strong bench today. But even with quality you can play badly, that’s what we did in the first half.”
Resilient Reds bounce back again
Liverpool offered little as an attacking threat in the opening 45 minutes as their midfield got consistently overrun, going into the break behind.
Klopp brought on Luis Diaz for the subdued Alexis Mac Allister at half time, before bringing on Elliott and Darwin Nunez 11 minutes after the restart.
The substitutes made an impact as Liverpool transformed, with Diaz heading just wide from Robertson’s volleyed cross a mere 90 seconds after coming on.
The Colombian was then involved in the equaliser as some neat interplay on the edge of the box saw the ball eventually reach Salah, whose drilled cross-shot was tapped home by Gakpo.
Nunez then came close to putting Liverpool ahead but his shot was well blocked by a combination of goalkeeper Jose Sa and defender Max Kilman.
Wolves were looking increasingly out on their feet and it was the visitors who looked the most likely to score.
They duly did with five minutes left when Robertson, captain in the absence of the suspended Virgil van Dijk, ran on to Salah’s searching pass and side-footed home from six yards.
Elliott wrapped up the win late on but was denied the goal when it was adjudged his shot took enough of a deflection off Bueno to go down as an own goal by the Wolves defender.
Neto stars but Wolves run out of gas
Wolves manager Gary O’Neil will have reasons to be optimistic despite a fourth defeat from five games this season, leaving the Black Country side near the foot of the Premier League.
“For us to compete with Liverpool we have to compete above our level. We did that for 45 minutes and then maybe threw the odd punch in the second half,” O’Neil told BBC Match of the Day.
“It looks like a comfortable win for Liverpool but it wasn’t comfortable for most of the afternoon.”
The home side were excellent in the first half, with midfielders Joao Gomes and Mario Lemina snapping at the heels of the Liverpool players and feeding debutant Jeanricner Bellegarde and Neto to launch rapid counter-attacks.
Neto in particular was excellent and set up the opener when he weaved past three Liverpool players and surged into the area, before crossing low for goalscorer Hwang.
Another piece of dazzling wing play saw him nutmeg Joe Gomez and chip in an inviting cross for Matheus Cunha, who mistimed his jump with the goal at his mercy.
Cunha was made to regret that miss as Wolves faded badly in the second half in the face of a resurgent Liverpool, failing to have a shot on target.
Next weekend’s trip to fellow early strugglers Luton already looks like a pivotal encounter.