Jurgen Klopp said he got the reaction he wanted after Harvey Elliott’s sublime goal put troubled Liverpool back on track with a 1-0 win over Wolves in a FA Cup third round replay on Tuesday.
Klopp’s side came in for scathing criticism after losing their last two Premier League games in irregular fashion at Brighton and Brentford.
But Elliott’s brilliant long-range effort in the first half at Molineux clinched a much-needed first win in four games in all competitions.
Ironically, Liverpool’s reward for seeing off Wolves is a return trip to Brighton in the fourth round.
The Reds’ dismal 3-0 defeat at Brighton on Saturday left them languishing in ninth place in the Premier League, 10 points out of the top four.
“It feels like years ago that we had this feeling that we won and played well,” Klopp said.
“We played a really good first half and at the end it was just passion to block shots. It’s the reaction we wanted to see from ourselves and from the guys.”
“The goal was exceptional. I don’t want to make Harvey’s performance any less, but today I had some men of the match, they just didn’t score.”
In the soul-searching moment that followed that embarrassment, Klopp said his struggling team needed to “get back to basics.”
Amid growing doubts about Klopp’s own future at Anfield, the German said this week he would not leave the club unless forced to and hinted at changes to his squad over the summer.
Crippled by injuries to a host of key players, including Virgil van Dijk and Luis Diaz, Klopp made eight changes after the Brighton debacle, with only Cody Gakpo, Thiago Alcantara and Ibrahima Konate retaining their places.
Mohamed Salah and Alisson Becker were among those left out, but Liverpool’s substitutes rose to the challenge.
Wolves had forced a replay with a 2-2 draw at Anfield, but Julen Lopetegui’s side were angered when they saw a potential Toti winner controversially disallowed for offside in the dying seconds.
They were unable to seize the opportunity to avenge that injustice despite a spirited start that saw Adama Traore’s headed cross narrowly deflected by Raúl Jiménez.
It was Eliott who produced the first goal in impressive fashion in the 13th minute.
Klopp’s midfield has been written off as aging and past its best this season.
But the 19-year-old Elliott offers hope for the future, a point he underscored by running wildly from the halfway line before unleashing a superb shot on Jose Sa from 25 yards out.
– Tenacious Liverpool –
Sa was caught too far off his line, but that shouldn’t detract from the quality of Elliott’s first goal since October.
Interrupting tackles and winning second balls, Liverpool showed more hunger and tenacity than in recent weeks.
Gakpo was still looking for his first goal for Liverpool in his third appearance since joining from PSV Eindhoven.
The Netherlands striker nearly broke his duck with a diving volley that flashed past.
Gakpo was replaced by Salah for the last 25 minutes, but it was Wolves who finished hard as Ruben Neves’s free-kick narrowly missed the crossbar.
Wolves’ best chance to equalize came when Jimenez was unable to head in on the goal line from Traore’s cross as Joe Gomez got the crucial block.
Elsewhere, Championship team Birmingham survived a scare in their 2-1 win at third division Forest Green.
In a delayed third round duel after the original tie was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, Ben Stevenson’s brilliant long-range shot put Forest Green ahead after eight minutes.
But Lukas Jutkiewicz equalized for Birmingham on 50 minutes and Kevin Long finished off the bottom 15 in League One 15 minutes later.
Bristol City beat Swansea 2-1, while Luton beat Wigan 2-1 and West Brom thrashed Chesterfield 4-0.