Sadio Mane keeps Liverpool on track for Premier League title as VAR assists Anfield win over Wolves

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THE decade started with a dreary 1-0 defeat against Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

It ended with a functional win over Wolves, stretching Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League streak to 36 games.

Mane netted his 14th goal of the season to seal the win
AP:Associated Press
Video replay officials correctly overturned Anthony Taylor’s decision
PA:Press Association

Somebody has to give them a game.

Wolves tried, in patches, but Liverpool are giving the impression they want this done ASAP.

Beyond the predictable VAR-inspired fury at either end, the red men kept up their 100 per cent record at Anfield.

Sadio Mane, shrugging off the standard 60-second Stockley Park check, scored the winner this time after 42 minutes.

It was an accomplished finish, connecting sweetly after Adam Lallana rolled the chance into his path off the top of his shoulder.

Sporting a golden Club World Cup badge on their shirts for the first – and only – time, they did what champions do.

They are churning out the results for fun: 4-0 at Leicester, 2-0 over Watford, 3-0 at Bournemouth.

All very straightforward.

They were made to work a bit harder for this because there were predictable recriminations over Wolves’ disallowed ‘equaliser’.

Cast your mind back to this time last year and English football was screaming out for VAR.

It was a must-have.

Technology would sort it all out once and for all, clearing up decisions when tubby referees cannot keep up with play.

Now that we have it, proving beyond doubt that Jonny was offside in the build up to Pedro Neto’s ghost goal, conspiracy theories abound. Ridiculous.

Whether Jonny strayed beyond the imaginary line by a toe, an armpit or a metre, English football got the result English football asked for.

The day social media, with its moral flexibility, becomes football’s arbiter will be a very sad day for the sport indeed. #justsayin

For those arguing that these decisions are not in the spirit of the game, when has anybody ever played fair at elite level?

Answer: Never.

Strip away the layers and the real reason everybody got so worked up is because the country is craving a Liverpool capitulation.

For a moment everyone was living in la-la land when Ruben Neves pulled an inviting ball back for Neto to sweetly tuck his effort beyond Alisson.

After their 3-2 comeback win over Manchester City on Friday night, these Wolves seemed well-equipped to give Liverpool a game.

They had done alright for the most part, surviving efforts from Mo Salah, Gini Wijnaldum and Firmino in the opening half hour.

They had planned well for Trent Alexander-Arnold’s endless supply of crosses from the right by detailing Ruben Vinagre to do a number on him.

Neto’s apparent equaliser was deemed offside
Nuno was once again left baffled by VAR’s intervention
AFP or licensors

Liverpool’s opener came from a new trade route, opened up when Dutchman Virgil van Dijk wafted a long ball into the Englishman Adam Lallana.

He adroitly brought the ball under control off his shoulder, played Mane in and then lit a cigar to watch his team-mate sweep Liverpool into the lead.

Once the customary check with Stockley Park was concluded, Liverpool were 45 minutes way from updating their Premier League record to 18 and 0.

It was not a convincing win, but it did not need to be.

Liverpool are doing their thing, closing in on the title while the rest of the league has a Christmas wobble.

Leicester and Manchester City, the only two possible challengers, have lost even more ground over the festive period.

Liverpool have done well out of Christmas because they have managed to leave the country, return with another pot, and still extend their lead at the top of the table.

Not a bad haul, that.

They are 13 points clear of Leicester again, reasserting their position as the dominant force in English football.

When they finally lift the trophy they dare not speak of, this pedestrian victory over Wolves will be largely forgotten.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s boys did alright out there, but asking them to pull off another shock was all a bit too much.

They have plenty of matchwinners, with Diogo Jota forcing a decent save out of Alisson at the near post in the second half.

Raul Jimenez, on as a sub for Jota after 72 minutes, tried his luck late in the second half.

They were entitled to give it a go, with Nuno urging his players to get forward in numbers in that final period.

Klopp sent on his smotherers, with James Milner and Divock Origi giving them some fresh legs.

There was enough energy to see this through, closing down Jimenez, Moutinho and that livewire Adama Traore in those final minutes.

With another win in the bag, it gives Liverpool a breather before they go again in 2020.

Chances are, it will be Liverpool’s year.

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