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Winners & Losers

Klopp's kids lift the gloom: Liverpool winners, losers and ratings as Elliott and Bajcetic star in FA Cup win over Wolves

2:25 AM GMT+4 18/01/2023
Harvey Elliott Liverpool 2022-23
It was a case of young gems and old stars for the Reds as they bounced back from disappointment at Brighton to earn their first victory of 2023

Was this a night to wake Liverpool from their New Year slumber? It’s been a season of struggle for the men from Anfield, but they gave themselves a much-needed confidence boost here, beating Wolves 1-0 at Molineux to secure their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Harvey Elliott’s first-half strike - and what a strike it was too - gave Jurgen Klopp’s side the win they craved, with a new-look line up producing a performance that was unrecognisable from recent ones at Brentford and Brighton, and indeed in the initial tie between these sides at Anfield 10 days ago.

There were strong performances from the youngsters, with Elliott the match-winner and 18-year-old Stefan Bajcetic outstanding at the base of the Reds’ midfield. At the other end of the scale, the veteran James Milner shone as a makeshift right-back, while the class and composure of Thiago Alcantara was there for all to see.

The win sets up a return to Brighton, where Liverpool were well beaten in the Premier League last weekend, in the fourth round, but Klopp will have been more pleased to see his team press, chase and pass the ball like he has been demanding them to. He asked for a reaction after the Amex debacle, and he got one here. 

GOAL runs through the winners and losers from Molineux…

  • Harvey Elliott Liverpool 2022-23

    The Winners

    Harvey Elliott

    The celebration said it all, and it wasn't even for a goal. In the 93rd-minute, with Liverpool hanging onto the advantage Elliott had given them in the first half, the youngster piled into a challenge with Daniel Podence on the left touchline, right in front of the away supporters. Elliott won the ball, and subsequently a throw-in to relieve the pressure on his side. On the sideline, Klopp punched the air with delight, while his teenage starlet did the same, whipping up the travelling Kop. It was, as much as Elliott's 13th-minute goal - and what a hit that was, by the way - a moment to sum up Liverpool's night. "It felt more like us," Klopp said, and he can proud of his side's application, concentration and desire, even if they still have a long way to go before they are back to their best. Elliott epitomised their fight and mentality here. He's been criticised recently, unfairly blamed for his side's struggles, but he showed what he's made of this time around. He was a deserved match-winner.

    Stefan Bajcetic:

    Right then, the cat is well and truly out the bag. Liverpool have a hell of a prospect on their hands here. At 18, Bajcetic looks like he can save the club a headache, and a hell of a lot of money too. It was no surprise that Klopp opted to reshuffle his midfield after the disaster-class at Brighton, but to put his faith in a teenager making only his third professional start shows just how desperate the situation has become, and just how highly-rated the young Spaniard is. Bajcetic delivered, producing the kind of display that turns heads. He presses like a seasoned professional, he reads the game superbly, and his composure in possession marks him out as a very special talent. Along with Thiago Alcantara and Naby Keita, who was making his first competitive start since May, he made sure the midfield was unrecognisable from the one which had toiled so badly at the Amex, closing space, winning the ball back and competing for everything. Whether he'll start against Chelsea in the Premier League on Saturday remains to be seen - he suffered with cramp in the second half here - but one thing is for sure; this kid has got a big future ahead of him.

    James Milner

    It wasn't all about the kids, either. The babysitter did pretty well too. At 37, Milner is old enough to be Elliott or Bajcetic's father, but he's still capable of cutting it at this level, and he offered another reminder of that here. Starting at right-back, the veteran showed all of his nous, experience and quality to keep the lively Rayan Ait-Nouri in check. Milner stepped in when he could, dropped off when he had to, and talked his younger colleagues through the game throughout. "Top," said Klopp. Milner didn't complete the 90, but having only just returned from a hamstring issue that was understandable. Regardless, the old-stager can be proud of his performance.

  • Adama Traore Wolves 2022-23

    The Losers

    Fabinho

    You could call him a loser, or you could call him a winner. If he was watching closely in the first 75 minutes, he'll have seen exactly what Liverpool need from their midfielders; energy, concentration, bite and composure. But then he might also have seen what a midfield without him looks like, and it's better than what the Reds have seen in recent weeks. The Brazilian has not become a bad player overnight, but he's been desperately out of form this season, and it was notable that Liverpool looked less secure and less assured after his introduction for the cramping Bajcetic. He'll probably get his place back at the weekend, but like Jordan Henderson, who wasn't involved at all here, he needs to up his game sharpish if he's to keep it.

    Adama Traore

    Is there a more frustrating player in the Premier League than Traore? How can a player have so many gifts, so many skills, and yet consistently produce so little? Traore, as he always does, bristled with intent throughout this contest, but when all is said and done he will reflect on a battle lost against the tenacious Kostas Tsimikas. Time and again, the winger found himself with the chance to deliver a cross from the right, but time and again he failed to do so. The one time he did, Raul Jimenez probably should have scored. The frustration from the home fans was evident. They know how good Traore can be, but they see it all too frequently.

    The BBC:

    You don't need me to explain this one, do you?! New tip; always check for rogue devices before you start a live television broadcast. The magic of the cup is very much alive and well!

  • Ibrahima Konate Liverpool 2022-23

    Liverpool Ratings: Defence

    Caoimhin Kelleher (7/10):

    So comfortable with the ball at his feet, and did what he needed with his hands.

    James Milner (8/10):

    Experience and energy from the 37-year-old makeshift right back, who defended superbly against Ait-Nouri and was calm and composed on the ball.

    Joe Gomez (8/10):

    His best, most composed performance for some time. Big intervention to deny Jimenez at the back post.

    Ibrahima Konate (7/10):

    Vocal and front-footed, and looked good stepping into midfield at times. The clean sheet will have meant a lot to him.

    Kostas Tsimikas (7/10):

    Battled hard against Traore, and got the better of the winger for the most part. Tenacious and committed.

  • Naby Keita Liverpool 2022-23

    Midfield

    Stefan Bajcetic (8/10):

    Are you sure he's only 18?! Played with maturity, poise and bite, and looks an absolute gem.

    Thiago Alcantara (8/10):

    Looked a cut above. Composure was off the scale, and he used the ball superbly. A leader's performance.

    Naby Keita (7/10):

    First start since May, and justified it. Linked up well with Elliott, Gakpo and Thiago, and kept going for the full 90 too.

  • Cody Gakpo Liverpool 2022-23

    Attack

    Harvey Elliott (8/10):

    Brilliant hit to open the scoring, and looked as bright as a button throughout. Dug in during the second half.

    Fabio Carvalho (6/10):

    Involved from the off, and combined well down the left. Neat and tidy without offering too much cutting edge.

    Cody Gakpo (7/10):

    Benefited from having the liveliness of Elliott, Carvalho and Keita around him, and led the press well. Promising.

  • Mohamed Salah Jurgen Klopp Liverpool 2022-23

    Subs & Manager

    Mohamed Salah (6/10):

    Could have done better with a few counter-attack chances.

    Curtis Jones (6/10):

    Nearly finished the game off with a left-foot effort.

    Nat Phillips (6/10):

    One big header in his own six-yard box, but escaped with one poor clearance too.

    Fabinho (6/10):

    Good block to bail out Phillips. Otherwise a little nervy.

    Ben Doak (7/10):

    Offered a threat, kept the ball and worked his socks off.

    Jurgen Klopp (8/10):

    Got the reaction he wanted from a much-changed team. Now to build on it.