Rampant Liverpool issued an ominous message to the rest of the Premier League, as they delivered a sublime performance for Anfield’s returning fans.
The 2,000 noisy supporters finally allowed into the stadium were treated to a compelling display of power and attacking verve from Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, as a decent Wolves side were well and truly put to the sword.
It was a statement of intent from Jurgen Klopp’s side, isn they moved back into second place in the table, behind Spurs now only on goal difference, with Salah opening the floodgates, and Mane causing panic all night.
And the German manager will be absolutely delighted with not only the threat his side posed, with Mane spellbinding and Salah at times unplayable, but also a defence that looks assured, even without Virgil van Dijk, who was an impressed spectator in the Reds dug out.
Liverpool have fielded eight different central defensive partnerships in their opening 11 league games, but they have conceded just six goals in their last 11 matches without van Dijk – keeping five clean sheets.
With such a deadly forward line, to have a defence that is beginning to look assured and water-tight will be huge going into the busy Christmas period, and suggests they will not give up their title easily.
Of course, what Liverpool have always had is a forward line to die for – and one so good that Diogo Jota couldn’t even get a start in it against his former club, despite scoring nine goals already this season.
Even if Jota has been flying, It’s hard to imagine there is a better wide player in world football at the moment than Mane, who strutted through this game as though he knows it too – his skills so astonishing it drew breathes of incredulity from the fans who were finally allowed back on the Kop.
Understandably, they were in noisy and celebratory voice, the 270 days since fans were last allowed to witness this remarkable team in their own stadium seeming like an agonising lifetime.
They had much to celebrate too. The danger that Mane and Salah posed, was complimented by the return to something of his old Si Señor swagger for Roberto Firmino, whose movement caused constant anxiety for Wolves.
They have their own danger going forward of course, but for so much of this match they were forced to sit deeply and nervously awaiting wave after wave of attacks from the Reds forward line that seemed to wash through them at will.
With Firmino orchestrating things from a pocket behind the front line, it allowed Mane and Salah to burst forward, with Andy Robertson and Jordan Henderson relishing the chance to provide them with ammunition.
Robertson – a tireless marauder – almost set Mane up for an opener in the early stages of the game, to set the tone for what was to follow. But it was Henderson who provided the opening goal.
His was a long raking ball that Conor Coady tried to chest aside – always a dangerous ploy with Salah so alert and so alive to even half a chance.
He nipped in, controlled superbly, and finished with the art of a striker who has now scored 52 Premier League goals at Anfield – more than any other player in the league at a single venue since he arrived at Liverpool in 2017, and only behind Messi and Lewandowski across Europe.
From there, the formidable midfield duo of Henderson and Wijnaldum controlled things, allowing Liverpool to coast with only one uncomfortable moment, when referee Craig Pawson failed to spot a shocking dive from Coady.
The Wolves skipper will surely want to forget this evening quickly. He is not a cheat, but when Mane tried an unwise overhead clearance in his own box, he looked for a contact that wasn’t there, and went down theatrically. VAR swiftly overturned the poor decision, but should also have asked for a yellow card for the visiting captain.
It was Wolves’ last whimper, before they succumbed to what now seems like an almost inevitable defeat to their bogey team – they have won on once in 13 meetings in the Premier League with the Reds.
It was Wijnaldum who opened the floodgates, his burst forward onto Henderson’s ball in the 59th minute saw the visiting defence back off, and he curled a fine finish into the roof of the net.
From there, it was a question of how many, and Joel Matip of all people extended the scoreline with a free header from six yards out on 67 minutes, as he was picked out by a lovely ball from the right by Salah.
That allowed Jurgen Klopp to rotate his side – Trent Alexander-Arnold returning as a sub after a month long absence, to replace Neco Williams, and then delivering a quite exquisite cross from the right, which Nelson Semedo could only turn into his own net.