Premier League – Liverpool held by Wolves
Liverpool played out a dour Premier League stalemate with Wolves at Molineux to increase the pressure on under-fire manager Rafa Benitez.
The Reds barely created a chance as they laboured against the Premier League strugglers and could have lost with Kevin Doyle and Kevin Foley both missing good first-half opportunities to hand Wolves the lead.
The nearest the Reds came to finding the net was a shot from Dirk Kuyt that whistled a yard wide of the Wolves goal.
The draw extends Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League run to five games but is a blow to their chances of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Tottenham moved three points clear of Benitez’s side in fourth after they beat Fulham 2-0 at White Hart Lane.
Liverpool came into the game with Steven Gerrard back in the starting line-up after the Reds captain made a quicker than expected recovery from a hamstring injury, while Benitez also handed a first start to new signing Maxi Rodriguez.
Gerrard, who missed last week’s victory over Tottenham at Anfield came into the side at the expense of summer signing Alberto Aquilani who found himself back on the bench despite impressing against Spurs.
The visitors began confidently and grabbed the early ascendency with Gerrard linking well in midfield with Maxi and Albert Riera but the only chances in what was a scrappy first half fell the way of Wolves.
Doyle wasted a fantastic opportunity when he somehow managed to poke the ball wide from close range following a cross from Matthew Jarvis, while Foley could only direct another Jarvis cross straight into the arms of Pepe Reina.
Jarvis was giving Liverpool right-back Jamie Carragher a difficult time and was a constant source of danger for the Reds.
Liverpool, despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, failed to trouble Wolves keeper Marcus Hahnemann at all in the first half with Kuyt, playing as a lone striker, left isolated in attack.
The second half was no better for the Reds with Wolves growing in confidence as the game progressed.
Gerrard almost got on the end of a flick from Kuyt in the box five minutes after the restart, but it was the hosts who continued to come closest to breaking the deadlock.
Doyle let fly with a shot from 20 yards that whistled over the bar, and had a header saved by Reina a minute later.
Liverpool, who looked short of pace in attack, introduced David N’gog midway through the second half but it had little effect. The Reds’ midfield duo of Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva struggled to keep possession while Gerrard looked short of match sharpness.
The result will do little to lift the pressure off Benitez, who has promised a top four finish come the end of the season.
Toby Davis / Eurosport