Scott Groom reacts to Liverpool’s disappointing third-round FA Cup exit against Wolves at the Molineux on Monday evening.
Liverpool slumped to a second FA Cup defeat to Wolves during Jürgen Klopp’s reign as manager on Monday night, as a much-changed Reds team limped out of the competition at the first hurdle for the second season running.
Goals from Raul Jiminez and Reuben Neves either side of a Divock Origi equaliser saw Liverpool slump out of the FA Cup and fall to their second defeat in the space of a week.
Although perhaps not too much should be read into this result as Klopp made wholesale changes to his team but it cannot be avoided that this was a poor performance from Liverpool.
Here are five things we learned from a bleak night at Molineux.
1. Options in defence are fast running out
The night got off to the worst possible start, as Liverpool’s only fit travelling centre-back, Dejan Lovren, was forced off with an injury before 10 minutes were even on the clock.
He now joins Joël Matip and Joe Gomez on the physio table, leaving Virgil van Dijk as Liverpool’s only senior centre back that is now match fit.
With Nathaniel Clyne now at Bournemouth for the rest of the season, Trent Alexander-Arnold is the only fit right back, and Moreno again proved that he is not up to being Robertson’s deputy, so defensive options look slim as Liverpool look to keep pushing towards the title.
However, this does lead me to a glimmer of hope from an otherwise miserable night in the Midlands.
2. The kids are all right
Lovren’s injury paved the way for 16-year-old Dutchman Ki-Jana Hoever to make his Liverpool debut, making him the youngest Red to appear in the FA Cup in the Club’s history.
And he took the opportunity with both hands.
He was composed, direct and provided plenty of optimism for the future. He constantly looked forward with his passes, did not seem phased coming up against a combative forward in Jiminez, and just seemed to fit right in.
He, and Rafa Camacho at right back, both provided Klopp with a positive to look back on for the evening.
Camacho proved a willing runner down the flank, showed some neat touches and linked up play well. The two teenagers have done their reputations no harm.
Curtis Jones too was very bright and showed some real Hollywood moments of skill, but faded a little in the second half before being switched for Salah.
3. Keita doesn’t take his chance to shine
Much has been made of Naby Keita’s form of late, and Klopp even came out and defended his £52.75m man in recent days.
It is true that Keita has had a bit of a tough time with injuries, which have disrupted the first half of his season, during which time other members of the squad such as Fabinho and Wijnaldum have really stamped their authority on Liverpool’s midfield.
However, now back to full fitness and ready to kick on, tonight’s tie against Wolves provided a perfect opportunity to show what he is all about; but the game simply passed him by.
Keita was a passenger and didn’t get at all involved in any of the game. Perhaps this was his ring-rust coming to the fore, but it certainly wasn’t a performance to remember.
He wasn’t alone, however. Sturridge, Milner and Shaqiri were noticeably absent, and so was Origi aside from his goal.
Just not a good night for several of Liverpool’s men and the team as a whole.
4. Splashing the cash on Alisson was well worth it
Many people scoffed at the fee Liverpool paid Roma for the services of Alisson Becker in the summer, but he has quickly proved his worth.
And on nights like tonight, when the ever-professional Simon Mignolet stepped in, it’s not hard to see how much the Brazilian has improved Liverpool’s goalkeeping options.
Mignolet was beaten at his near post for Neves’ winner, a shot he should arguably have done better with – especially considering the distance from which Neves beat him from.
It was another glaring example that suggests that if Mignolet wants first-team football, his future lies away from Anfield, as he is not displacing Alisson.
5. A blessing in disguise?
Yes, the result and the performance combined were made for a terrible night.
However, in a few weeks at when the fourth round fixtures are due to take place, some hindsight may need to be used.
It’s one round of fixtures fewer for Liverpool and Klopp to worry about as they look to maintain their challenge for the Premier League title.
While competing for a prestigious domestic competition and having a good cup run is all well and good, could it have proven to be an unwelcome distraction in the run-in for the title?
We shall wait and see if that turns out to be true, but right now, the defeat has left a very bad taste in the mouth.