LIVERPOOL 2 WOLVES 1: FINAL WHISTLE REPORT
LIVERPOOL soared into the top five and banished the memory of last weekend's collapse at White Hart Lane with a deserved victory over Wolves at Anfield.
But while a first half Roger Johnson own goal and then a typically brilliant Luis Suarez strike gave the Reds a two-goal half-time lead, a 48th minute volley by substitute Steven Fletcher ensured an occasionally nervy second half.
Liverpool had opportunities to finish the game, but two stunning Wayne Hennessey stops and an Andy Carroll header which bounced back off a post meant that Liverpool were never completely secure.
But they took all three points to move onto the shoulders of Newcastle and Chelsea occupying the third and fourth Champions League places.
Wolves, buoyed by the confidence of last season's Anfield victory and a better than expected start to this Premier League season, started positively.
They pushed Liverpool back, forced a couple of dangerous free kicks and carved out one decent opening for Jamie O'Hara which the midfielder slid disappointingly straight at Reina from 18 yards.
Then Liverpool woke up, forced a clutch of corners and took the lead.
Charlie Adam cut in from the left flank, veered around one challenge and then let fly from 20 yards. The shot appeared to be heading wide of Hennessey's left hand post until Roger Johnson tried to intercept and bulleted a spectacular diving header just inside the post.
The optimistic Anfield tannoy announcer gave Adam the credit for his second goal of the season, but Johnson's forlorn expression spoke volumes.
The goal appeared to kick Liverpool into gear, with Suarez and Carroll starting to carve chunks out of the visitors' rearguard.
Suarez controlled a long clearance from Reina with the outside of his right boot before wonderfully backheeling the ball past Johnson – only a frantic clearance inside the six yard box preventing a picture goal as the Uruguayan tried to pull the ball back, then Carroll clipped an inviting cross across the penalty area which Suarez was only inches from connecting with.
Another sweeping move on the half hour involving Enrique, Downing and finally Suarez created another opening but this time the number seven sidefooted wide.
Liverpool still hadn't erased their propensity for giving away soft free-kicks and after Lucas was booked Skrtel conceded a free-kick right on the edge of the Kop End penalty area.
Steven Hunt shaped to bend a shot at goal, then cleverly slid the ball across the area to Doyle whose on target strike was blocked.
But any lingering fears of a Wolves leveller were swiftly banished when Liverpool scored a second goal.
Jose Enrique created the chance with a superbly timed pass down the left channel for Suarez, but the finish was even better.
The Uruguayan raced into the box, twisted Christophe Berra inside out then arrowed a left footed shot inside the near post.
Wolves made a double change at half-time, but there was no Anfield return for Adam Hammill, Matt Doherty and Steven Fletcher called on for Stearman and Edwards.
The switch paid almost instant dividends.
Wolves mounted a promising attack, Steven Hunt clipped the ball back from the byline and Fletcher crashed the ball into the roof of the net from eight yards.
The Reds almost restored their two goal cushion with their next attack when Carroll leaped to challenge goalkeeper Hennessey and the ball dropped sweetly for Suarez. The Wolves keeper flung himself to make a stunning block.
In the 52nd minute Andy Carroll went even closer.
Enrique crossed to the far post, Carroll soared but nodded against the post.
Seconds later Stewart Downing went just as close.
The Reds broke at pace, Adam slid the ball left to Downing and he drew goalkeeper Hennessey and shot firmly, only to see the keeper make another stunning save.
The failure to close the game out allowed Wolves to grow in confidence and after Kelly was booked for an agricultural lunge on Hunt the visitors forced a frantic goalmouth scramble that Liverpool were fortunate to survive.
The Reds were looking increasingly nervous, not helped when referee Friend awarded a goal kick rather than a corner after Lucas' sidefooted shot was tipped round the post by Hennessey as Liverpool finally eased a spell of pressure.
Steven Gerrard's long awaited Anfield return came with just 10 minutes remaining, and perhaps a hint as to how Kenny Dalglish intends to use him in future was given when he replaced Suarez.
Suarez had been a constant threat to the visitors, but Gerrard was given a rousing ovation from the home supporters.
And a dipping volley four minutes from time which flew just over showed what those fans have been missing.
LIVERPOOL: Reina; Kelly, Carragher, Skrtel, Enrique; Henderson (Kuyt 71), Lucas, Adam, Downing; Carroll, Suarez (Gerrard 80). Unused substitutes: Doni, Coates, Spearing, Flanagan, Bellamy.
WOLVES: Hennessey, Edwards (Fletcher 45), Stearman (Doherty 45), Henry, Ward, Hunt (Guedioura 80), Johnson, Berra, Jarvis, O'Hara, Doyle. Unused substitutes: Elokobi, Hammill, Milijas, De Vries.
Referee: Kevin Friend.
Bookings: O'Hara (3 mins) foul; Henry (32) foul; Lucas (33) foul; Hunt (42) foul; Carroll (56) foul; Kelly (66) foul.