Liverpool marked the much-anticipated return of supporters to Anfield with a commanding 4-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday night.
With 2,000 fans inside the stadium after nine months away due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Reds produced a performance worthy of the occasion.
Mohamed Salah fired them in front midway through the first half and Georginio Wijnaldum later strengthened their grip on the contest with a sumptuous curler in front of the socially-distanced crowd in attendance on the Kop.
Joel Matip headed home a third shortly after and Sadio Mane’s late finish from close range went in off Nelson Semedo to wrap up a hugely enjoyable evening in L4.
The result saw Jürgen Klopp’s side keep the pace with Tottenham Hotspur at the summit of the Premier League and increase their unbeaten run at home in the division to 65 matches.
Klopp opted for a single change to the team from the midweek win against AFC Ajax as Roberto Firmino came back into his starting XI.
The Brazilian replaced Diogo Jota, who began the clash with his former club on a substitutes’ bench that also featured Trent Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keita after their recovery from injuries.
Anticipation reigned as the sides emerged to a stadium containing supporters for the first time since March, with a moving rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone before kick-off.
There was a briskness to the action when it got under way, Wolves perhaps shading the early shadowboxing until a sweet move from the hosts on 12 minutes.
Mane exchanged passes with Firmino at the edge of the box, fed Andy Robertson in the left channel and moved into the middle. The full-back’s firm cross found him, too, but he was unable to keep the header down.
There was more work for Caoimhin Kelleher to do at the other end soon after, however.
Adama Traore held up possession deep in Liverpool territory and teed up Daniel Podence, whose delicate, hooked lob from 20 yards appeared on course to land inside the left post – but Kelleher, vitally, tipped the ball around the goalframe.
Traore then skipped into space and jinked beyond Fabinho to bear down on Kelleher’s net, but his swipe across the face of goal neither troubled the Reds stopper or picked out Pedro Neto.
Instead, Klopp’s men landed the first blow on 24 minutes.
Jordan Henderson’s attempt to clip a pass over the top for Salah’s run looked certain to be cut out by Conor Coady, only for the Wolves captain to miscontrol.
Salah needed no invitation to capitalise, the Egypt international scooping up the loose ball and clinically driving a finish back across Rui Patricio for his ninth Premier League strike this term.
Liverpool settled into their lead comfortably for much of the remainder of the half – though had a scare two minutes before the break.
Referee Craig Pawson pointed to the penalty spot when Coady went down in the box under the attention of Mane but, after reviewing the incident, judged there was no contact and reversed his decision.
Mane threatened a second for the Reds moments after the restart as he beautifully pulled down Henderson’s long pass and stepped inside Semedo outside the area.
The No.10 made good, strong contact with his rising blast on the bounce but it was close enough for Patricio to pluck out of the air without concern.
Another promising chance fell to Mane in the 52nd minute, this one via the route of Salah’s raking, flank-to-flank pass for Robertson and the defender’s subsequent pull-back. Mane skewed his effort wide of the left post.
But the pressure paid off for Liverpool just ahead of the hour mark.
A quick turnover caught Wolves short of numbers and Henderson released Wijnaldum to dribble forward with Mane and Salah in support. The Dutchman opted to go for goal himself as he reached the box and exquisitely planted his curler into the top right corner.
And the home team soon followed up with a third as Matip added his name to the scoresheet.
From a short corner routine on the right-hand side, Salah’s angled delivery was begging to be converted at close range and Matip obliged with a powerful header. The No.32’s emotional celebration encapsulated the evening.
Klopp immediately introduced Alexander-Arnold for his first minutes in a month and there was also an opportunity for fans to see Jota in the flesh as he swapped with Firmino.
Liverpool were not done with the scoring yet either.
They rounded off a landmark night 12 minutes from the end as Curtis Jones swept a pass out to Alexander-Arnold, who guided a stunning delivery into the centre, where Mane’s attempt to net succeeded with a touch from Semedo.