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Jurgen Klopp’s final day on the job at Liverpool ends in victory, but it still feels like no one really wants to let go, writes IAN LADYMAN

He sat on the bench in the shade of the main stand and bit his lower lip as the music played. Under the black cap, his eyes were full. Not quite a tear, but close enough. Jurgen Klopp’s last day of work at Liverpool had begun.

On the other side – where people had worn programs on their foreheads to protect themselves from the sun – supporters held up squares of white cardboard to form a simple word. Jürgen. It was one of the few things about that day that was underrated.

Once the tensions of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” had subsided, a football match was supposed to break out. But that was never really the case.

Wolves were down to a man once Nelson Semedo was sent off midway through the first half and by the time we reached the interval they were also two goals ahead, Alexis MacAllister and Jarell Quansah the scorers.

Klopp, for his part, sat quietly under the brim of that cap and let it all flow off him. Usually so full of energy that he can’t help but remain agitated at the outer limits of his technical zone, he spent the entire afternoon here sitting.

Klopp received a thunderous ovation from the Anfield faithful as he walked out for the final time.

Klopp received a thunderous ovation from the Anfield faithful as he walked out for the final time.

The German was visibly touched by the ovation he received on Sunday before kick-off.

The German was visibly touched by the ovation he received on Sunday before kick-off.

Liverpool fans displayed a mosaic with the message

Liverpool fans displayed a mosaic with the message ‘Danke Jurgen’ before the match

Nelson Semedo sent off after VAR review following rash challenge on Alexis Mac Allister

Nelson Semedo sent off after VAR review following rash challenge on Alexis Mac Allister

Six minutes later, it was Mac Allister who headed the first goal of Klopp's last match.

Six minutes later, it was Mac Allister who headed the first goal of Klopp’s last match.

Jarrell Quansah (left) then doubled Liverpool's lead after pushing the ball over the line

Jarrell Quansah (left) then doubled Liverpool’s lead after pushing the ball over the line

When the Liverpool goals came in, he just smiled. He looked for all the world like a man watching the last nine years of his professional life pass before him at rapid speed.

MATCH FACTS

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold (Bradley 70), Quansah, Van Dijk, Robertson, Elliott (Jones 81), Endo, Mac Allister (Gravenberch 70), Salah, Gakpo (Szoboszlai 81), Diaz (Nunez 70)

Subs: Gomez, Konate, Jota, Kelleher

Goals: Mac Allister 34, Quansah 40

Reserved: Endo

Wolverhampton: Jose Sa, Santiago Bueno, Kilman, Toti Gomes, Nelson Semedo, Joao Gomes, Mario Lemina, Bellegarde (Traoré 63), Ait Nouri (78), Matheus Cunha (Pedro Neto 78), Hwang (Doherty 62)

Subs: Doyle, Bentley, Gonzalez, Chirewa, Fraser

Reserved: Toti Gomes

Red card: Semedo 28

And if that’s how I felt, that would be completely fair and completely understandable. For there, on the green acres of Anfield, was much of what we have learned to expect from his teams over the years here.

Football is played on the front foot and is as much dictated by instinct as a training manual. The central figures of the recent glorious past were here. Van Dijk, Sala, Alisson and Robertson. The promise of a bright future also at MacAllister, Quansah and Elliott. And then the other stuff. One right-back – Trent Alexander-Arnold – spends most of his afternoon in the center of midfield. A center forward – Cody Gakpo – with license to play the full width of the pitch.

Of all the things we’ve loved about Klopp’s football over the years, it’s perhaps his fierce freedom that has stuck with us the most. Klopp’s Liverpool have on the whole presented us with a heady mix of adventurous aggression and casual vulnerability.

Here, they didn’t need to reach fever levels—or even get close to them—to repel the wolves. In truth, it didn’t really feel like a Premier League football match. The sun shone in an impossibly rich blue sky while Wolves presented only the most modest opposition as Anfield bid farewell to the man who, for almost nine years, had given them so much to live for , to hope and dream once again.

There was a time, of course, when Liverpool hoped to dispatch Klopp with a second Premier League title. However, a terrible fortnight in April saw to that, which left the 2020 Premier League champions with only one thing to think about as Arsenal and Manchester City took care of the title race elsewhere.

Liverpool played quite well here. A victory was appropriate. They dominated from the start, their goalkeeper Alisson making a save from Hee Chan Hwang in the 17th minute and being completely calm from that point on.

Wolves were in the game, however, until they were undone by VAR in the 28th minute.

Luis Diaz missed a keeper as he fired a shot off the crossbar without a keeper after being found by Cody Gakpo.

Luis Diaz missed a keeper as he fired a shot off the crossbar without a keeper after being found by Cody Gakpo.

Players like Mohamed Salah and Gakpo had the opportunity to give the Reds a third goal in the second half.

Players like Mohamed Salah and Gakpo had the opportunity to give the Reds a third goal in the second half.

It was the Black Country club who asked their fellow Premier League occupiers to vote on a motion to scrap the review system at a meeting scheduled for June 6. Here, however, they might have few complaints. Referee Chris Kavanagh showed Nelson Semedo a yellow card for his challenge on MacAllister, but rightly changed it to red once VAR footage showed the challenge had been agonizingly high and late.

Six minutes later, Liverpool were leading. The home side passed the ball from left to right across the field and when Elliott dropped back to cross with his left foot, MacAllister rose in front of Santiago Bueno to head with power and precision through Jose Sa and into the corner.

The goal freed Liverpool a little. Some of their earlier football had suggested they were a little too concerned about not letting Klopp down. But six minutes after the first goal, they sealed the match. Salah applied decent contact to a falling ball on the volley and when the shot was only half-blocked by a defender, young centre-half Quansah was on hand to force it over the goal line.

Klopp embraces Trent Alexander-Arnold who was one of the few to come through the ranks

Klopp embraces Trent Alexander-Arnold who was one of the few to come through the ranks

Liverpool threatened sporadically throughout the second half and Salah in particular looked desperate to end the season with a goal. Will this also be the Egyptian’s last match in a Liverpool jersey? The news from Liverpool is that won’t be the case, but Salah only has one year left on his contract, so we’ll see.

He played well, Salah. He was constantly dangerous on the right and had a curling shot hit at the Kop by Sa. Luis Diaz, meanwhile, hit the underside of the ball after collecting a Gakpo cross at the far post.

It wasn’t a day that had anything to do with the result, however. As long as Liverpool won.

The music playlist before kick-off showed Klopp. “Here’s My Hero” by Foo Fighters. “We Can Be Heroes” by David Bowie.

Klopp watches his opponents, Wolves, warm up for the last time a few minutes before kick-off.

Klopp watches his opponents, Wolves, warm up for the last time a few minutes before kick-off.

During his nine years at Liverpool, he turned doubters into believers.

During his nine years at Liverpool, he turned doubters into believers.

Even though there was a match, the day at Anfield was all about the legendary Liverpool manager.

Even though there was a match, the day at Anfield was all about the legendary Liverpool manager.

And as the second half wore on and Klopp used his full complement of substitutes, an embrace with young Elliott as he left the field particularly stood out.

Klopp is a tall man and Elliott had to reach out to kiss him. As he did so, the 21-year-old looked at everyone as if he didn’t really want to let go. And that’s basically how half of this football town feels. No one really wants to let go.

The mural painted on the side of the shop, just off the back of the Kop, perhaps says it best.

“Jurgen reminded us again who we have always been.” From a purely sporting point of view, they will be mourning Klopp’s passing here for a while. Once it’s gone, they’ll simply never forget it.

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