LIVERPOOL is a city which loves its football and comedy – last night they served up both on the same bill.
Only this time no-one of a red persuasion inside Anfield found it the slightest bit amusing, as the only jokes were the defensive clangers which gifted Wolves an FA Cup draw.
And in doing so ensured that a few more cracks appeared in a season which is steadily crumbling beneath their feet.
A goalkeeping cock-up by Alisson saw him roll the ball straight to Goncalo Guedes to hand the visitors an opener.
Then, after clawing their way ahead – thanks, it should be said, to an opposition clanger for the second – they came up with a second dose of comic cuts defending to cancel it out.
Side splitting it may have been for the neutrals. Cause only for Jurgen Klopp to have a face like thunder, and another night wondering where it is all going wrong.
Well just about everywhere you look, Jurgen. From a leaden-footed midfield, to a clown-footed defence… and a keeper rated the best in the world who played like a pub stopper.
Heavens, if it hadn’t been for the most confusing of VAR decisions, it would even have been Cup KO, as Matheus Nunes had come back from offside before delivering the ball which ended with centre back Toti thinking he’d backheeled a winner.
Maybe it would have been stretching it a bit too much to suggest Liverpool would have deserved it. But they’d only have been able to blame themselves if so.
And no-one more than Alisson, whose 26th minute clanger left him with a face as red as his team-mates’ shirts.
Thiago was the initial culprit, losing the ball to Joe Hodge deep in his own half, but sliding back to nick it off Raul Jimenez’s toe and knock it back to his keeper.
Alisson had time to pick out anyone in red – yet laughably and lazily simply rolled it to Guedes, who couldn’t believe his luck and drilled it past the bemused Brazilian.
That was bad enough. But even worse was the fact Liverpool simply didn’t learn from it and the next two big chances both went to the men in old gold shirts as well.
First Adama Traore robbed Jordan Henderson when he over-ran it, and Guedes fizzed in a swirling long range drive that Alisson was happy to beat away.
Then Traore sent a low cross skidding across goal which just evaded the flying Jimenez as he slid in at the far post.
Liverpool weren’t at the races. Like they weren’t in their last home game, when Leicester threatened to run away with it, only to get pegged back bang on half-time.
Well guess what. Last night turned into the unlikeliest of carbon copies, when Nathan Collins’ slashed clearance fell to Trent Alexander-Arnold ten yards in the Wolves’ half.
Two strides forward, a glance up and a perfect looping delivery to the left side of the box, where Darwin Nunez had loped beyond the backline.
It wasn’t a perfect connection from the Uruguayan whose finishing has often been mocked, yet it came cleanly enough off his shin to roll past Sarkic into the far corner.
From dismal to dominant in one instant, and suddenly the whole momentum of the tie had changed.
Wolves needed to get a foothold once again. Instead they came up with another kamikaze moment that gifted Liverpool a second.
When Gakpo lofted a ball into the box, Salah had gone half a yard too soon and would have been offside if the pass had gone straight to him.
Instead centre-back Toti made a deliberate attempt to head clear, but only diverted it to the Kop striker, who pulled it down brilliantly and coolly clipped into the net.
Put of jail then, and back on an even keel. Only this lot never are any more, and after a triple substitution by Julen Lopetegui, Wolves were level.
Hwang Hee-chan traded passes with Matheus Cunha, who returned the favour as he drilled low into the box.
Ibrahima Konate got there first, yet it bounced off Hwang and somehow rolled under Alisson’s despairing hand and into the net.
It took confirmation from VAR official Mike Dean to confirm it… yet ten minutes from time he was the man who came to Liverpool’s rescue.
Again the Red backline was hacking hopelessly as the ball pinballed around the box, and when it fell to Toti, he thought he’d gained redemption by backheeling in.
But his joy was cut short when the goal disallowed, when initial corner taker Nunes was penalised for being offside in the build-up.
Liverpool were off the hook. But unless they step up a level or two at Molineux in the replay, it will be little more than a stay of execution.