Controversial Mane goal gets Liverpool past battling Wolves

Soccer Football - Premier League - Liverpool v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Anfield, Liverpool, Britain - December 29, 2019 Liverpool's Sadio Mane celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Andrew Yates

LIVERPOOL, England (Reuters) - A controversial Sadio Mane goal was enough for Premier League leaders Liverpool to secure a nervy 1-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers and open up a 13-point cushion over their nearest challengers on Sunday.

Mane, in his 150th game for the club, netted three minutes before the break only for Adam Lallana to be penalised for handball in the build-up. However, a lengthy VAR review deemed the ball hit the midfielder's shoulder and the goal stood.

Victory means Liverpool have become only the third team to go unbeaten in 50 consecutive home games in the English top flight, while they also closed out 2019 unbeaten at Anfield in all competitions for the fifth time in their history.

Liverpool have 55 points from 19 games, while Wolves are seventh in the table five points behind Chelsea in fourth.

Wolves, who had lost 15 of their previous 17 league visits to Anfield, made four changes from the side that stunned Manchester City 3-2 less than 48 hours previously.

They were the better side for large parts of the contest and might have taken something from the game had Joao Moutinho and Romain Saiss not blasted over presentable opportunities late on.

Liverpool, sporting gold World Champions badges on their shirts after their Club World Cup triumph, were rarely at their brilliant best but showed once again that they appear to have the mettle to claim a first domestic league title in 30 years.

The only goal of the game caused a flurry of controversy.

Referee Anthony Taylor had blown for handball as Lallana brought down Virgil van Dijk’s long ball before Mane swept in a half-volley. A lengthy VAR stoppage ensued before the decision was overturned much to the fury of the Wolves players and bench.

The visitors were then left seething when denied an immediate riposte after Pedro Neto’s effort was disallowed – again following a VAR review – following the most marginal of offside decisions against Jonny Otto.

Wolves coach Nuno Espirito Santo was booked in the aftermath after protesting with fourth official Mike Dean, but following the match he refused to be drawn into a discussion on VAR.

"These decisions are being taken by a referee miles away and he doesn't have the feel for the game," he said.

"What we don't want is (what happened), to come to Anfield, Liverpool, a fantastic team, fantastic fans, fantastic stadium and we are left celebrating a non-goal.

"We had to manage our players. We played 45 hours ago, the way the players coped, a lot of them played 90 minutes in both, it's amazing and it tells you a lot about their character."

(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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