By Daniel J. McLaughlin
The priorities were clear for Liverpool when you take a look at the starting XI selected by Jurgen Klopp for their FA Cup tie against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Attacking trio Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mané were all on the bench, with Klopp opting for Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi up front. As the BBC reports, there was "only one pass made between the pair and only one touch in the opposition's penalty area during the first half".
The Liverpool boss also gave starts to 17-year-old midfielder Curtis Jones and 18-year-old Rafael Camacho. The visitors did, however, have senior players James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri in their starting XI.
Klopp made nine changes to his side, possibly to avoid injuries. He was already missing Joe Gomez, Joel Matip and Academy product Nat Phillips in his defence, and he lost another when Dejan Lovren pulled up in just the sixth minute.
Ki-Jana Hoever was called upon to partner up with Fabinho at the back, but it was the first start for the 16-year-old defender, becoming Liverpool's third youngest debutant. He performed admirably, but it's a big ask to expect the youngster to play consistently for the title challengers.
That leaves Virgil van Dijk as the only senior central defender available for selection when the Reds travel to Brighton on Saturday in the Premier League.
Under Klopp's management, Liverpool have not progressed further than the fourth round of the FA Cup. It was also the first time they have lost two consecutive games this season. The German took responsibility for their defeat against Wolves in the third round on Monday: "It's all my responsibility - they had no rhythm. There were not a lot of good decisions from me - that's how the days are sometimes."
On the other hand, Wolves were hardly exceptional at the Molineux. The hosts were solid enough, but it felt like they were driving at a lower gear. It was, however, another big-name scalp for Nuno Espirito Santo and Wolves, who have already defeated Chelsea and Tottenham this season - and now, Liverpool.
Raúl Jiménez put the West Midlands side ahead in the 38th minute. The ball was robbed from Milner at the halfway line, and Wolves launched their attack. Jota sent the ball to Jiménez, with Fabinho committing to the challenge - and missing. With two against one, Jiménez continued on his own, before firing the ball across goalkeeper Simon Mignolet and into the back of the net.
Liverpool equalised six minutes after the break. With the Reds' attack struggling in the first half, Origi hit a cracking finish to draw the teams level. A shot from Milner was deflected directly into the feet of Origi, waiting at the edge of the box. He took a touch, moving inside the box, and then hit a drive past goalkeeper John Ruddy.
It didn't last for long, though. It took a spectacular shot from Ruben Neves in the 55th minute to send Wolves through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. The Portuguese midfielder collected the ball from 30 yards out, and coolly hit a beautiful, dipping shot that evaded Mignolet, flying just inside the goalkeeper's near post.
Goalkeeping heroics from Ruddy at the other end stopped the Reds from equalising. Shaqiri's free kick seemed destined for the goal, curling and dipping. Ruddy somehow manged to get his fingertips to it, pushing the ball onto the post and out of play.
Wolves travel to Manchester City for their next league game on Monday (K.O. 8pm), while Liverpool face Brighton away on Saturday (K.O. 3pm). Wolves will play either Shrewsbury Town or Stoke City away in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday, January 26 (K.O. 3pm).