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Monday, October 2, 2023

Hwang Hee-chan opens scoring in 3-1 loss to Liverpool

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Wolverhampton Wanderers' Hwang Hee-chan celebrates after scoring the opening goal of a Premier League match against Liverpool at the Molineux in Wolverhampton, England on Saturday.  [AFP/YONHAP]
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Hwang Hee-chan celebrates after scoring the opening goal of a Premier League match against Liverpool at the Molineux in Wolverhampton, England on Saturday. [YONHAP]

Hwang Hee-chan got off to a fast start in his return from the international break, hammering in a goal for Wolverhampton Wanderers just seven minutes into their game against Liverpool on Saturday.

Hwang’s third goal of the season was more a case of good timing than good shooting. The Korean midfielder was perfectly positioned to knock in a deflection, kicking the ball right at Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, but with enough force to ensure he stayed behind the line.

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That goal kicked off a dominant first half for Wolves at Molineux in Wolverhampton, England, with the midlands side comfortably holding off a surprisingly sluggish Liverpool.

Sadly for the home side, Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp clearly turned things around at the break and a very different side came on in the second half.

Liverpool tied things up in the 55th minute with a goal from Cody Gakpo, adding goal No. 2 in the 85th from Andrew Robertson with a stoppage time Hugo Bueno own goal making it a 3-1 win for the visitors.

“I thought we had some really good opportunities, and the lads worked extremely hard, created good chances, and they were big chances as well, Wolves manager Gary O’Neil said after the game. “But when you miss them, you know with players like Diaz and Nunez and people like that coming on, then you may rue those missed chances.

“This was a tough game and they’re going to be a good side this year. They’ve got so many fantastic players, and we knew we’d have to perform perfectly to give ourselves a chance of getting something.”

While it was a disappointing result for Wolves, the opening goal was just the latest effort in what has proven to be a very successful season for Hwang.

Despite a brief injury scare that sidelined him for one Carabao Cup game, he has been on some of the best form of his Premier League career.

Hamstring injuries are a major area of concern for Hwang, who missed a month earlier this year and was sidelined for nearly 50 days at the end of 2021 with the same issue.

Since joining Wolves in 2021, Hwang has missed a total of 17 games for both Wolves and the Korean team — 16 of those games were missed due to hamstring injuries. A hamstring injury nearly took him out of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, although the fiery midfielder known as The Bull eventually returned in the final group stage game to score the crucial goal that carried Korea through to the knockout stage.

So far this season, Hwang seems to have avoided any serious injury scares. He has scored three goals in five appearances so far this season, one each against Brighton on Aug. 19, Crystal Palace on Sept. 3 and Liverpool this week.

Hwang will get his chance to go three-in-a-row next week when Wolves take on Luton Town on the road in Luton, England on Saturday.

BY JIM BULLEY [jim.bulley@joongang.co.kr]