Richard Buxton: The year of LiVARpool, surely
Technology to the Reds' rescue with two contentious decisions in their favour, both rightly and wrongly
Tin-foil hat enthusiasts received a belated Christmas gift yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Months of claiming that Liverpool's relentless charge to the English Premier League title has been fuelled by questionable officiating were finally borne out in their 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Video assistant referees (VAR) have conspired against Juergen Klopp's side far more times in their quest to end a three-decade wait for domestic success than it has aided their cause.
But conspiracy theorists' claims that this is the year of LiVARpool now carries some genuine justification. For once, the anti-Anfield rhetoric is finally interspersed with a hint of reality.
Technology came to the Reds' rescue as they maintained a 13-point lead at the summit with two contentious first-half decisions in their favour, both rightly and wrongly.
Adam Lallana's assist for Sadio Mane should never have been scrutinised by the video overlords based in London's Stockley Park for an alleged handball.
Similarly, Wolves' swift response with a well-worked equaliser in stoppage time should have been allowed to stand.
VAR was clearly in the festive spirit when it allowed Liverpool to benefit from the "armpit" ruling used against the visitors' fullback Jonny in the build-up to Pedro Neto's strike.
Yet, when even the media-led Anfield old guard are criticising it, something is clearly amiss.
Those clinging to any morsels that will devalue the champions-elect's anticipated triumph in mid-May still find themselves clutching at straws in the overall context of this season.
Disregarding decisions overturned by VAR, including Wolves' equaliser, would leave Liverpool only four points worse off and still with a double-figure advantage over Manchester City.
Klopp, however, will be thankful for its interference in a cagey encounter with Nuno Espirito Santo's European dreamers who laid siege to his side's impressive home record.
Anfield has not tasted defeat from its 50 previous games in the EPL; a feat which validates theories that their occupants are set to become English football's latest breed of Invincibles.
In the face of continual body blows, with injuries to several key players during the opening months of the campaign, their strength of character and will to win remains unsurpassed.
Signs of mortality are creeping in now, though, with the laboured nature of this victory exposing their current lack of quality in depth, with three youth players drafted in as substitutes.
Kopites are counting down the days until Takumi Minamino makes his Liverpool debut - and no doubt so will his new teammates, after being stretched in both personnel and performance.
Conquering all of Europe and the world invariably carries its drawbacks.
Klopp has assembled a team that is superhuman in desire and drive, but not yet equipped to handle the physical demands of playing games virtually every two days during a congested Christmas schedule.
Wolves exercised caution following their hard-fought win over City just 48 hours earlier, with four changes to the starting line-up while the Liverpool manager could only make one.
Handling the current demands without surrendering momentum, as proved their undoing 12 months ago, has become a difficult balancing act for the Champions League holders.
Minamino's arrival will go some way to alleviating those concerns, as will the returns of Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joel Matip from injury in the coming weeks.
Until then, Liverpool will need to find ways of resting up without resting on their laurels.