A clear lack of cutting edge and killer instinct from Jürgen Klopp’s side, after carving out many good chances in the first half, against West Bromwich Albion allowed for Sam Allardyce’s back-six defence to snatch a point late on at Anfield. A result that seemed like a forgone conclusion before a ball was put in play was scrubbed clean as Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League was reduced to 3points opposed to the possible 5point lead that looked in the frame until the 82nd minute.
There was a small injury boost for the Reds as Klopp announced a return to first-team full training for James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri – whilst summer signing Thiago Alcantara was in adapted training and was ruled out for the fixture but could return in time for the clash in midweek away to Newcastle United on Wednesday.
No surprises for the starting eleven, therefore, as the front three were reunited with Mohamed Salah starting the game instead of coming off the bench as he did when Liverpool thrashed Crystal Palace but it was Sadio Mané who was the most threatening in the first half with the link-up play with Andrew Robertson being the most lethal chances before the goal.
Robertson attempted to find Salah on at least two occasions with the Egyptian being just an inch or two away from breaking the deadlock. On another day it would have been the no.11 to score the opener but it was Matip’s ball that was fizzed towards Mané, who controlled the pass expertly on his chest, and with the second touch to set up the shot on his right foot it was devastating finishing to give Klopp’s men the lead.
Henderson attempted a cross with, once again, Mané being the target but his header only went wide of Sam Johnstone’s goal. Other than Trent Alexander-Arnold firing a free-kick that was several yards wide of the target, Liverpool boasted the few chances in the game and almost all the possession of the ball but West Brom was for sure not out of the game – definitely, the best Sam Allardyce could have hoped for going into the break.
Half time: Liverpool 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
The second half started with more of the same with the captain Jordan Henderson going closest in the 46th minute from a pass from Wijnaldum but only wide of the mark to the right of the goal.
Just as players were returning from injury, Klopp was hit with the one thing he did not need – an injury to the last remaining senior centre-half in Joël Matip. He limped off at the 60th minute with what appeared to look like a groin strain – a potential lengthy outing for the Cameroonian.
Rhys Williams came off the bench to support the backline and it was a trademark long-ball to clear from Sawyers to Karlan Grant who outfoxed Williams and was through in on goal but Alisson was able to block the shot that was attempting to meg the Brazilian keeper, a warning sign for Liverpool. As Klopp made a substitution, Allardyce responded by bringing on Charlie Austin and Matheus Pereira – two strikers to test the defensive resolve of the home side.
Throughout the game, West Brom was the most threatening during set-pieces and their reward came in the 82nd minute of the game. Pereira took the short corner and received the ball back before whipping in a cross to Semi Ajayi whose headered effort struck the post and crossed the line before hitting the opposing side of the netting.
Oxlade-Chamberlain came on to attempt to rescue the win for Liverpool and it was his cross that reached Firmino in the box in the last minute of regular time and with the angle there to aim at it was only a slight touch from Johnstone in the goal that pushed the ball wide of the net. It was then that it felt like the chances wasted in the first half was going to bite Liverpool most where it hurt.
Dropped points at home always feel like the hardest to cope with when a team is going for a league title and this felt like a great opportunity to extend the lead at the top for Jürgen Klopp, but West Brom did all the right things and probably deserved a point on the night for their defensive brilliance to stay in the game right until the very end. Agricultural, but effective as the point and the performance will make survival possible for the Baggies.
Steve Bruce’s Newcastle side is up next for Liverpool and with only three days until they face the next opponent, it will be a test of not only skill but endurance at this busy part of the season. If the Reds fail to take their chances the same way they did against West Brom when they take on the Magpies, a drop from pole-position may be on the cards for them.
Full time: Liverpool 1-1 West Bromwich Albion
Liverpool: Alisson (7), Alexander-Arnold (5), Matip (6), Fabinho (6), Robertson (7), Henderson (7), Wijnaldum (6), Jones (6), Salah (5), Mané (7), Firmino (6).
Subs: R.Williams (5), Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Origi (n/a).
West Brom: Johnstone (7), Furlong (7), Ajayi (7), O’Shea (7), Gibbs (6), Phillips (7), Sawyers (7), Gallagher (6), Diangana (6), Robinson (7), Grant (6).
Subs: Pereira (7), Austin (6), Ivanovic (n/a)
Man of the match: Semi Ajayi