Thursday 24 May 2018

Distracted Reds take eye off ball

West Brom 2 Liverpool 2

West Brom’s Salomon Rondon has his shot saved by Loris Karius during yesterday’s Premier League match at The Hawthorns. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
West Brom’s Salomon Rondon has his shot saved by Loris Karius during yesterday’s Premier League match at The Hawthorns. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Stuart James

It was not exactly the script Jurgen Klopp had in mind ahead of a critical week for Liverpool as West Bromwich Albion, playing with the sort of spirit and conviction that was so badly missing prior to Darren Moore taking over as caretaker manager, scored twice in the last 11 minutes to salvage an unlikely point. Albion may well be going down - they are eight points adrift with three games remaining - but they are going down fighting.

Liverpool, who face Roma in the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday, will rue the way that they allowed a game that was firmly within their grasp to slip through their fingers. Danny Ings, with his first goal since October 2015, put the visitors ahead and when Mohamed Salah scored his 31st Premier League goal of the campaign, equalling the record shared by Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suárez, the outcome appeared to be a formality.

Albion, however, staged a comeback that felt in keeping with the mood at the Hawthorns ever since Alan Pardew departed. Jake Livermore hooked in the first and Salomón Rondón headed in the second, two minutes from time, to make it five points from three games for Albion on the back of their win at Old Trafford last Sunday.

Liverpool could not have made a better start. There were only four minutes gone when Ings ended that long wait for a goal - 930 days to be exact - to put Klopp's team ahead after Albion were caught sleeping when Liverpool took a short corner. Sadio Mané skipped past Jay Rodriguez and delivered a low centre that Georginio Wijnaldum teed up for Ings, who swept home from just outside the six-yard box. There was an understandable mixture of joy and relief in the celebration that followed.

Although Liverpool were in control for the opening 25 minutes Albion eased their way into the game and started to play with a bit more confidence, leading to a couple of promising runs from the lively Matt Phillips and a spell of pressure that almost brought an equaliser. Livermore's deep cross from the right was volleyed across the face of goal by James McClean, with Rodriguez desperately trying to get a touch as the ball slid past the far upright.

With the Roma game clearly on his mind, Klopp had made five changes - Roberto Firmino, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andrew Robertson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Dejan Lovren were all rested - and it started to look as though the players' minds were also drifting towards Tuesday during that period in the first half when Albion saw more of the ball. Yet Liverpool could have added a second before the interval, when the ball broke kindly to Ings after Kieran Gibbs's sliding tackle on Salah. Ben Foster, however, spread himself to repel his low shot.

West Bromwich Albion's Matt Phillips and Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
West Bromwich Albion's Matt Phillips and Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire

Ings started to become involved a running battle with Albion's central defenders, Craig Dawson and Ahmed Hegazi, and there were a couple of incidents early in the second half where the Liverpool forward was entitled to think that he was on the wrong end of the officials' poor decisions.

Dawson was clearly playing the man and not the ball when he stepped across Ings in the penalty area, yet Stuart Attwell, the referee, had a different view. Moments later Attwell penalised Ings for a foul on Hegazi and as the Liverpool player was lying on the floor, protesting his innocence, the Albion defender aimed a punch into his stomach. Attwell took no action but the Football Association will surely act retrospectively.

Firmino replaced Ings shortly afterwards and the Brazilian was involved in the build-up to Salah's header, winning a header from Loris Karius's long kick. It was another substitute, Oxlade-Chamberlain, who then delivered the pass that carved Albion open and fed Salah, who coolly lifted the ball over Foster. Yet Albion were far from done. Livermore converted after Karius kept out Dawson's shot and then Rondón, with a superb header from Chris Brunt's free-kick, brought parity.

Observer

Liverpool's Joe Gomez and West Bromwich Albion's James McClean. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire
Liverpool's Joe Gomez and West Bromwich Albion's James McClean. Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire

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