It all seemed to be going so well for Liverpool. A much-changed side spearheaded by Danny Ings took an early lead before a second-half strike from Mohamed Salah put the away side two goals to the good. Three points heading to Merseyside and plenty of rested legs ahead of far more important games.
No-one, not even the most optimistic of West Brom fans would’ve predicted the last fifteen minutes of the game. From 2-0 down, the home side fought back tooth and nail to grab a point that ultimately changed little for their Premier League fortunes. Likely to be nothing more than a conciliation point for The Baggies in the grand scheme of things, Liverpool’s capitulation saw them waste a golden chance to cement a top-four finish.
Here are the observations from a frustrating day in the Midlands.
Relief for Ings after sustained injury troubles
Danny Ings hadn’t started a game for Liverpool in 916 days prior to the Everton game earlier this month. Back among the starting eleven with a crucial tie against Roma on the horizon, the striker gained only his second start under Jurgen Klopp.
Fitting that he got on the score-sheet, then.
Some lovely build-up play down the left-hand side culminated in a sumptuous piece of skill from Sadio Mané. Dinking the ball over Jay Rodriguez’s head, the Senegalese international combined with Georginio Wijnaldum, with Ings on hand to steer home.
The move ended his 930 days wait for a goal, having last scored on October 4th, 2015 in the Merseyside Derby. It visibly meant the world to Ings; a player who’s suffered such misfortune with injuries over the last few years.
Then there’s Gini Wijnaldum. Often criticised for failing to produce the goods in away games, the former-Newcastle man recorded his 15th assist under Jurgen Klopp, placing him behind only Mané, Coutinho, Milner and Firmino.
Van Dijk a rock among shaky looking defence
In the previous 12 games, Liverpool have recorded eight clean sheets and conceded just five goals, putting to bed the argument that Klopp’s team cant defend. Yet, this was a return to their old selves in a much-changed back-four. Alberto Moreno was given his first start since March 6th while Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan also came in.
West Brom clearly targeted Moreno and Klavan as the weaker individuals within the defence, giving Matt Phillips ample opportunities to run at the Spaniard and flash balls into the box. Solomon Rondon too, isolated the Estonian. Neither player stood up particularly well to the challenge, gifting The Baggies chances to display their aerial prowess.
Van Dijk however, stood out in his usual authoritative, dominant manner. Winning 5 out of 7 aerial duels, the most of any Liverpool player, the Dutchman was a man amongst boys. It could well have been 3-2 to West Brom but for his intervention, with a crucial headed clearance in stoppage time preventing Phillips from taking all the points.
In just four months, Van Dijk has more than proven his worth to Liverpool, helping to stabilise a previously rocky defence. His teammates may have returned to the dark days of defending, but his class stood tall. We’ll need the same against Roma, Virg.
Mohamed Salah joins the Premier League’s elite
Every weekend there’s some new record that Salah’s broken and Saturday was no different. Another goal stemming from some brilliant combination play between the Egyptian and substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain saw the former produce another ice-cold finish to mark his 31st league goal of the season.
He’s now equalled the Premier League record of most goals scored in a 38 game season, joining Alan Shearer (1995-1996), Cristiano Ronaldo (2007-2008) and Luis Suarez (2013-2014). With three games left still to play, Salah now has a great opportunity to smash yet another record in his debut season at Liverpool. What a player he is.
Two points dropped to provide a warning against complacency
Albeit in a very promising position to confirm a top-four finish, this was a warning against complacency Liverpool would do well to pay attention to. The result puts greater emphasis on their home game against Stoke City which is sandwiched in between two crucial European games.
Anything less than a win could open the door for Chelsea with a pivotal game at Stamford Bridge to come, thus Klopp will need to be wary of rotation or risk surrendering their current position.
Four points from the final three games should be easy enough, but you’d be a fool to think this is over quite yet – Liverpool don’t do things the easy way.