Lame Liverpool Limp To Listless Draw With West Brom
Liverpool remain top of the Premier League table by three points after their 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion at Anfield.
Sadio Mane gave the Reds the lead in the first half, but Semi Ajayi equalized for Sam Allardyce’s men in the second half with a glancing header from a corner.
Overall, the defending champions — who were sublime at times in the first half — cannot complain too much about the result, given their toothless second-half display and inability to turn opening half possession and territory into shots on goal.
The Reds started the game with zip in their passing and with a high tempo. Much of the play was funnelled down the left-hand side, where Andrew Robertson was especially prominent. The Scot delivered two telling crosses that were inches away from being prodded home by Liverpool attackers, but the visitors escaped — just — on both occassions.
The hosts had the goal their dominance merited not long after, however, when Joel Matip — whose passing and positional awareness when mopping up the very rare instances in which the midlands team attacked made him one of the standout performers in the first 45 minutes — delicately picked Mane out with an intricate through ball.
Controlling the pass on his chest, the Senegalese attacker wriggled his way free of the West Brom defence and, in the next motion, fired expertly past Sam Johnstone for a 1-0 lead.
Liverpool continued to turn the screw and up the ante, but — for all their possession and territory — failed to manufacture any chances of note and the deep sitting, ultra-defensive Baggies would have been happy going into the interval only a goal behind.
The hackneyed old cliche says it’s a game of two halves, and it definitely held true in this instance. Liverpool, so energetic in the opening period, looked cumbersome and muddled and, to add injury to insult, lost Matip to what looked like a groin injury. West Brom, meanwhile, let off the handbrake somewhat and actually attempted to attack.
Their best opening came when Karlan Grant — who had barely touched the ball in the first half — was sent through on goal by Romaine Sawyers long pass after the home team had committed men forward for a corner. The striker raced through, but a combination of Alisson and replacement Rhys Williams’ narrowed his angle and his shot straight at the Brazilian.
Emboldened, the visitors kept plugging away in an attacking sense and they had a leveler when Ajayi — after a short corner routine — flicked a header in off the right-hand post. The Nigerian appeared to climb all over Fabinho before heading the ball, but referee Michael Oliver wasn’t interested in the Reds appeals and the goals stood.
Chasing the winner, Liverpool — who had resorted to aimless crosses and punts, with Jordan Henderson particularly guilty in this regard — brought on Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Divock Origi. The Englishman almost assisted the winner when his cross was headed low and hard towards the bottom corner by Firmino, but Johnstone — with his only intervention of note in the second period — palmed it away for a corner.
It was a frustrating night for the 2,000 fans present on the Kop as West Brom held out for the draw.
Liverpool team: Alisson; Alexander Arnold, Matip, Fabinho, Robertson; Henderson, Wijnaldum, Jones; Salah, Firmino, Mane.
Replacements: Origi for Firmino, Oxlade Chamberlain for Jones.