West Bromwich Albion 0
By Umarah Naz
What’s the best way to banish the demons of a frustrating draw against your old foe? By serving up an even more frustrating draw at home three days later to a team that hasn’t won a league game in four months.
West Bromwich Albion came to Anfield armed with a new manager after Tony Pulis was put out of his misery for being winless since the second game of the season. It became crystal clear from the first second that Alan Pardew had only two very specific tactics; defend with ten men and waste as much time as humanly possible.
None of this should have come as a huge shock to anyone, but no one could have predicted just how effective West Brom would be at it.
Add to that the fact that Liverpool have only failed to score three times this season in the league and have recently been scoring for kicks. The visitors also benefitted from a very lenient refereeing display.
Paul Tierney certainly noticed WBA’s time-wasting chicanery but failed to book a single player on the pitch and added no time for it either, much to Jurgen Klopp’s annoyance. But more controversy was to come.
Klopp made six changes from the Merseyside Derby at the weekend. The ‘fab four’ were reunited upfront after the Brazilian half was rested on Sunday following the medical team’s advice.
Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum came into midfield as did Trent Alexander-Arnold at right-back.
The most surprising change came between the sticks as Loris Karius replaced Simon Mignolet who picked up ‘a knock’ against Everton. One can only imagine he strained himself picking Rooney’s penalty from the back of the net as he did absolutely nothing else that game.
Roberto Firmino had the first and best chance of the game when his shot from Mohamed Salah’s ball rolled inches wide. Had he glanced to his right he would’ve seen captain, Philippe Coutinho, marauding forward into an open goal.
At the other end, Hal Robson-Kanu came close when he hit the top of Karius’ crossbar with a long-range effort.
Minutes later, Salah was left furious with himself when he couldn’t reach the end of Alexander-Arnold’s cross, capping off an exasperating first-half for the Reds. Dominant in every area except the scoreline. Their every effort being scuppered by a wall of ten men.
Karius was called into action early in the second-half with two excellent saves from two different West Brom set pieces. The young German played well in the absence of his Belgian counterpart but still managed to audibly irk the crowd who wanted him to release the ball before he’d even got his palms around it.
Mane and Salah both had chances in the space of two minutes, with the former hitting wide and the latter’s header going the same way. It was increasingly looking like ‘one of those days’ for Jurgen’s Reds. Dominic Solanke, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joe Gomez came on in the last fifteen minutes to try and win the game, and Solanke almost did but for a second controversial refereeing decision in as many games.
Liverpool had barely recovered from the penalty awarded to Everton when Solanke was adjudged to have handled the ball into the net in the eighty-first minute. Replays, however, show the handball to be anything but deliberate and the punishment to be harsh.
The youngster was again denied when his shot was cleared off the line just moments later as Liverpool were left to rue their missed chances and inadequate officiating for the second time in three days.
Klopp’s post-match interview was a lot calmer than Wednesday’s but he did vent his frustration at the referee after a minimal amount of time was added on despite blatant time-wasting by Pardew’s men.
Although Liverpool looked a shadow of themselves compared to recent weeks, they had ample opportunities to win the game but for some poor finishing and a disciplined and resilient performance by West Bromwich Albion.
Wednesday night was the perfect opportunity to bounce back from the derby ‘draw-feat’ but Liverpool fans will have to lick their wounds for a few more days.
A trip to Bournemouth on Sunday awaits almost a year after the madness that ensued in the same fixture where Liverpool spectacularly capitulated from 3-1 up.
Jurgen Klopp will be looking to put that and more recent disappointments behind him with a much-needed win against the Southerners.