They won ugly, and the match was ill short of nerves at the end, but Liverpool have taken a big step towards securing a top-four finish.
The Reds, on the back of their 2-1 win over Stoke last weekend, defeated a Tony Pulis side for the first time on the road. Their 1-0 win may not have been the most exciting, but it was vital nonetheless.
3 points. ???? pic.twitter.com/8pKJTvBSH7
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 16, 2017
The first half was a boring one. Liverpool struggled to break down West Brom’s deep back line and created very few goal scoring chances.
Roberto Firmino came close with a left-footed effort 15 minutes in. After being played in by Coutinho, Firmino tried to find the far corner but pulled his shot just wide of Ben Foster’s net.
The Baggies had a few looks at Simon Mignolet’s net. Hal Robson-Kanu had West Brom’s best chance of the half in the 35th minute, but the Welshman could only direct his volley straight into the chest of Mignolet from about 18 yards out.
Liverpool took the lead right at the end of first half stoppage time. After Chris Brunt carelessly held Origi’s jersey to give away the foul, Roberto Firmino headed home a Lucas flick to score his 11th goal of this Premier League season. The Brazilian has scored three and assisted three in his last six.
A set piece goal against Tony Pulis! ????????????
(Bobby Firmino barely kept his shirt on ????????????) pic.twitter.com/d1td9htUBy
— LFCVine (@LFCVine) April 16, 2017
The goal completely changed the outlook of the match. Had West Brom made it to halftime at 0-0, they would have been able to sit back and further frustrate Klopp’s team. Instead, the goal forced West Brom out and set up a much more enjoyable second half for the neutrals.
Neither team made any changes at halftime. Liverpool, inspired by their late first half heroics, started very brightly. Coutinho and Firmino had much more space to operate and began to assert their creative dominance.
James Milner should have put his side 2-0 up in the 57th minute. After some fantastic play by Firmino and Wijnaldum, Milner found himself on the end of an inch-perfect cross right on the six. The Englishman blew his effort over the crossbar, though, and the chance went missing.
Liverpool then had a goal correctly ruled out for offside. Divock Origi finished off a Roberto Firmino headed cross with venom, but the Brazilian was just offside when Wijnaldum played him in.
West Brom left it late, though. After a few substitutions, including the introduction of Salomon Rondon up front, Tony Pulis’ side began to create some big chances.
West Brom were nearly level 80 minutes in, but Simon Mignolet was sharp to deny Matt Phillips with a fine save down low.
The chance motivated the West Brom faithful, though, and Liverpool began to look nervy.
Jurgen Klopp made his first change of the match in the 81st minute. Divock Origi, who looked solid in the second half, was replaced by Danie Sturridge.
The most incredible moment of the match came in the four added minutes. After Alberto Moreno replaced Philippe Coutinho, the Spaniard did well to win the ball off James McClean after Liverpool had cleared their lines from a West Brom corner.
Moreno darted forward, full of confidence with only one thing in his mind. Ben Foster was out of his net having sprinted forward to give an extra body in the box and Moreno had the entire goal in front of him.
The Spaniard, much to the frustration of the his four teammates, including Firmino and Sturridge, who should have been played in for a tap in, shot from distance and missed the target.
It looked so similar to Christian Benteke’s miss last season against Leicester City at Anfield and left Jurgen Klopp speechless on the sidelines.
Much to the relief of Alberto Moreno, though, the Reds held on to secure another huge win in their top four fight.
Klopp: "This is one of the most difficult places. I would only be comfortable at 4-0 after 80 minutes!"
A hard-fought three points indeed. pic.twitter.com/QITiT9LvWp
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) April 16, 2017
It was definitely not pretty, but like their wins against Burnley and Stoke City recently, this one was just as promising. Klopp and his team are beginning to show that they can grind out those tough wins that set teams apart at the top of the Premier League.
We know Liverpool can win the big games, they are unbeaten against the top seven this season after all. But these kinds of matches have often been the Achilles heal of Liverpool.
It will not be easy for Liverpool. The Reds host Crystal Palace next Sunday, a team that has given them plenty of problems over the years, but Klopp’s side are beginning to turn a corner.
They must keep their focus and never underestimate a team like Crystal Palace or West Ham down the stretch. If Liverpool can keep up their tempo and treat each game from this point on like a cup final, there is no reason why they are not the clear favorites to finish fourth, if not third.