17 April 2017

Visualized: Liverpool 1-0 West Brom

Previous Match Infographics: Stoke (a), Bournemouth (h), Everton (h), Manchester City (h), Burnley (a), Arsenal (h), Leicester (a), Tottenham (h), Hull (a), Chelsea (h), Swansea (h), Manchester United (a), Sunderland (a), Manchester City (a), Stoke (h), Everton (a), Middlesbrough (a), West Ham (h), Bournemouth (a), Sunderland (h), Southampton (a), Watford (h), Crystal Palace (a), West Brom (h), United (h), Swansea (a), Hull (h), Chelsea (a), Leicester (h), Tottenham (a), Burnley (a), Arsenal (a)

All match data from Stats Zone and Who Scored.

Defense wins matches. Well, okay, put it another way: defense assures you don't lose matches or leads, and will get you the win if you finish just one competent attacking move, whether from open play or a set play.

It happens when you register well above your season average in both tackles and interceptions – especially interceptions, joint-second most by Liverpool this season, tied with 1-1 at Manchester United and behind only 1-0 v Manchester City – despite having nearly 64% possession.

When you win 20 of 32 aerial duels in your own half, including eight of 10 in the penalty box, against the side with the joint-most headed goals in the league, holding them to just one errant, off-balance headed shot.

When you limit the league's most threatening side on set plays to zero chances from them, despite four corners, a few free kicks, and what felt like far too many long throws.

When you catch West Brom offsides on six different occasions, well above their 1.4 per game average.

When your goalkeeper saves his fifth clear-cut chance in the last four matches, stopping 50% of the on-target big chances he's faced.

And you can win regardless of posting a joint-lowest shooting accuracy in a match this season, with just two of 15 shots on-target. You can win regardless of taking more shots from outside the box than in. You can win despite still missing four of the usual front-six starters.

Because, in addition to that superlative defense, you also get your first set play goal in the league since January 2, and first free kick goal since October 1. When Roberto Firmino scores the winner for the second-successive match, with three goals and three assists in his last six appearances, after going six games in all competitions without any of either.

And you get your first 1-0 win of 2017, the last coming on New Year's Eve. Only the third 1-0 win of the campaign, after 1-0 Everton and 1-0 City, the latter being Liverpool's best defensive performance of the season, the former a match where they had to hang on by fingernails for the first half-hour, eventually grinding their way to the latest of winners.

Win ugly. Beat the dross. Do it away from home, against a side and manager that's frequently foiled and frustrated you. It's taken far too long, but maybe Liverpool are finally learning.

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