21 April 2018

Liverpool 2-2 West Brom

Ings 4'
Salah 72'
Livermore 79'
Rondon 88'

I thought we had solved this problem.

Liverpool hadn't conceded from a set play since the end of January? Welp.

Liverpool hadn't dropped points after taking a lead since the beginning of February? Welp.

Liverpool hadn't thrown away a two-goal lead since the end of December? Welp.

I preferred the new Liverpool to the old Liverpool.

Annoying. Annoying pitch, annoying opposition, annoying referee, annoying result.

We got the new Liverpool early on. It wasn't pretty, but it was enough, made more so by another early goal. Danny Ings, his first under Jürgen Klopp. His first in 930 days. From a well-worked set play, Short, Mané center with the defense moving, Wijnaldum's touch setting up the striker.

West Brom did well to prevent a second goal: Dawson deflecting Salah's chance in the 15th minute, Foster denying Ings in 42nd. Liverpool did well – or were lucky – to survive a five-minute stretch with five corners and an almost tap-in from Rodriguez, usually presented to them by mistakes from the makeshift back four.

And then West Brom uglies up the second half, with a lot of help from Stuart Attwell, who made clear why he's one of the least-used select group referees. A clear penalty on Ings ignored when Dawson steps across him and knees him over. Hegazi's punch – a literal punch – into Ings' midsection either ignored or unseen. Multiple card-worthy challenges left unpunished; 12 West Brom fouls, and there should have been more, without a single West Brom booking. All played on a desert dry pitch that got worse as the match went on.

But Liverpool were still okay. Liverpool were pushing through it. Not enough shots, not enough good play, but it still looked a lot like matches that Liverpool have won in recent weeks: Newcastle, Palace, and Bournemouth. Sure, it was a grind, but it seemed to be enough, especially once Salah got Liverpool's second. His 31st in the league, tying the record. His 41st of the season. The beautiful man.

It should have been enough. But Liverpool make changes to alter the shape. Liverpool concede on a scrambled corner – West Brom's seventh of the match – with Livermore slamming in after Karius' initial save and with Karius screaming for a foul. Liverpool retreat. Liverpool change the shape even more, with Lovren on for Salah. And Liverpool concede again, from an unnecessary free kick after Gomez gives the ball away and fouls – an unbelievably soft foul, I might add – and Rondon smashes in a near post header because Lovren's screwed the offside trap.

Fun times.

I, of course, worry first and foremost about what this means for Tuesday's semifinal. It went fairly badly. It ended really badly.

I am going to try to remain hopeful that this is what can happen when you replace three of the back four – two just back from injury, one for his just his fourth appearance in 2018 (and his first league start since November), and your center-back leader has to play on his "wrong" side. That this is what can happen when a Champions League semifinal is lingering in the backs of your minds no matter how much you're trying to focus on what's in front of you. That this is what can happen when you're facing a home side who's playing for pride in front of a new manager. That this is what can happen when you're facing a side that's already annoyed the hell out of you this season with a 0-0 draw at Anfield in the league and a 2-3 monstrosity in the FA Cup.

I am very excited for Liverpool to not have to face West Brom next season. And I want to be churlish and say "you're still going down, West Brom, and Liverpool are still probably finishing fourth."

You're still going down West Brom. But Liverpool have not sewn up fourth just yet.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

That's a classic "we've got one eye on the next game" performance. Rarely got out of third gear which looked enough until we didn't get a penalty to extent the lead further. Ings, Klavan, Moreno and Gomez all looked rusty but provided much needed R&R to Bobby, Robertson and Trent.
Salah also looks like he's got one eye on the golden boot as well, which looks to be affecting his decision making.

I absolutely expect to see a very different Liverpool versus Roma.