WBA 0 – 1 Liverpool: Match Reports & Player Ratings
Round 33 of the 2016/17 Premier League season saw Liverpool play West Brom at the Hawthorns.
For this game, Jurgen Klopp abandoned his three-at-the-back experiment from the previous match and went back to his usual 4-3-3.
Simon Mignolet was in goal, Nathaniel Clyne (right) and James Milner (left) flanked Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren at the back. Lucas Leiva anchored the midfield completed by Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum. Philippe Coutinho on the left, Divock Origi on the right, and Roberto Firmino through the middle, formed the attack.
Tony Pulis arranged his men in an expected 4-2-3-1, with Ben Foster in goal, Craig Dawson (right) and Chris Brunt (left) were the full-backs, between them were Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans. Darren Fletcher and Claudio Yacob played deep in midfield, while Jake Livermore, Nacer Chadli and Matthew Philips occupied the space behind Hal Robson-Kanu as the central striker.
The game began as an even contest, with neither team managing to direct it in their preferred way, neither team managing to impose their own style. Liverpool tried threading passes, WBA tried hoofing the ball while employing a very physical approach, but there were no breakthroughs.
15 minutes in, Firmino sent a dangerous shot just wide and soon afterwards Matip thwarted what might have developed into a promising attack from the home side. Nacer Chadli wasted probably the best chance of the first quarter when he failed to connect with a dangerous cross on the edge of six yards. Coutinho threatened at the other end less than a minute later.
Around the half-hour mark, a few questionable defensive plays from both teams prompted groans from the stands but nothing came of it. Robson-Kanu wasted a fantastic pass into space by getting caught just offside.
Throughout the first half, Coutinho kept looking for space to pull one of his trade-mark shots from range but WBA players were very effective in closing him down, with Livermore often dropping deeper to help Fletcher and Yacob in their defensive tasks. With 35 minutes gone Livermore found himself in a good chance but his shot was very tame and it went straight into Mignolet.
It was a rather physical game, which is probably what Tony Pulis wanted it to be, but Liverpool hung in there, showing beyond doubt that they would not be bullied. Referee Jon Moss kept things mostly under control.
And just as the half looked certain to end goalless, Milner took a free-kick from deep right and found the head of Lucas. The Brazilian flicked it on high over the crowd to the edge of six yards, the otherwise alert WBA defence fell asleep and Firmino nodded it in past the helpless Foster.
And that was the final play of the first 45 minutes.
Immediately after the break, WBA had a promising set-piece situation when Moss (wrongly) gave a foul against Matip on Robson-Kanu, but Liverpool defended it well. A minute later the WBA striker was booked for a stamp on Emre Can.
Observing the clumsy way WBA sometimes tried to play through the middle, the lack of Adam Lallana for Liverpool became rather notable. The Englishman’s intelligent pressing would most probably have given result in those moments, though it should be said that both Wijnaldum and Can played extremely well on the whole.
After 55 minutes, Origi bent one from the left towards the far top corner but it went wide. Just a minute later, Clyne found the run of Firmino down the right, Firmino sent a beautiful cross for Milner on coming in from the other side, but the stand-in captain sent it over the bar.
The way the things were going at that point, it seemed WBA were increasingly having trouble to cope with Liverpool’s quality. The pressure on Foster’s goal was becoming stronger and stronger. Right on the hour mark Origi had a goal disallowed because Firmino assisted hm from a slight offside position.
That seems to have been a warning bell for Pulis and Chadli left the game to be replaced by James Morrison.
A powerful but inaccurate shot from Coutinho separated that substitution from the second one, as Robson-Kanu made way for Salomon Rondon.
A few minutes later some intricate play by Firmino and Coutinho got Evans booked. The game was becoming more physical by the minute, and very soon Evans could have gotten a second yellow for holding Origi but the referee gave a foul by the Belgian instead.
However, the fresh blood Pulis had introduced was starting to show, and Liverpool were often forced to go with long balls towards Origi as the game entered the final quarter. Lucas earned a booking after 71 minutes.
8 minutes later, Rondon finally managed to hold off Matip. He pulled it forward and employed Phillips coming in from the left, and the winger was through one-on-one with Mignolet, but the Liverpool ‘keeper came out, closed down the angle and made a good save.
Divock Origi then came off and made way for Daniel Sturridge in a first substitution by Jurgen Klopp. The clock was showing 81 minutes gone.
As the game approached its end, the home team kept pushing harder for an equalizer , which left a decent amount of space for Liverpool to exploit at the other end. Both teams looked capable of scoring as well as conceding, so the business was far was finished.
At the stroke of time, Alberto Moreno replaced Coutinho.
In the end, Foster joined the attack; then Moreno dispossessed Fletcher and found himself going towards the gaping goal, and even though he had options on both sides, he blasted it from very long range and it went wide. The next minute the same situation arose but WBA players got back in sufficient numbers to thwart the Reds.
But that was it. As that move went begging, the final whistle sounded and the game was over.
West Bromwich Albion – Liverpool 0:1.
Another three points in the bag make a total of 66 which takes Liverpool back to third.
Barring one or two moves from Coutinho, Firmino and (surprisingly) Matip, it wasn’t an eye-catching game. But the good news is that it seems Jurgen Klopp and his lads have finally found a way, learned how, if you will, to dig in and win by working hard.
Once more I’ll be standing in for Eric (Onyx) in quantifying individual performances of the players, so here we go.
Simon Mignolet – 8
The much debated keeper put in another solid performance, staking another claim for a long-term No.1 spot under Klopp. He dealt confidently with everything that came his way, and made a fantastic save from Phillips.
Nathaniel Clyne – 6
A very mixed performance from the right back. With his well-known and documented potential, Clyne is having a disappointing season, and this game was still below the level of what we saw from him last term.
James Milner – 7
Defensively sound as always, Milner made a decent contribution in attack as well, taking a few good set-pieces (though a few poor ones too) in the process. That includes the one at the stroke of half-time which Lucas extended towards Firmino for him to score the winner.
Dejan Lovren – 8
The Croatian played an excellent game. His importance in it was immense, as he was mostly the one dealing with the long balls from WBA, fighting against Robson-Kanu and later Rondon.
Joel Matip – 8.5
Matip was superb throughout, and had there not been for that one moment when Rondon got the better of him and created that chance for Phillips, he would have been my MotM. As it is, not this time.
Lucas Leiva – 7.5
A very decent game from the experienced midfielder in his natural position. Fought hard, tackled, intercepted, passed the right way.
(What’s that Eric? A 7.5??? No, no, I gave him a 0!)
Emre Can – 8
Another really good game from Emre. Moved around the pitch, popped up wherever needed, fought like a lion. Almost seemed like a player fighting for a new contract.
Georginio Wijnaldum – 7.5
The Dutch international had a very good game overall, though at times he hung on to the ball a bit too long and slowed attacks down unnecessarily. But he also held himself well under pressure and contributed much both ways.
Philippe Coutinho – 7.5
It was one more encouraging performance from the “Little Magician”. Even without a goal or an assist, he occupied much of the attention from the WBA players and they had to work extremely hard and stay focused to close him down.
Divock Origi – 8
Like the whole team, the Belgian worked extremely hard in this one. His hold-up play was great, his defensive contribution very important. Reacted well to score from a headed pass from Firmino but it was rightfully disallowed for the Brazilian being offside.
Roberto Firmino – 9
This was one of the classic Firmino performances from the first part of the season. He pressed high, won the ball upfront, created chances, got into dangerous positions, and scored the winner. The Man of the Match.
Daniel Sturridge – N/A
Played for the last 10 or so minutes, when WBA were pushing for an equalizer and couldn’t really do much. But whatever he did, he looked sharp. Altogether, still not enough to warrant a rating.
Alberto Moreno – N/A
The out-of-favour Spaniard missed a glorious opportunity to put the final touch on the game, but as he hasn’t played much recently and is probably on the way out, I’ll forgive him and leave him unrated. I’m sure he’ll feel relieved by that.
And that’s it for this week. Job well done by the team and the manager. Next up – Crystal Palace.
We walk on.