ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE
West Bromwich 0
LONDON • It was hardly pretty at times and will not take up much space on an end-of-season highlights reel, but all that matters for Liverpool right now is that they have rediscovered the art of grinding out victories away from home.
Hot on the heels of their impressive 2-1 win at Stoke last weekend, Liverpool clinched another precious three points on the road at West Bromwich Albion yesterday. And once again Roberto Firmino proved to be the match winner as they reclaimed third spot in the league from Manchester City.
The parallels with their triumph at Stoke did not end there. Simon Mignolet, who produced a couple of outstanding saves at the bet365 Stadium, made another vital intervention by denying Matt Phillips as the winger broke through on goal with 10 minutes remaining.
Tony Pulis had his head in his hands as Mignolet saved and the West Brom manager must have felt like doing the same when Liverpool scored in first-half stoppage time.
Scoring from set pieces is supposed to be West Brom's forte, but they were beaten at their own game as Firmino, via a flick-on from Lucas, headed in James Milner's free kick. It was the Brazilian's 11th Premier League goal of the season and provided the defining moment in a match that only came to life late on.
West Brom manager Tony Pulis, though, felt it was not a legitimate goal. "We were really disappointed about the goal... It knocked the stuffing out of us," he said.
"Firmino is blocking (Craig) Dawson off at the back for the goal, the referee blew for us in the first half when Darren Fletcher blocked the goalkeeper - make your mind up which is worse."
Milner should have doubled Liverpool's lead just before the hour but somehow volleyed Firmino's perfectly weighted cross over the bar with the goal yawning invitingly in front of him.
West Brom had offered little in response, prompting Pulis to make two changes midway through the second half. Hal Robson-Kanu and the more creative James Morrison came on.
In the 80th minute, darting into the area, Phillips had only Mignolet to beat but the Belgium goalkeeper did well to spread himself, sticking out a leg for the block.
West Brom threw everyone forward in stoppage time in desperate search of an equaliser and Liverpool should have scored a late second when goalkeeper Ben Foster was caught upfield. Yet Alberto Moreno, a late substitute, selfishly went for goal, ignoring three team-mates who were in a better position.
In the end, though, it mattered little as Liverpool held on.
"Coming here to a place we know each set piece is a major threat, we did great," manager Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports. "All three points is really special for us."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS