Three things we learned: West Brom - Liverpool
Liverpool labored and labored, and then labored some more, before goalkeeper Alisson scored a 95th-minute winner to keep his side’s hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League alive with a 2-1 victory over West Brom at the Hawthorns on Sunday.
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Hal Robson-Kanu staked the Baggies to an early lead before Mohamed Salah pulled the Reds level just after the half-hour mark. Jurgen Klopp’s side was far from sharp at both ends of the field, but they suffered the most in attack as they faltered time after time in front of goal, only for the goalkeeper to perhaps save their season.
The result leaves Liverpool still in 5th place, a point behind 4th-place Chelsea, with two games left to play. The kicker? Chelsea face 3rd-place Leicester City this week, which means a Liverpool win over Burnley would put them into the top-four ahead of the final day.
3 things we learned: West Brom - Liverpool
1. Easy goals conceded the story of Liverpool’s season: That, coupled with the below video, says it all, doesn’t it? Once Virgil van Dijk was lost for the season, Liverpool were suddenly without their world-class emergency defender who so often would erase “easy goals” without even allowing the attacker to get a shot off. Now, without him along the backline, it’s a casual stroll into the penalty area and a 50-50 prospect taking on Alisson.
2. Front-three still not on the same page: Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino have been one of, if not the, best three-man units in Premier League history, but for the entirety of the 2020-21 season the trio has been… off. Misfiring. Disconnected. Pick your adjective, and that’s been them. The effortless fluidity is no longer there, and it’s almost certainly time to consider a change (or two) in the summer, sadly.
3. Golden Boot race going to the final day: Salah is in hot pursuit of a third Premier League Golden Boot after both he and Harry Kane bagged a goal on Sunday, moving from 21 to 22 in unison. That battle looks a safe bet to continue to the final minutes of the final day of the season. Only Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry have captured a trio of Golden Boots — thus far. That will change this season, though, as both Kane (2016 and 2017) and Salah (2018 and 2019) are already two-time winners of the award.
West Brom started quickest and were rewarded for their endeavors in the 15th minute. Matheus Pereira, who’s been West Brom’s best player by lightyears this season and will almost certainly find a summer transfer within the Premier League, collected the ball and played a simple ball into space for Robson-Kanu run onto and place a bouncing strike inside the far post and past the outstretched Alisson.
Salah erased Liverpool’s deficit in the 33rd minute, pulling level once again with Kane. Mane cushioned the ball into Salah’s path atop the penalty area and the Egyptian struck it ever so sweetly to curl it inside the far post.
Liverpool had well and truly found their footing by this point, and barely a minute later Firmino struck the post from the top of the box.
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Mane put the ball in the back of the net in the 49th minute after he got on the end of Salah’s sensational diagonal ball over the top, but the Senegalese winger was a tad slow walking back onside and the flag rightly went up.
Salah nearly broke the deadlock and went above Kane as he raced away from the pack in the 57th minute, sprung in behind by Trent Alexander-Arnold’s through ball, but his shot went straight to the chest of Johnstone, who did fantastically well to catch and hold the ball.
West Brom were denied a goal as well, in the 71st minute, and this one wasn’t so clear. Kyle Bartley poked the ball past Alisson after Semi Ajayi headed it down from a corner kick, but Matt Phillips was deemed to have obstructed the goalkeeper’s view from an offside position as Bartley made his perfectly timed sprint forward.
The winning goal was, in a word, extraordinary. Alisson becomes the first goalkeeper in Liverpool’s history, dating back to 1892, to score a goal in a competitive fixture.