- Firmino scores on stroke of HT
- Liverpool moves into third
- WBA lose third in a row
If you removed the team crests from the jerseys, it would be hard to tell who was Liverpool and who was West Brom as Roberto Firmino provided the difference for the visitors at the Hawthornes on Sunday.
West Brom, known for its cagey attack and set-piece prowess, conceded on the stroke of halftime as the Brazilian striker headed home off a free-kick. Liverpool’s overall performance was spotty as they struggled in possession and delivered sloppy passes, but the result is all three points.
Liverpool’s first opportunity came on 15 minutes, as they countered after winning the ball on the mid-line. Philippe Coutinho found Roberto Firmino streaking to his left, but the Brazilian’s shot was dragged just inches wide after striking an off-balance effort with his left foot.
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The Baggies were consistently dangerous from set-pieces throughout the first half as expected, and they came close on 23 minutes following a free-kick as Matt Phillips lofted a ball to Nacer Chadli unmarked at the back post, but he whiffed on the volley attempt, and the ball fluttered harmlessly out of play.
Hal Robson-Kanu, who had a half-chance in the opening minutes to send alarm bells through the Liverpool defense, had another opportunity just past the half-hour mark, but he couldn’t get on the end of the pass over the top despite wriggling free on net.
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It seemed a sleepy first half would come to a merciful close with both teams struggling in possession and looking to compensate with wayward long-balls covered well by defenders. However, the Reds would change that on the stroke of halftime as a James Milner free-kick swung into the penalty area, and while it struggled to beat the first man, Lucas worked hard to meet the ball with his head and flick it towards net where Firmino was there to meet it at point-blank range and power a header in for the opener.
Liverpool got the best chance out of the break as Firmino crossed to Milner unmarked on the back post but the England international skied it over the bar in a moment where he should have scored.
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Simon Mignolet was required to preserve the lead as Matt Phillips got free down the left edge of the box, but the Liverpool goalkeeper charged him down to smother the chance with 10 minutes to go.
Things exploded in stoppage time as West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster came forward for a pair of corners, causing utter chaos as Liverpool tried both times to score in the open net. Alberto Moreno‘s half-court effort was wide as he turned down help to his right, and Foster had to race back and attempt a tackle on Georgino Wijnaldum as the game closed.
Liverpool’s win gives them a nine-point cushion in Champions League play, and they jump Manchester City into third place. Meanwhile, West Brom has lost three in a row, without a win since March 18th victory over Arsenal.