Liverpool – West Brom: Sadio Mane scored early but Liverpool sputtered against packed-in West Brom and conceded a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw at Anfield on Sunday.
Semi Ajayi scored late as Sam Allardyce took a big point from his second match with the Baggies, who drew Man City behind an Ajayi-produced goal in Slaven Bilic’s last match in charge.
West Brom now has eight points, five off the safe spaces on the Premier League table, while leaders Liverpool move three clear of second-place Everton.
Three things we learned from Liverpool – West Brom
1. Mane’s goal the lone bit of finish: Liverpool lived in West Brom’s end as the Baggies clearly were there for damage control and a hopeful counter attack goal. An overeager Kieran Gibbs missed Joel Matip’s service and Mane’s classy chest trap and finish gave the Reds an early lead that would last the duration at Anfield. But that was the Reds’ only shot on target until a huge late save from Sam Johnstone, as Liverpool failed to ask much of the Baggies’ star keeper. The ex-Manchester United academy man Johnstone will love thwarted Man City and Liverpool this tough season.
2. Big Sam winks in re-following Man City playbook: Many will point to this match as a sign that Sam Allardyce has restored something to West Brom, and he definitely deserves credit for saving his best player until late, as Matheus Pereira was only brought into the match when it was still in the balance late and delivered the cross for Ajayi’s equalizer. It was odd that more was not made of the leapinig Ajayi’s two-armed perch atop Fabinho, but perhaps we’re being overly-critical.
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All that said, the match was nearly identical to the Baggies’ 1-1 draw at Man City right down to Ajayi producing the equalizer. More importantly, Allardyce mostly rested Pereira for a winnable match against Leeds and will be able to point his men to his credentials again in noting that he led Crystal Palace to the last visitors’ win at Anfield. Baby steps.
3. Matip hurt, Klopp carded: Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp went in on referee Kevin Friend for a foul whistled on Rhys Williams shortly after the youngster entered for the injured Joel Matip. Klopp’s fury continued long enough that Friend saw fit to walk toward the German and show him a yellow card. It should be noted that Matip’s non-contact groin injury seemed to draw the ire of Klopp, so perhaps there was a bit of pent-up anger spewed toward the referee.
Man of the Match: Semi Ajayi
Seven clearances and an interception to go with the Nigerian’s second point produced this season for the Baggies.
— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) December 27, 2020
Liverpool – West Brom recap
Liverpool was knocking on the door from Moment No. 1 and Mane put the Reds ahead on a quality goal.
All 10 Reds were between the center circle and the box when three forwards broke toward Joel Matip’s airborne service, Mane taking the ball off his chest and slotting past Sam Johnstone.
The domination continued and Henderson’s cross into the 18 was headed just wide by a diving Mane in the 21st minute.
West Brom looked brighter to start the second half but gave away a dangerous free kick when Dara O’Shea slid the ball away from Jordan Henderson.
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Matty Phillips and Semi Ajayi then broke up a Mohamed Salah-produced chance as Liverpool bid for a second.
The Baggies stayed tight and waited for their chance, which arrived in the final 20 minutes when Romain Sawyers sent Karlan Grant toward the Liverpool goal. Grant’s low shot was stopped by Alisson Becker.
Ajayi was again the Baggies hero when he climbed above Fabinho to nod a sweeping cross off the post and over the line.