Shoot! Move! No matter how much the home fans screeched, it didn’t make a difference. Here was another of those games that are driving Jurgen Klopp to distraction.
After all the suffering he endured at Everton’s expense four days earlier, when the neighbours battened down the hatches, Liverpool’s manager took drastic action and let his ‘Fab Four’ of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino loose against West Brom.
It made no difference. For all the possession, for all the huffing and puffing, once again Liverpool came across a blue and white house they could not blow down and two more points were frittered away.
Roberto Firmino watches on as his effort slides across the face of goal but narrowly goes the wrong side of the far post
Momentum takes the Brazilian crashing into the advertisement boards as he reflects on a glorious chance missed
Mohamed Salah ends up in the back of the net after missing an opportunity to get his side in front
Not even a grandstand finish, when substitute Dominic Solanke had a goal disallowed for handball and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a shot kicked off the line, ruffled the composure of a West Brom team who were supremely organised by Alan Pardew and worked relentlessly to get a draw.
Maintaining the theme of shuffling his pack, Klopp made six changes to the side that were frustrated by Everton, taking his tally for the domestic campaign to 65, but the one that was most anticipated – a break for Salah – did not materialise as he went with all his big attackers.
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND LEAGUE TABLE
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Karius 7: Alexander-Arnold 7.5, Lovren 6, Klavan 6, Robertson 6.5: Wijnaldum 6, Can 6, Coutinho 6: Salah 7, Firmino 7, Mane 6
Subs not used: Mignolet (GK), Milner, Gomez, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ings, Solanke
Manager: Jurgen Klopp 6
WEST BROM (4-5-1): Foster 7: Nyom 7, Hegazi 7, Evans 8, Gibbs 7: McClean 6.5, Livermore 6.5, Yacob 7, Krychowiak 7.5, Robson-Kanu 6.5 (Rodriguez 71mins): Rondon 6
Subs not used: Myhill (GK), Brunt, Burke, Rodriguez, McAuley, Field, Ferguson
Manager: Alan Pardew 7
Referee: Paul Tierney 7
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While it was not quite as contrary as the time Rafa Benitez picked 99 consecutive different Liverpool teams then named an unchanged side for the 100th match, it was a little incongruous to see Salah, Mane, Firmino and Coutinho line-up for duty on a mundane night such as this.
West Brom, remember, arrived here winless since August 22, so why select this particular quartet now when he Klopp felt they were not needed for occasions like a showdown with Chelsea at Anfield or the Merseyside derby?
Whatever his thinking, it did not have a galvanising effect on the team or the crowd. As is the case more often than not at this venue, the atmosphere was flat and impatient: if Liverpool haven’t scored within the first 15 minutes, you can feel the disquiet rising.
Sadio Mane battles among a sea of West Brom shirts to advance forward and keep Liverpool on the attack
West Brom boss Alan Pardew keeps his hood up in a bid to keep the elements at bay on a blustery night at Anfield
Pardew, a smart manager, would have been well aware of this and, accordingly, he set up his team to frustrate, to break the contest up and play it on West Brom’s terms. They took their time at every free-kick and defended stubbornly.
The onus, as was the case against Everton, was for Liverpool to be creative and in the 17th minute they nearly found a way through when Salah guided a pinpoint cross through a forest of legs to Firmino but the Brazilian pulled his shot wide of the advancing Ben Foster.
But that was as good as it got for Liverpool before the break. They saw lots of the ball, moved it from one side of the pitch to the other, but never at pace to disrupt West Brom. Too many, most notably Mane, were short of the required standard.
It gave West Brom a sense that they may be able to pilfer something and in the 30th minute, a dipping shot from Hal Robson-Kanu caused great alarm when it dipped over Karius but clipped the top of the crossbar. Here was a further warning that Liverpool needed to up their standards.
Rather than galvanise the stadium, however, Robson-Kanu’s shot simply made everyone tetchier and there was a telling exchange not long after when The Kop growled at Karius to release the ball quicker but he turned around, scowled and urged them to be patient.
Referee Paul Tierney looks to calm down play as tensions get a little high out on the pitch at Anfield
Allan Nyom of West Brom keeps Firmino shielded away from the ball as he attempts to make a clearance from goal
Jurgen Klopp wastes no time in getting instructions out to his players in the early stages of the match
Patience, though, is in short supply here and the thing Liverpool needed at the beginning of the second half was to show tempo, purpose and clarity to settle the fraying nerves but, if anything, they were even less assured than before.
All West Brom needed to do was exploit one set piece and they were on course to hit the jackpot. Pardew thought that was about to happen in the 50th minute but, twice, his team were denied by the outstretched arms’ of Karius.
The first was when an inswinging free-kick from Grzegorz Krychowiak caught everyone by surprise and forced the German keeper to backpedal furiously and tip the ball over the bar; from James McClean’s resulting corner, Jonny Evans tested him with a bullet header but again Karius stood firm.
Unable to contain his frustration, Pardew spun on his heels to indicate another chance might not arrive. Liverpool, he anticipated, would not continue to be so bad and in the 57th minute they should have found a breakthrough but Salah headed a glorious Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross wide.
Liverpool continued to press but just when they thought they had salvation, a brilliant spot by referee Paul Tierney ensured Solanke did not get the breakthough. And, once again, Anfield vented its fury.
A dedicated Liverpool fan shows his loyalty to the club with an assortment of club medals collected over the years