Liverpool drop points and fail to enhance their advantage in the Champions League qualification race after a 1-1 draw at struggling West Bromwich Albion…
Unsurprisingly Kop boss Brendan Rodgers named the same team which had dispatched Everton in the Merseyside Derby on Tuesday night.
Joe Allen was fit enough to return to the substitutes bench but the Northern Irishman’s squad remains severely stretched by injuries and a lack of any Transfer Deadline Day signings.
An uneventful opening 10 mins offered very little action to warm supporters on a chilly day in the West Midlands.
An awkward low sun and a spongy pitch clearly didn’t help either team but even allowing for such inconveniences the lack of quality on show was still a worry for all concerned.
Luis Suarez did have a brief sight of goal but decided to check his run rather than advance directly towards the target and the ball was duly lost.
At the other end, Youssouf Mulumbu saw a powerful, goal-bound strike blocked by Reds captain Steven Gerrard as the hosts enjoyed a brief period of possession around the 15th minute mark.
Out of nowhere the opener suddenly arrived in the 24th minute and it was scored by Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge.
The goal, which came via a penetrating move completely out of keeping with the match so far, involved Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Suarez; the latter dinking a delightful cross to the far post for Sturridge to tuck home from close range.
The England international has now scored in all six matches played since his return from a calf problem last month.
Suarez went close to getting on the scoresheet himself a couple of minutes later but the Uruguayan’s long-range free-kick drifted narrowly wide of Ben Foster’s goal.
A second looked set to arrive again shortly after the half hour mark but Suarez couldn’t connect sufficiently with a Coutinho corner and Foster gratefully dived on the loose ball before either Sturridge or Kolo Toure could stab it in.
Five minutes before the interval, a great run by the much-maligned Aly Cissokho got the big Frenchman in behind West Brom’s defence but the full-back narrowly failed to pick out Suarez with his cross.
The Baggies then suffered a blow when dependable centre-back Jonas Olsson suffered injury and had to be replaced by Diego Lugano.
Zoltan Gera went close to equalising with a firm drive from distance but the hosts would go into the break trailing and without a shot on target to their name.
Baggies captain Chris Brunt wasted a dangerously positioned free-kick shortly after the restart but a half-time tactical reshuffle to a 4-4-2 had already shown signs of paying dividends.
Last ditch defending prevented Matej Vydra from scoring before the previously unworked Simon Mignolet leapt into action to repel a fierce Gareth McAuley header from the resulting corner.
Suarez almost stopped West Brom’s advances in their tracks in the 59th minute but, after getting the better of Lugano, Foster was on hand to block his attempt with an outstretched leg.
Brunt became the latest player to test Mignolet on the hour mark but the Belgium international shot stopper got across and did well to keep hold of his low free-kick.
There was nothing the former Sunderland man could do moments later though when Toure unbelievably passed straight to substitute Victor Anichebe and the ex-Everton forward fired home from the edge of the area.
A moment of mindless madness from the experienced Ivorian although Anichebe deserves credit for finishing with aplomb.
The goal gave the game a significant boost as a spectacle and it became a much more open affair as both sides looked for a winner in the final 20 minutes.
A double change from Rodgers saw Martin Kelly and Joe Allen introduced as he tried to wrestle back some control of possession.
Allen was quickly involved and he forced Foster into a smart save following a beautifully flighted Gerrard free-kick.
The England goalie also did well to advance and tackle Sturridge shortly afterwards after Sterling had threaded his attacking colleague through.
West Brom also continued to look dangerous in the closing stages but the men in red defended resolutely against a number of crosses, corners and free-kicks.
A hectic final five minutes produced plenty of endeavour and positivity but ultimately neither side troubled the scorers further.
A first ever Premier League draw between the two sides but given the hosts had already registered 10 this season it’s perhaps not the surprise it seems. Not a great game in truth and a spirited second half showing from West Brom probably did enough to warrant them a share of the spoils. The frustrating thing from a Liverpool perspective of course is the nature of the goal conceded. At this level such a lack of awareness and attempting a blind pass across the backline is pretty inexcusable. That said we didn’t do enough going forward for once to make the mistake immaterial. Thankfully Spurs and Manchester United also dropped points this weekend so the result is not as bad as it could have been.
Raheem Sterling – Outshone his more illustrious attacking colleagues going forward and also did well defensively. Sterling is in a rich run of form which resulted in him being crowned our January Player of the Month. Should be Brazil bound with England come the end of the season.
Mignolet, Flanagan (Kelly 74′), Skrtel, Toure, Cissokho, Gerrard, Henderson, Coutinho (Allen 74′), Sterling, Suarez, Sturridge.
Unused subs: Jones, Alberto, Ibe, Moses, Aspas.
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