LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom, Dec 14 – Liverpool suffered a frustrating night as a sturdy West Brom side held them to a goalless draw at Anfield and climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone on goal difference.
Substitute Dominic Solanke thought he had won the match with eight minutes left when he turned in Joe Gomez’s cross from close range, but referee Paul Tierney ruled out the goal for handball.
Hal Robson-Kanu had hit the bar in the first half for Albion, who emerged with plenty of credit despite setting an unwanted club record of 16 consecutive matches without victory.
Liverpool went into the match seeking to regain a place in the Premier League’s top four, and to put behind them the disappointment of failing to win Sunday’s Merseyside derby.
Manager Jurgen Klopp caused something of a surprise by starting all four of his main attacking players, recalling Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho to play alongside top scorer Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
There were six changes in all to the side that started the 1-1 draw against Everton, with Loris Karius making his first Premier League appearance since August as he replaced Simon Mignolet, who was carrying a slight ankle knock but judged fit enough to be on the bench.
West Brom were hoping to avoid setting an unwanted club record of matches without victory, and showed two changes to the side beaten at Swansea last Saturday, with Grzegorz Krychowiak and James McClean called in at the expense of Sam Field and Jay Rodriguez.
Albion had dropped into the bottom three following Crystal Palace’s late comeback win over Watford on Tuesday, and desperately needed inspiration.
Their boss Alan Pardew had won on his previous two visits to Anfield as manager of Crystal Palace, and his plan to frustrate Liverpool worked in the early stages.
However, his team were fortunate not to go behind when Salah got the better of Jonny Evans and played in a low cross from the right that Firmino, in behind Allan Nyom on the far side, somehow steered back across goal and beyond the post from little more than six yards.
Yet Albion did not rely entirely on defence, and almost took the lead on the half-hour; Hal Robson-Kanu curled a 25-yard shot against the top of the bar after Liverpool had made a mess of trying to play out from the back.
– Frustrating –
It was a frustrating opening 45 minutes for Liverpool, but they almost found a way through eight minutes before half-time, as Trent Alexander-Arnold burst forward from right back and slung over a low outswinging cross that would not quite bend into the path of the onrushing Salah.
Just before half-time, Firmino cut in from the left to hit a cross-shot that was charged down, before Salah’s follow-up was also blocked.
Albion, though, continued to pose questions. From way out on the left, Krychowiak whipped in a free-kick that Karius tipped over. The German goalkeeper then made an even better save moments later as Evans powered a header towards the top corner from Krychowiak’s corner.
Liverpool’s attack finally threatened to click into gear after that, with Firmino breaking down the left on to Georginio Wijnaldum’s pass and cutting back, only for Mane to slice wide from 15 yards.
Ben Foster had been relatively untroubled in Albion’s goal, but was almost embarrassed with 25 minutes to go, punching Mane’s cross into the air, then fumbling straight to Wijnaldum as it dropped, and watching on gratefully as Evans cleared.
Liverpool thought they had scored with eight minutes left when Solanke turned in fellow substitute Gomez’s cross from close range, only for referee Tierney to intervene.
Solanke was then denied again by Ahmed Hegazi’s clearance inside the six-yard box after Foster had dived at the feet of Coutinho.