Alisson Becker scored a dramatic winner deep into injury-time against West Bromwich Albion to keep Liverpool's Champions League qualification hopes alive, for another couple of days at least. As the Reds somehow left B7 with all three points.
Liverpool were far from their scintillating best at The Hawthorns as they huffed and puffed in exertion as the games dying embers played out. As It began to look like the day Liverpool's season would come to a premature, but deserving, end.
Hal Robson-Kanu had given the Baggies a much-deserved lead before Mohamed Salah, once again, bailed Liverpool out of trouble. That was before Alisson climbed the highest to head home Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner deep into injury time, to give Liverpool a priceless victory.
Story of the match
Liverpool made two changes to the side that swept aside Manchester United at Old Trafford on Thursday evening; Diogo Jota was forced to sit out with a foot injury he picked up during Thursday night’s win. Whilst Gini Wijnaldum made way for Curtis Jones, as the youngster made his first league start since early March.
Sam Allardyce also made two changes to the Baggies’ line-up as he looked to salvage some pride for his already-relegated side. Callum Robinson and Mbaye Diagne were both dropped to the bench in place of Robson-Kanu and Grady Diangana.
Liverpool seemed to pay the price for their most recent outing as they looked a shadow of the side that stunned Greater Manchester only three days ago. It was Allardyce’s men who started as the brighter of the two as they caused Liverpool’s inexperienced defensive duo, Nat Phillips and Rhys Williams, early problems.
There were numerous opportunities for the Baggies to get the ball in the box as they looked to get their elbows stuck into the competition from early.
It only took a quarter of an hour for the home side to break through Liverpool’s shaky defence. Matheus Pereira’s exploited the space left by Williams as his lofted pass into Robson-Kanu was easily dispatched by the striker, who showed extreme coolness in his finish as he curled it perfectly around the helpless Alisson.
Much like Thursday night, Liverpool looked uninterested in the early stages of the contest as they failed to match Albion's grit and determination. It had all the hallmarks of another frustrating afternoon for Liverpool against a typical Allerdyce side.
Liverpool's luck would soon change when their top scorer, Salah, fired them back into the game in the blink of an eye. Fabinho's quick free-kick was picked up by Sadio Mane who looked to create an opening by linking up with Roberto Firmino. The ball evaded Liverpool's No.9 as it ricocheted towards Salah, who swiveled and bent one into the far corner from the edge of the box.
It extended Salah's excellent scoring streak as the goal sent him level with Harry Kane on 22 Premier League goals for the season; as he keeps up his hunt for a third golden boot.
Firmino, fresh for his brace against Manchester United, nearly completed a staggering turnaround for the visitors as he smashed the ball against the post after, somehow, finding himself one-on-one with Sam Johnstone. His effort was the Reds' last meaningful chance of the half as Liverpool headed in for the break having enjoyed their best spell of the game.
In the opening stages of the second-half Liverpool thought they had edged themselves in front when Mane pounced on Salah's cross and converted from close-range. However, the goal was quickly chalked off as the assistant referee wasted no time in raising his flag for offside.
A quick glance at Liverpool's bench throughout the game would have made for a worrying view, as they lacked any real 'match winners' or goal threats. Just like the winter period, Liverpool looked certain to pay the price for the injury-ravaged squad. The introduction of Jota, had he been fit, would've saved the late drama as they looked helpless in the final third.
As the game entered the final stages, Liverpool's season was in the balance; it was do-or-die for Klopp's men and it began to look like it would be the latter.
West Brom thought they'd regained the lead from a corner. The ball was swung in and nodded into the path of Kyle Bartley. He tucked the ball home and wheeled away to get his, short-lived, celebration underway. Matty Phillips had impeded the view of Alisson causing the assistant referee to signal for offside. It was a tight call for sure, something Liverpool would be hoping they'd be able to look back on in weeks to come as their blushes were spared.
The pressure continued to ramp up on the home side as Liverpool dominated the ball, but were forced to take most of their efforts from range. Thiago came close to producing a carbon copy of his Kop-end goal against Southampton last weekend, but his effort sailed just wide of the post.
The Reds, once again, turned to their dynamic full-backs in a time of need, as Thiago continued to dictate from deep. Andy Robertson's late trademark run into the box was snuffed out as his cross was frantically cleared behind. Alexander-Arnold had what looked to be the best chance to win it for Liverpool as he cut inside onto his, weaker, left foot and fired high and wide from ten yards out.
And with that final effort, time was up. Liverpool's race was run. They should've been heading down the tunnel with their tails between the legs. But like we saw time, and time again during the title winning campaign last season, good teams always find a way to get over the line. Liverpool may have lost some of the key components that, previously, made them such a well oiled machine. But this is the same side that has dealt with pain of adversity incredibly well over the previous years, today was no different.
They were presented with one final chance, in the final minute of added time.
As Alexander-Arnold lined the ball up in the quadrant, Alisson halted on the halfway line as he looked over to the away dugout for approval to continue his run into the Albion box. There was no approval, nor denial. Alisson darted into the box and flicked on Alexander-Arnold’s corner into the far corner.
Pandemonium. Liverpool had won it, nobody in the vicinity of The Hawthorns was quite sure how. Albion were defeated. Liverpool were elated. Somehow, this side keeps marching on, one way or another.
The smell of blood is well and truly in their nostrils as they continue the hunt on Chelsea and Leicester as the season enters its climax.
Liverpool still in the hunt
Sunday's victory keeps Liverpool firmly in the mix for automatic Champions League qualification, something that looked no more than a distant dream only a few weeks ago. The truth is, Liverpool should have been left in the rearview of both Leicester and Chelsea; however, shock defeats for both clubs over the previous ten days has allowed Jurgen Klopp's men to sneak back into the fold and take a commanding position.
Thiago controls again
Alisson's goal will, rightly, get all of the headlines, however, Thiago oozed class in the middle of the park, yet again. Following on from last week's debut goal in Liverpool colors, Thiago helped Liverpool break down the Baggies' resilient low-block. Thiago's exceptional passing range allowed Liverpool's fullbacks to bomb into the final third as they looked to stretch the West Brom backline. After coming under scrutiny for large parts of the season Thiago's latest performances will give his manager, Klopp, another reason to smile, if he didn't already have enough reasons!
Liverpool XI: Alisson; TAA, Phillips, Williams, Robertson, Jones, Fabinho, Thiago, Salah, Firmino, Mane.
West Brom XI: Johnstone; Furlong, Ajayi, Bartley, Townsen, Diangana, Yokuslu, Phillips, Pereira, Gallagher, Robson-Kanu.