There has always been talk about how we can’t win ugly. Winning ugly is essential to mount a serious title challenge. Chelsea can do it. Man Utd have for years. Last week we got a maximum 3 points away at Stoke – thanks to a sublime Firmino goal.
This week we faced the challenge of West Brom away. Thanks to Firmino’s header at the end of the first half after Lucas Leiva had glanced on James Milner’s free-kick we managed to get all 3 points. Put simply, we won ugly – again!
- West Brom had only 10 touches in Liverpool’s penalty area.
- Klopp has spoken recently of the need for Liverpool to “win ugly”.
- Liverpool developed a habit of beating the Premier League’s top teams and then slipping up against sides lower down.
- West Brom threat from set-pieces, an area in which his team have been vulnerable defensively this season.
- Firmino scored his 11th goal of the season.
- Milner volleyed over after half-time, and Simon Mignolet saved with his legs from Matt Phillips at the other end.
- Moreno missed an empty goal from 40 yards after Albion keeper Ben Foster had gone up for a corner.
- Firmino and Coutinho have scored four of Liverpool’s past five goals.
How to deal with West Brom’ s crosses
To counter that danger, Klopp used the fierce winds that hit Merseyside last Wednesday to his advantage – getting his players to face a barrage of high crosses and long throws in training that day.
The manager’s reasoning was that if his players could deal with the ball in the air as it swirled about in the wind, they would be able to handle anything West Brom threw at them.
Reds delivered perfect victory – Klopp
It looked as if the extensive workout had actually worked. Although Liverpool were extra cautious not to give away too many set-pieces during the game.
What was particularly impressive about Liverpool was their midfield domination. Even without the ever-impressive Henderson and Lallana, they restricted the home side to just a handful of efforts at goal. Lucas, Can and Wijnaldum were key to keeping West Brom at bay, restricting their space in front the back four.
Liverpool could have won by a greater margin with better finishing – with Moreno guilty of the most glaring miss. The full-back, on as a substitute, burst away in the closing seconds after keeper Foster was caught upfield for a corner. Instead of running the ball into the net, Moreno elected to shoot from long range, and missed the target. Sturridge who was to his right was naturally furious! But who’s going to blame him. He had literally minutes to impress Klopp, still trying to convince he had a future at Anfield.
The victory however, ensured we keep on track for a place in next season’s Champions League.
Adjusting to no Mané
During the week there were a lot of questions about how Liverpool could cope without Sadio Mané. Afterall he had been our stand-out player all season.
Let’s not forget that before last weekend’s trip to Stoke, Liverpool had not won a league game all season without Sadio Mané in the team. Klopp needed that statistic to change after a recent knee injury against Everton ended the Senegalese striker’s season early.
Against Stoke Klopp found inspiration in the form of Coutinho and Firmino, who both scored ensuring a 2-1 victory. Again our Samba boys were involved in Liverpool’s best attacking moments today.
Firmino proved his value, creating chances as well as getting the winner, providing a fine diagonal pass that Coutinho volleyed wide in the first half, and crossing for Milner to volley over when well placed in the second.
Step forward Simon Mignolet
Great awareness. Great distribution. Commanded the box. Leadership. These were all the qualities we craved for in a new goalkeeper. Once again we saw them in Mignolet – looking a completely different player to the one who started the season.
A superb save against Hal Robson-Kanu in the opening half, followed by superb reactions to save with his legs as Phillips ran clear with 10 minutes to go. He even won a series of set-pieces in the closing moments, either punching out with confidence or gathering the ball to slow down the game.
Emre Can worthy of new contract
The Liverpool midfielder has really stepped up his levels of performance over the past few weeks. Initially there was concern with Henderson being ruled out for so long, however Can has grown in confidence and is starting to prove his doubters wrong (again).
Today he was involved in more duels (20) than anyone else on the pitch – and was instrumental in breaking West Brom’s rhythm.
Words from Jurgen Klopp
“It was a big win against a good, tall team. We played really well from the first second.
“We needed to adapt to what West Brom wanted to do. In all our plans, it was ‘no set-pieces, no set-pieces, no set-pieces’.”
On Liverpool’s Champions League qualification chances: “It is the Premier League, Arsenal have three, four, five games in hand so we should not think about this. Today we could only get to 66 points, so it feels perfect.
“Next week we try at Anfield to get 69 points, and let’s carry on. If we do what we have to do, we will be where we want to be.”