The credibility of Sam Allardyce is not founded on irritating Liverpool at Anfield, but he has nevertheless established a remarkable ability to do just that. About three years and 67 matches ago, the last visiting manager to win a Premier League game here became the first to deny Jürgen Klopp’s champions all three points on home soil this season as West Bromwich Albion secured a precious draw in their attempt to scramble out of the relegation zone.
Liverpool had previously lost just two points out of a possible 48 at Anfield in 2020, but one of the unforeseen frustrations was their final home game of the year. With regards to success and the results. They led through the delicious early finish of Sadio Mané, but then struggled to rediscover the clinical and brutal edge that last time out smashed Crystal Palace 7-0.
Albion, inspired by the increasingly subdued attacking display of Liverpool, eventually showed some of their own intent after a solely defensive first half and levelled when Semi Ajayi headed in from a corner in the 82nd minute.
Typical Allardyce, you may say, who is unbeaten with four separate clubs in his last four visits: Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Everton, and now Albion. In the final minute, Roberto Firmino almost won it, but Sam Johnstone created a superb finger-tip save from the Brazilian’s back-post header. That was just Liverpool’s second attempt at the game’s objective.
It was a great save, but I didn’t have that much to do in the game, to be honest,” the Albion goalkeeper said correctly.” Everyone knows what an executive is like. He’s come in and things are changing really soon, and the guys are responding to it. We dug deep, we ran 94 minutes, sometimes it was difficult, but we got an equalizer and it’s a wonderful place away from home. “It feels more like a win.” Klopp acknowledged that it felt like a loss, and that Liverpool had no one but themselves to blame.
With five players stationed on the half-way line, Albion kicked off ready to tackle a long ball deep into the Liverpool half. And for the duration of the first half, that represented both the start and end of their attacking intent. Karlan Grant, the lone striker in the initial 4-5-1 formation of Allardyce, quickly morphed into a sixth midfielder and the 4-6-0 system of Albion inevitably ensured there was only an occasional escape from the relentless pressure of the champions. The containment strategy was quickly broken by the brilliance of Mané, who, when Joël Matip pinged a pass into a crowded penalty area, made a tough chance look so natural. In one flowing, lightning movement, the Senegal international controlled the defender’s ball on its face, turned and volleyed beyond Johnstone. Ever warn, the striker only needed a moment of hesitation from Albion defender Ajayi to find the space needed to score his campaign’s sixth league goal.
In connection with Liverpool’s domination of possession and almost permanent residence in the final third, the remainder of the first period brought few clear-cut chances. Early in the second half, Albion almost went two behind when Georginio Wijnaldum teed up Jordan Henderson and the shot of the captain faded wide, but from that moment on the visitors showed a willingness to commit bodies and disrupt Liverpool. As Dara O’Shea collected the first booking by catching Henderson from behind with a trailing leg, Klopp’s irritation began to boil.
The midfielder was unhurt, but Matip pulled up with an abductor strain moments later and signaled instantly to the bench that he could not proceed. As illustrated by the return of James Milner and Xherdan Shaqiri to a powerful and experienced replacement list that includes the fit-again Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool’s injury issues have begun to ease of late, but it is the concentration of knocks in central defense that has tested resources. For just his second Premier League debut, Rhys Williams substituted the stricken Matip and, when the next decision went against Liverpool, Klopp found himself the second person booked for his demonstrative dissent.
The visitors went close to capitalising on Liverpool’s defensive disruption when Romaine Sawyers produced their clearest chance with a penetrating long ball towards Grant. The striker beat Williams down the left for speed and advanced into the penalty area, but Alisson proved immovable and blocked the low shot with his legs, as is so often the case.
When Wijnaldum delivered a perfect cross into the area, Mohamed Salah had a good opportunity to double the home side’s advantage, however, having found a yard on the central defenders of Albion, the Liverpool forward headed high above the bar of Johnstone. When the visitors levelled, the miss assumed greater, and unforeseen, importance. A loose pass from Curtis Jones plus some defensive confusion led to a corner on the right being won by Albion. Before sweeping in a delightful cross that Ajayi met with a towering header above Fabinho, Matheus Pereira, a late substitute, exchanged passes with Sawyers.