Firmino and Mignolet help Liverpool grind out road win
Brazilian’s 11th Premier League goal and key stops from goalkeeper secure the points at West Brom
Liverpool midfielder Roberto Firmino heads home his side’s goal in the Premier League game against West Brom at The Hawthorns. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images
West Brom 0 Liverpool 1
It was hardly pretty at times and will not take up much space on an end-of-season highlights reel, but all that matters for Liverpool right now is that they have rediscovered the art of grinding out victories away from home. Hot on the heels of their impressive win at Stoke last weekend, Liverpool clinched another precious three points on the road and once again Roberto Firmino proved to be the matchwinner.
The parallels with their triumph at Stoke did not end there. Simon Mignolet, who produced a couple of outstanding saves in that game, made another vital intervention against Albion by denying Matt Phillips as the Albion winger broke through on goal with 10 minutes remaining.
Tony Pulis had his head in his hands as Mignolet saved and the Albion manager must have felt like doing the same when Liverpool scored in first-half injury-time. Scoring from set-pieces is supposed to be Albion’s forté, but they were beaten at their own game as Firmino, via a flick-on from Lucas, headed in James Milner’s free-kick. It was the Brazilian’s 11th Premier League goal of the season and provided the defining moment in a match that only came to life late on.
Liverpool had struggled to get going initially. Against an Albion side that sat deep, often with as many as 10 players behind the ball, Jürgen Klopp’s team needed to attack with more pace and conviction than they showed in the opening 45 minutes. Liverpool dominated possession in that period, enjoying 71 per cent of the ball, but they rarely looked like scoring.
In that sense, Albion’s plans to frustrate Liverpool were working well and they could easily have profited at the other end. Nacer Chadli, arriving at the far post unmarked, looked certain to score when Phillips hooked over a looping cross from the right, but Firmino got the slightest of touches to take the ball away from the Albion winger just as he prepared to connect with a side-foot volley.
Liverpool’s best opening prior to their goal arrived courtesy of a gift from Claudio Yacob. The midfielder’s loose pass, just inside the Albion half, was intercepted by Philippe Coutinho and space opened up for Liverpool on their left flank, where Firmino scampered clear only to slide a low shot inches wide of the far upright.
Everything had pointed to a dire game being goalless at the interval, yet Liverpool turned the tables on Albion by scoring from a set-piece with virtually the last action of the first half. Milner’s delivery from a wide free-kick was actually poor, but Lucas managed to flick the ball on and Firmino, after grappling with Craig Dawson, got away from the Albion defender stooped to head past Ben Foster from inside the six-yard box.
Milner should have doubled Liverpool’s lead just before the hour but somehow volleyed Firmino’s perfectly weighted cross over the bar with the goal yawning invitingly in front of him. Firmino walked away smiling but the expression on Klopp’s face told a different story. It was a golden chance.
Albion had offered little in response, prompting Pulis to make two changes midway through the second half. Hal Robson-Kanu, who contributed little other than a tame shot straight into Mignolet’s arms in the first half, was withdrawn and replaced by Salomon Rondon up front, and Yacob made way for the more creative James Morrison.
Rondon has failed to score since December, but he came close to making a telling contribution with a pass that set Phillips free on the Albion left in the 80th minute. Darting into the area, Phillips had only Mignolet to beat but the Liverpool goalkeeper did well to spread himself, sticking out a leg to block.
Albion threw everyone forward in injury-time in desperate search of an equaliser and Liverpool should have scored a late second when Foster was caught upfield, yet Alberto Moreno, a late substitute, selfishly went for goal, ignoring three team-mates who were in a better position. In the end, though, it mattered little as Liverpool held on.