Goals from Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho earned Liverpool a 2-1 success over West Brom at Anfield, although Gareth McAuley’s late consolation denied Jurgen Klopp’s side a place at the Premier League summit.
Earlier on Saturday, Arsenal and Tottenham had been held to 0-0 draws by Middlesbrough and Bournemouth respectively, while the remaining top-four side, Manchester City, host Southampton on Sunday.
As a result, Liverpool came into this clash knowing a victory by two goals or more would send them top – no easy task against a usually stubborn Baggies outfit.
McAuley’s strike from a corner with nine minutes remaining means Liverpool must settle for second, behind Arsenal on goal difference, but Klopp will surely be satisfied with a run that has seen them take 16 points from their past six outings.
The only blip in that run came on Monday when Klopp’s side failed to break down a defensive-minded Manchester United in a drab 0-0 draw, but on this occasion they were able to find a breakthrough and open the game up in the 20th minute when Mane finished off a superb sweeping move.
Coutinho added the second 10 minutes prior to half-time following a shanked clearance from Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster and although McAuley’s goal set nerves on edge, the hosts’ impressive opening to 2016-17 continued.
After the draw with United, Klopp suggested Jose Mourinho’s men would be the ideal opponents to prepare them for the visit of Tony Pulis’ side and as expected, the Baggies were content to drop men behind the ball in the opening exchanges.
But they were undone by a fine team move, as James Milner’s pass was dummied by Coutinho to Emre Can, who fed Roberto Firmino, and the Brazilian’s perfectly clipped cross was volleyed home first time at the back post by Mane.
The second arrived 15 minutes later on the back of Foster’s miscue.
The high, spinning ball bounced away from Darren Fletcher for Mane to feed Coutinho, and the Brazilian cut inside on his right foot and fired inside Foster’s near post.
West Brom survived without further damage until the break, but were under pressure again following the restart and only a fine block from McAuley denied Firmino a third.
Foster went some way to making amends for his part in the second by producing a superb save to keep out Dejan Lovren’s header and another heroic block – this time from Jonas Olsson – thwarted Can in the 66th minute.
Nacer Chadli had scored four times in his past four Premier League outings but stabbed over from an excellent opening four minutes later – the visitors’ first attempt of the game.
West Brom did find a way through when a loose ball from a corner dropped perfectly for McAuley to fire home, and although Foster’s fine save from Firmino and Georginio Wijnaldum shooting narrowly wide meant Liverpool were denied the chance to go top, it did little to alter the outcome.
Key Opta stats:
– Liverpool are now unbeaten in 12 home Premier League games (W7 D5), their longest run since a sequence of 14 in April 2014.
– Since Jurgen Klopp’s first game in charge there have been more Premier League goals netted in games involving Liverpool than any other team (126 – 75 for, 51 against).
– Roberto Firmino has had a hand in 17 Premier League goals (12 goals, 5 assists) in 2016; more than any other Liverpool player.
– 70% of West Brom’s Premier League goals this season have come via set-pieces (incl. penalties) – seven of 10 goals.
– Indeed, West Brom have scored more Premier League goals from corners this season than any other team (5).