Jordon Ibe scored his first Premier League goal in brilliant fashion as Liverpool warmed up for the Europa League final by rounding off their Premier League campaign with a 1-1 draw at West Brom.
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp named several youngsters in his XI at The Hawthorns, with the Reds due to play Sevilla in Basle on Wednesday. Victory in that match would secure them a place in the Champions League next season.
The hosts made the most of the absence of the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino when Salomon Rondon struck the opener after brilliant work by their own youngster, Jonathan Leko.
Liverpool went in level at the break, though, as Ibe netted his first top-flight goal with a fine solo effort, finishing calmly after showing brilliant pace down the right.
West Brom created the better chances after the break, with Rondon particularly dangerous – including hitting the post with a header early in the second half – but Tony Pulis’ men ended the season on a nine-match winless run.
Klopp’s side, meanwhile, finished eighth, but the German was able to welcome back captain Jordan Henderson and Danny Ings – who had missed one and seven months respectively with knee injuries – in the second half in a boost to Liverpool’s options ahead of the continental showpiece.
Before kick-off, Darren Fletcher and ex-Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert laid wreaths in tribute to the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy, while 96 away seats were painted red and left empty.
When the game started, Liverpool’s youngsters settled well and the lively Sheyi Ojo cut in from the left before aiming a tame 20-yard effort at Ben Foster.
But it was a West Brom teenager who made the game’s first telling contribution, Leko showed great footwork on the edge of the box before slipping in Rondon, whose near-post drive beat Adam Bogdan.
The visitors were level in the 23rd minute, though, and in some style. Ibe gave Jonny Evans the slip on the right of the halfway line, before driving into the West Brom box and rifling low past Foster.
Joe Allen then tried his luck from range, but his left-foot effort was sliced wide.
West Brom went agonisingly close to retaking the lead shortly after the restart when Rondon leapt highest to head Craig Gardner’s free-kick against the left-hand post, the striker’s rebound on the half-volley sailing high over the top.
Rondon continued to cause problems and the Venezuela striker just failed to make contact with Craig Dawson’s cross on the hour.
Liverpool responded by bringing on captain Henderson and Ings to a warm reception, but it was Rondon again who proved the dangerman when a stabbed shot towards goal from a corner was deflected narrowly wide.
West Brom, who brought on youngsters Tyler Roberts and Sam Fields for their debuts, had one last chance but Dawson failed to turn in Rondon’s cross-shot from close range.
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