With Liverpool failing to press their advantage after favourable results in the Manchester United and Tottenham matches, and coming as it did shortly after a disappointing end to the transfer window, most fans ended Sunday focused dourly on Liverpool having dropped two points to West Brom at the Hawthornes. Manager Brendan Rodgers didn't see things quite the same way.
"We had good control of the game," Rodgers insisted at the post match press conference. "There weren't many chances but I always felt that we dominated possession and looked dangerous with the ball. It was just one of those unfortunate things where we made the mistake and we got punished for it. Hopefully in the future we'll see it as a point gained."
The statistics didn't quite back Rodgers up on this occasion, as the two sides shared possession evenly and took as many shots on goal—with West Brom actually on target more often than Liverpool. It would be hard to argue the visitors were outplayed, but it would also have been difficult for most to argue they deserved to win on the run of play, and the numbers seem to back that up.
For Rodgers, though, trying to see it as a point gained rather than two lost wasn't the only worthy endeavour in the aftermath. He also wanted to step back and look at the bigger picture, seeking to compare the four point improvement against West Brom this season to a very disappointing pair of results in last year's matches against the Baggies.
"It tells you everything about our expectancy now," continued the manager. "We came here and lost, and lost at home to West Brom, last year. So to get four points out of six shows the improvement. For us to be disappointed with a point away from home in the Barclays Premier League shows the growth of the team. We've done brilliantly up until this point.
"We've got 14 games to go and we're still in a great position with big games to play, and the squad is very focused on our objectives. I'm very happy with the players that I have here and we'll fight right until the end to arrive where we want to."
There may be room for the sliver of upside Rodgers is insistent on finding, but with Everton and Tottenham still close on their heels, if Liverpool's season doesn't end with a top four finish it will be results like Sunday's fans and the manager alike look back on with regret come the end of the season. And pressed on the point, Rodgers was willing to at least admit that.
"Unfortunately for us, it has cost us two points," Rodgers said, turning his attention to the mistake that led to West Brom's equaliser. "Hopefully we'll see it as a point gained at the end of the season. There are times when you have to go slightly longer in your build-up—it's just the decision-making. But will I ever ask a player, when he's in maybe 20 yards of space, to not accept and receive the ball?
"Never, because that's how we work and how we play. It's an exciting way to play football, though sometimes it will hurt us. But it wasn't so much the playing out from the back, it was just the decision-making today."
It was also a failure by Liverpool to convince for long stretches that cost them. West Brom's equaliser was fortunate, but despite Rodgers' earlier insistence, a draw was the fair outcome. Yet it's also the sort of ugly, unconvincing game a side hoping to make top four has to win its fair share of to succeed, and things only get harder for Liverpool next weekend when Arsenal come to town.