It was neither a secret nor a surprise that Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion side would prove a tough nut for Liverpool to crack. West Brom had entered the fixture against Liverpool unbeaten in four league matches, the most recent of which was a professional 1-1 stifling of Tottenham Hotspur. Though there may have been the slightest touch of flippancy when the manager suggested the Manchester United contest was good preparation for West Brom, it was not entirely in jest. Pulis’s side settled comfortably into a deep 4-5-1 for much of the match, and posed its greatest threat from set plays.
Electrifying Senegalese forward and serial celebration plagiarist Sadio Mané made sure that this would not be “one of those days,” opening the scoring for Liverpool in the 20th minute by finishing off a superb collective effort. Despite a number of wasted opportunities that allowed West Brom to tweak everyone’s nerves for the final quarter of an hour, Liverpool were in control and showed patience. The opener was a direct result of the squad recognizing the situation quickly and knowing exactly what to do.
“It wasn't easy because they were very compact but we trained hard [for this] every day in training. It made it easier because we tried to move between the lines.
It was a pass from Emre to Firmino and because we know each other it's easy for me to wait for the ball and I just put it in. We know each other now, we try to work hard as a team in training and the game becomes more comfortable.”
Despite catching West Brom almost entirely on the back foot, it still took a perfectly executed chip from Firmino for Mané to find himself in a position to score. Preparation and familiarity allow teams to pull off surprises every week in the league, and this time preparation and familiarity allowed a rampant home side to capitalize on their dominance.