Leading up this match, there were nerves. Moments of unease, preparing myself for a draw or a loss. The facts were against the Reds, and by all rights this match today could’ve proved an undoing. Tony Pulis’ Baggies are no easy team to visit. Dangers on all sides lied ahead for the Reds.
And then it was Sunday and the whistle is blowing and we’re off to battle. In the first ten minutes, Liverpool looked lackluster and struggled to find the tempo of the match. Then it changed, the Reds took more possession, easily, and West Brom looked more content to sit deep and strike on the counter attack. They gave the visitors space to move and flow, but only just enough for Liverpool to find comfort in what was going on.
There was never a point (except maybe the maddening last few ticks of stoppage time) where those nerves took control. The first half was leisurely, lackadaisical. Chances came early and often with both Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho literally dragging crosses across the eighteen yard box. Slow, deliberate plays, as the Baggies continued to sit deep and wait for their moment to strike.
The type of match where it’s clear that football can be a subjective sport. While this writer was struggling to stay awake for most of it, others were living in their nerves. Even as Roberto Firmino scored and put Liverpool ahead in stoppage time of the first half, the game is very much what you make of it. A one-nil lead is not the most comfortable of score lines at all, especially for a team who struggles to defend in every aspect of the word, but everything appeared to still be very much under control.
And then the second half began and it looked as if Tony Pulis’ halftime talk probably involved something about being more physical and don’t be afraid of colored cards. They brought their physicality into it, even ripping Divock Origi’s shirt at one point. But Liverpool remained poised and unafraid. The Baggies continued to throw everything they had at the Reds, becoming more frantic as the clock ticked upwards. Their biggest chance came from Matt Phillips, but was ultimately denied by Simon Mignolet.
Comfort and control, two words that previously wouldn’t have described a Liverpool win, with their pace and ability to fire on all cylinders. Maybe you watched something else, maybe you felt the match was a nail-biter from start to finish, and that’s alright. This trip to the Hawthorns, this victory there, were all incredibly well deserved. In the face of giants and bullies, Liverpool remained resolute, the only frantic minutes coming when West Brom got desperate.
The home side threw Ben Foster and the kitchen sink into every set piece in the last five minutes of the match, while Jürgen Klopp decided now was a time to use Alberto Moreno and within a minute of coming on, the Spaniard bombed ahead in classic Moreno fashion and wasted an empty net when his shot from 60 yards out goes wide. At least it brought some comedy, we can always count on him for that.
Then it ended and Liverpool can return to the northwest with three more points and a clean sheet. Knowledge and the comfort of the win. This is going to be an arguing match, when we realize that the person next to us or on our Twitter feed was watching a different match, and that’s okay. The Reds came for the win, and they got it. That’s what matters.