Alisson Becker tends to save shots. The Brazilian may have saved Liverpool’s season by scoring a header. Deep into injury time, their destiny was being taken out of their hands. The 2019 Champions League winners looked set to miss out on the 2021-22 competition.
And then, in the 95th minute, Alisson became the goalscoring goalkeeper. Goalkeeping coach John Achterberg urged Alisson to go forward and he met Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner with a magnificent header. “One of the best goals I ever saw,” he said.
A player who lost his father this season left the pitch in tears. Liverpool’s season includes a 7-2 defeat and they fielded arguably their seventh- and eighth-choice centre-backs at the Hawthorns but it took its most improbable turn yet.
Jurgen Klopp’s reign has featured some dramatic late goals, but nothing quite like this. “Unbelievable, what a header,” said the manager. “Insane.” Alisson became the first goalkeeper to score for Liverpool in their 129-year history. “You can’t explain a lot of things in life,” the scorer said. Alisson Wonderland, indeed.
For West Bromwich Albion, it was undeniably cruel even if, as they are already relegated, irrelevant. “They fought with all they have,” said Klopp. Albion had been denied what could have been a winner, Kyle Bartley ghosting in to apply the finishing touch to Semi Ajayi’s header.
Matt Phillips, who was stood in front of Alisson, was offside, but it was disallowed. “It's a ridiculous decision when you've got VAR,” said manager Sam Allardyce. “Outrageous is an understatement. It's the main reason why we haven't got three points.”
Liverpool have struggled to beat the stragglers this season and this threatened to be a repeat. “The game was our season in a nutshell,” said Klopp.
His side were troubled by a forgotten man. Hal Robson-Kanu was granted a first Premier League start since 2017, but he made the most of a belated opportunity. The Wales international latched on to Matheus Pereira’s flicked pass to angle in a shot that put Albion ahead.
Rhys Williams was caught out by a seasoned striker; it was a theme of the day and he campaign. Minus their three main specialist centre-backs, Liverpool’s frailties at the heart of their defence have cost them and Robson-Kanu’s elusiveness brought him three chances, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alisson saving Liverpool.
Liverpool equalised in style. They were minus the injured Diogo Jota, who is out for the season, but Mohamed Salah drew level with Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot with a lovely, precise finish that went in off the post.
It was a restorative moment for Sadio Mane, who had been dropped for the trip to Old Trafford and who had apologised to Jurgen Klopp for his reaction after the final whistle. Recalled, the Senegalese had shot wide before he won the ball back on the edge of the Albion box to set up Salah.
But thereafter Liverpool were frustrated. Roberto Firmino, who was them Liverpool for the first time, directed a snap-shot against post. The offside Mane had a goal disallowed as he slid in to convert Salah’s cross. Thiago, who had one of his best performances for Liverpool, twice came close from long range, Alexander-Arnold skied an effort and substitute Gini Wijnaldum shot wide. Yet where they all failed, the goalkeeper succeeded. “In the end we needed Ali to sort it,” said Klopp. “Now let’s keep going.”