It is an understatement to say that this was not what Liverpool wanted as they prepare to face the side responsible for the most stunning comeback in this season’s Uefa Champions League.
Come the end of the season, the loss of a 2-0 lead should not cost them, with a top-four finish still highly probable. Yet a reminder of their frailties, coupled with a capacity to concede at set-pieces and late in games, was unwelcome in the extreme.
Liverpool should know Roma retrieved a three-goal deficit to eliminate Barcelona from Europe, just as their decisive goal came from Kostas Manolas in the 82nd minute following a corner.
So it boded badly when West Bromwich Albion also struck after a corner, Jake Livermore halving their deficit, before Salomon Rondon headed in Chris Brunt’s free kick to salvage a point. “If you play a set-piece Premier League then West Brom for sure would not go to the Championship,” Jurgen Klopp said.
But Albion are going down, potentially soon. Following last week's win at Manchester United, it highlighted how caretaker manager Darren Moore has restored spirit to the side and underlined Albion's underachievement under Alan Pardew.
It was nevertheless, as Klopp argued, a “useless comeback,” too late to realistically save them. “It feels like a complete waste of points,” he elaborated. “They don’t need it, we would have needed it.”
He could have argued in mitigation that he had omitted three of his preferred back four to rest them for Roma, though Dejan Lovren had come on by the time Rondon levelled in the second of two fine chances in as many minutes he had.
Klopp did say, too, that Liverpool were luckless. “We need the right decisions, everything would be fine and we win 3-0 or 3-1,” Klopp said.
He disputed the free kick given against Joe Gomez for the equaliser and cited a couple of incidents involving Danny Ings, a trip by Craig Dawson and a sly punch into the ribs by Ahmed Hegazi. “Clear penalty and clear red card,” said the German.
Ings’s performance otherwise offered cause for optimism. He deputised for Roberto Firmino, granted a rare rest for 65 minutes, and buzzed around in the style of the benched Brazilian. He scored his first goal in 930 days, though it is equally true to say it is only his second league start in that time. “It was a very nice game for him,” said Klopp.
Ings struck when Sadio Mane crossed and Georginio Wijnaldum, who was facing away from goal, teed him up. But for Ben Foster, who repelled a low shot, he would have doubled his tally. Klopp attributed that miss to a dry pitch.
“It wasn’t a ploy,” Moore said. The tactics he did deploy had some success, particularly a switch to three at the back with 20 minutes remaining. Liverpool nevertheless struck. Klopp had brought on Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who combined to set up Mohamed Salah. He lifted a shot over Foster, illustrating his fondness for chipped finishes and reaching another milestone.
This was his 31st goal of the Premier League campaign, equalling the division’s record in a 38-game campaign. He is level with Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez.
“Not bad,” said Klopp, considering the company Salah is keeping. “I was happy for him. I would have loved to talk about this in detail if we won but we didn’t.”
It was an example of his mood after a game that Liverpool, without being at their most exhilarating, ought to have won. Albion’s comeback irritated him. He was asked if he was happy ahead of Roma’s visit. “In the moment, no, but on Tuesday, yes,” he replied.