Liverpool 0 - West Bromwich Albion 0
If there is such a thing as a brilliant nil-nil that must be it. Up against a Liverpool averaging 3.5 goals a game in the last 12 and given Albion's fragility, a thrashing seemed a distinct possibilty, but we were full value for the point. We needed a little luck when Liverpool's 'goal' was overturned for hand ball. It looked accidental in the replay, but the ball wouldn't have gone in if it hadn't hit his hand, so the call was a good one. It would have been a cruel blow after the effort we showed in negating Liverpool's goal scoring machine. Yacob, Evans, Rondon and Hegazi were the pick, but everyone chipped in. Jmac, Krychowiak and HRK had their best games for a long time.
The difference between this goalless draw and those under TP was the attacking intent. Jmac and Nyom put in some dangerous crosses and we forced several set pieces that could have led to a goal. HRK hit the bar with a sneaky long shot and Yacob (yes, Yacob) had a great header saved. Hegazi missed perhaps our best chance with a point blank header.
The big question all those who follow Albion regularly will be asking is why we can't play like this against weaker sides. It will be a struggle to the end, but surely the team will take a lot of heart from this display
This was a brilliant result - keeping a clean sheet against a Liverpool side with their strongest attacking 4 in the team should give the players great belief that they can keep anyone out.
I thought Pardew got the team selections and tactics exactly right and he was rewarded with some big performances. 4-5-1 with a bit of pace on the left.
It was a night for experienced players and there is no greater motivation to perform than playing away at Anfield, so it made sense to pick Krychowiak and ask him to step up as a leader.
And for all his faults and the criticisms levelled against him, Howlin' Mad James McClean has started in all of our wins this season and brings pace, energy, a willingness to chase and press high and he will always get a few crosses in if played on the left. He will run through brick walls for you. I might have been tempted to throw Brunty in on the left to try and give us that bit of quality and composure but on balance the running of McClean was probably the right call.
The first 20 minutes were crucial because Liverpool come out and try to blow teams away but we started really well. There was enormous fight throughout the team, we chased and bravely pressed high, we tried to pass the ball well when we got it and I have to say that Rondon began the game like a lion - every ball to him in those first 20 minutes stuck and he didn't give anything up.
A special mention too for HRK - he played as a right winger but whenever the ball came to him he held it up like a target man - sticking his backside out and twisting/rolling players or winning free kicks. He was never going to gallop up the wing and cross the ball but he offered us a route out to play up the pitch.
For the rest of the half the game opened up a little bit more and Liverpool went close a couple of times but it was to our credit that we also showed attacking intent with HRK hitting the bar and us working some corners and other decent moments - if you were being critical you would say that at times when we worked the ball well on the right we took too long to cross or didn't have the quality to get the ball in early. We know that's where Phillips would make a difference but I think Pulis was justified in going for HRK to hold onto the ball instead of the still really untried Burke as a roadrunner who might lose the ball to frequently when we needed a breather.
Second half was more of the same - we actually put Liverpool under some pressure for a period and Hegazi really should have scored with a header from 6 yards.
We kept working away, stood strong defensively and kept trying to create things even though it's obvious we are lacking that piece of split-second decision making that Chadli or Mozza provide in crucial moments during games.
I thought Pardew's subs made sense and were done at the right times - I don't think you can ask any more than that. We also thankfully got a marginal decision correctly awarded in our favour for the hand ball.
We fully deserved the point - this was the kind of performance and balance in the team we've been looking for and that I honestly thought Pulis would deliver this season before he descended into the 10-1 formation. Sure we rode our luck a couple of times but we earned it.
One thing standing out like a bit of a sore thumb post Pulis are our set plays. There doesn't seem to be any plan to them - Krychowiak was on them tonight and they were all floated into the box. I guess we have been spoiled by Brunt's quality over the years but given the number of corners and free-kicks we had and how bad Liverpool are at defending them I think we could have done a lot better.
More of the same on Sunday - again we are desperate to get just one or two from Phillips, Mozza & Chadli fit.
I thought both the subs came on and did their jobs with discipline.
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