“Hard to beat and hard to better” – How the media assessed Liverpool 2-1 West Brom

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The media felt Liverpool were worthy winners but bemoaned the Reds’ poor finishing and questionable game management as Jurgen Klopp’s side saw off West Brom with a 2-1 win.

The Reds kicked off a favourable run of fixtures as they mean to go on by claiming maximum points against Tony Pulis’ side at Anfield.

Sadio Mane finished a delightful cross from Roberto Firmino at the back post to put the Reds ahead, and an excellent strike from Philippe Coutinho deservedly doubled Liverpool’s lead in a dominant first half.

Klopp’s side continued to control proceedings but passed up numerous chances to kill the game off once and for all, and when Gareth McAuley pulled one back for the visitors it ensured a nervy ending—but the Reds held on to claim victory.

It was an impressive display for the vast majority of Klopp’s side, and though conceding from a corner and making it harder than needed was frustrating, it was pleasing to see the team dig in for a big three points and take advantage of rivals dropping points.

Here is how the media saw the 2-1 win.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 22, 2016: Liverpool's captain Jordan Henderson and Dejan Lovren applaud the supporters after the 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Reporters felt it was a case of job done for Liverpool on a day it was vital they capitalised on rivals dropping points, and those watching praised the dominance of the performance in a potentially tricky contest.

Goal’s Melissa Reddy summarised:

“The scoreline may not suggest as much but this was no battle, no bruiser—it was one supremely talented and tireless side completely dominating another until one jammy corner late on.

[…]

“Make no mistake though, Liverpool have made it quite clear they’re hard to beat and hard to better.”

ESPN’s Steven Kelly was pleased to see the Reds’ “exciting football” return:

“Some fast, fluid play was a blessing after they were effectively halted by Manchester United in a 0-0 draw last Monday. Some expected the same on Saturday, but once the Reds went in front they played the exciting football that fans have come to expect.”

The Telegraph‘s Chris Bascombe felt Liverpool’s midfield energy proved too much for their opponents:

“Everyone knew how West Brom would line up and Klopp cheekily suggested Monday’s dour draw against Manchester United was the ideal preparation for his side, but the Baggies did not have the same ability to repel the midfield running.”

Interestingly, ESPN’s Nick Miller felt Liverpool were “too confident” at times and nearly paid the price for it:

“At points after that, they occasionally seemed too confident, sometimes showboating and recalling Klopp’s irritation after the first game of the season against Arsenal, when he bemoaned them giving the impression that the game was already won.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 22, 2016: Liverpool's Roberto Firmino in action against West Bromwich Albion during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Reporters bemoaned Liverpool’s inability to finish their chances and the contest once for all at Anfield, and also were left frustrated by the Reds’ continued struggles with defending set-pieces.

Kelly was frustrated by Liverpool’s poor game management, which he feels needs significant improvement:

“Liverpool have learned almost nothing about game management and though their willingness to go forward is admirable and ultimately what thrills the fans, some games simply have to be put to bed.”

Reddy felt that although Klopp’s men dominated, they must be more clinical in front of goal and “less charitable” down the other end:

“Before and after McAuley’s effort, there was only ever one team in the encounter and if Klopp’s men want to continue their unbeaten spell in all competitions—stretching back to August 23—they must learn to be more ruthless and less charitable.”

However, the Mirror‘s David Maddock drew positives from the amount of chances Klopp’s side created against a deep-sitting defence:

“It is that game-changing quality of the likes of Coutinho and Firmino that suggests Liverpool are beginning to work out how to overcome the challenge set by sides like West Brom.

“The key is patience, and an ability to work openings where their creative players can overload, and that happened consistently during this match.”

Meanwhile, the Independent‘s Simon Hughes thought Klopp’s men sent a message to opponents planning simply to frustrate them that they know how to overcome such tactical set-ups now:

“This, indeed, was an important win for Liverpool because it sends out a warning that parking whichever armour-plated vehicle you choose to call it in front of whichever goal Liverpool are attacking will not always be enough to achieve the desired result.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 22, 2016: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp applauds the supporters after the 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

With the three points taking Liverpool to second place in the league table, level on points with leaders, Arsenal, certain reporters discussed the Reds’ title credentials.

The Mail‘s Joe Bernstein thinks Liverpool will be right up there come the business end of the season:

“Liverpool blew the chance to be top in October. But Klopp’s men may be there right at the end.”

The BBC’s Michael Emons feels the lack of clinical finishing and inability to keep clean sheets could prevent a title challenge:

“One major concern for Klopp would be their inability to kill off this game, and the late goal they conceded means they have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 Premier League games.”

Miller echoed those sentiments but feels the fact the Reds are being talked about as challengers shows the level of progress made under Klopp:

“That lapse, along with moments of profligacy that will frustrate Jurgen Klopp, perhaps provide the biggest questions over whether Liverpool are genuine title contenders this season.

“Still, to even be in the conversation is an indication of the progress made under the German in the past year.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 22, 2016: Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho Correia celebrates scoring the second goal against West Bromwich Albion during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The watching media gave their verdicts on who the star performers were at Anfield, and there was plenty of praise for Coutinho and, pleasingly, Joel Matip.

The Brazilian magician is the best player in the Premier League currently in the view of Bernstein:

“The little Brazilian is arguably the best player in the Premier League right now. His swivel to score Liverpool’s second goal left two West Brom defenders on their backsides. He set up fantastic chances for Firmino and Dejan Lovren and gave Albion’s defenders, particularly makeshift left-back Allan Nyom, nightmares.

Dominic King of the Mail heaped praise on Cameroon centre-back Matip:

“He has settled seamlessly into this team and shown why Klopp gave him such a big build-up. With West Brom looking to cause problems, this was another performance where little fault could be found.

[…]

“Whenever West Brom went forward, Matip was there. Alert yet calm, elegant yet powerful, he would put his foot or head in the way just when it was needed.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Monday, October 17, 2016: Liverpool's Joel Matip in action against Manchester United during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Bascombe hailed the signing of Matip, a sensational piece of business on a free transfer:

“Matip, lest we forget, was a free transfer from the Bundlesliga. Compare his early performances to those of John Stones at Manchester City and consider if the differential is £48 million?

[…]

“The next time Klopp—and his employers—are accused of not spending enough, Matip’s free transfer will serve as another point of vindication that transfer fees are not everything.”

The Liverpool Echo‘s Andy Kelly centred on another influential display from Adam Lallana:

“He got on the ball, started combinations round the West Brom box, had the ball under control miles better than most.

“Liverpool are quite simply a much better team when Adam Lallana is in the team.”

For JOE.co.uk, Tony Barrett praised Roberto Firmino for a typically influential and intelligent display:

“If the Brazilian’s ability to score and create goals is glaringly obvious, less so is his intelligent movement which allows him to create space for others either by dropping deep and dragging defenders out of position or venturing out wide to open gaps up for his team-mates to fill.”

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Saturday, October 22, 2016: Liverpool's manager J¸rgen Klopp hugs Emre Can after the 2-1 victory over West Bromwich Albion during the FA Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Echo‘s James Pearce felt Emre Can turned in a much-improved performance:

“Horribly rusty against United, Can was much improved here. His touch was more assured and he pinged passes around with a swagger. All that was lacking from his performance was his finishing.”

And Echo colleague Kelly praised Klopp for sticking with Can and felt the German’s display vindicated his decision:

“While most of us saw a player who was lacking fitness and precision in his play, Klopp saw a man who was rusty but ready to go again.

“He tends to be right about these things the German. We like that about him.”

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