An 81st-minute Gareth McAuley goal prevented Liverpool from provisionally going top in the Premier League as they defeated West Bromwich Albion 2-1. Needing a two-goal win to move above leaders Arsenal, Liverpool took a 2-0 lead through Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho on Saturday, but McAuley’s strike left them in second place on goal difference.
Arsenal had earlier been held to a 0-0 draw by Middlesbrough, while fourth-place Tottenham Hotspur played out a goalless stalemate at Bournemouth.
“I’m really pleased with the performance,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp told Sky Sports.
“It was unbelievably difficult against West Brom. You have to always concentrate. They are so dangerous at set-pieces.
“But I think it would have been kind of a joke if we hadn’t won today. It was unbelievable, how we played.”
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City can reclaim first place by avoiding defeat at home to Southampton on Sunday, when Jose Mourinho makes his return to Chelsea with Manchester United. Klopp made one change to the Liverpool team held 0-0 by United last Monday, with the fit-again Adam Lallana returning to the starting XI at the expense of Daniel Sturridge.
Roberto Firmino took over from Sturridge up front and played a key role in Liverpool’s neat 20th-minute opener, crossing for Mane to volley home after Coutinho’s dummy had freed Emre Can. Mane turned provider 15 minutes later after a sliced clearance by visiting goalkeeper Ben Foster, slipping in Coutinho, who cut inside two defenders and scored at the near post.
West Brom centre-back McAuley halved the deficit late on, volleying in from close range at a corner.
Arsenal, 6-0 winners over Ludogorets Razgrad in the Champions League in mid-week, were seeking an eighth successive win in all competitions.
But Middlesbrough came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half at the Emirates Stadium when Gaston Ramirez curled a 21st-minute free-kick against the post.
Arsenal dominated the second half, but had goalkeeper Petr Cech to thank for ensuring the visitors’ counter-attacks came to nought.
“It is a game where you had a lot of possession, but there were tired legs and you are prone to counter-attacks,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who was celebrating his 67th birthday.