Soccer

Five talking points as late Semi Ajayi header for West Brom denies Liverpool

West Brom pulled off a classic Sam Allardyce smash and grab at Anfield to head home with a point.

Semi Ajayi's header ten minutes from the end cancelled out Sadio Mane's early strike and ensured the Baggies had their excellent second-half rewarded.

They were outclassed in the opening 45 with the Liverpool opener deservedly coming on 12 minutes.

Mane's excellent touch, spin and finish giving the hosts the lead and the floodgates looked set to open such was the home side's dominance with the Baggies' defence constantly tested.

West Brom though came out a different team in the second 45 and were worthy opponents for the champions.

Jurgen Klopp's frustrations evident and he was booked for a touchline outburst as his side threatened to let the opportunity slip.

They almost did when Karlan Grant ran clear but his effort was stopped at close range by Alisson but the Brazilian could not keep out Ajayi's headed effort.

Liverpool's 2,000 fans had the Christmas cheer knocked out of them as the Reds were left to bemoan three points that should've been theirs following their first half-time dominance.

Here are five talking points from Anfield.

Ominous Mane not to be

Each of Liverpool's renowned front three seem to take it in turns sitting in the spotlight.

Well Sunday night was clearly Mane's turn to shine and shine he did.

The Senegalese star had endured something of a goal drought before he scored last week at Crystal Palace.

Confidence was clearly seeping through the forward who scored the opener and was the game's star man in the first-half.

His combination of speed, movement and strength was too much for the West Brom defence.

Mane's goal means he has now scored in 41 Premier League games at Anfield with 39 of those ending in wins.

West Brom joining Leicester as the second blip on that record following their draw in January 2019.

A clash of styles

The Baggies were promoted last season alongside Leeds, both achieved the feat in very different ways.

Leeds have continued to play their intense, attacking style in the top flight and received their fair share of criticism after shipping six at Manchester United last week.

This week West Brom went to Liverpool, left with nothing and played like a team wanting to pull off a smash and grab.

Often lining up with a bank of six and then a four leaving no attacking outlet in the first-half before.

They'll no doubt cop plenty of flack, but how can they given they left with a point.

Perfectionists will yearn for a hybrid version of Leeds and West Brom that leans itself to some pragmatism.

Reds fail to hammer home advantage

Liverpool are one of only two top eight clubs – Tottenham the other – not to play a fellow top eight side in between Boxing Day and January 2.

Leicester and the Red Devils have already taken points off each other whilst Manchester City face successive games at Everton and Chelsea.

The Reds though failed to take advantage of their favourable fixtures as they dropped two points.

Klopp will have expected nine points from nine across the week period with games to come against Newcastle and Southampton.

It would've allowed the defending champions to further cement themselves at the top of the table as they target successive titles.

After the winter break Liverpool face a cluster of difficult games so this may go down as a missed opportunity.

Sam the man with a plan

He has been mocked and forever probably will be but Allardyce knows how to play a team.

The West Brom manager remains the last man to mastermind a Premier League win at Anfield, over three years ago now.

Since then he's secured a point for Everton and did so again with the Baggies.

Had you watched the first-half you'd have been left wondering how they would get out of their own half let along score a goal.

But having got to the break just 1-0 behind the Baggies opened up and posed a genuine attacking threat.

It reaped its rewards when Ajayi got the West Brom equaliser.

Just how vital might that point be come the end of the season.

More defensive woes

The centre-half curse struck once again at Anfield.

Klopp went with the defensive pairing of Matip and Fabinho, probably their best available duo.

But the former raised his hand on the hour mark to express discomfort and was immediately hooked.

Rhys Williams, who has impressed when given the chance, was called upon for the final 3o minutes.

Fears continue on Merseyside regarding their lack of options and many feel as if it is the only thing that can stop them winning the title.

Klopp has played several individuals in that area but with January just days away he may have to test the market as a precaution.

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