WEST BROMWICH, United Kingdom: Roberto Firmino fired Liverpool to a 1-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion on Sunday that moved Jurgen Klopp’s men back into third place in the Premier League.
Firmino settled a scrappy game with a close-range header in first half stoppage-time to condemn Albion boss Tony Pulis to his first ever home league defeat against the Reds.
The Brazilian converted a flick-on from Lucas Leiva to seal a fifth win in their last seven games for Liverpool.
They are unbeaten since losing at Leicester in late February and now lead fourth-placed Manchester City by two points, although Pep Guardiola’s team have a game in hand in the race for an automatic spot in the Champions League group stage.
West Brom had the first opening when Liverpool failed to clear their lines and Matt Phillips picked up possession on the edge of the area.
He struck a shot that deflected to Hal Robson-Kanu but the Wales forward could not react quickly enough to turn it home.
Liverpool began to dominate possession but Phillips tried his luck again with an ambitious effort from distance that went high and wide.
However, Liverpool should have led on 15 minutes when they pounced on a hesitation from Claudio Yacob in the West Brom midfield, stole possession and broke with pace.
Lucas fed Philippe Coutinho, who burst into the area and hit a cross-shot that flew narrowly wide of Ben Foster’s goal.
West Brom then missed a glorious chance from a well-worked free-kick that saw Phillips volley a cross towards Nacer Chadli at the far post.
The Belgian was distracted by the slightest of touches by Emre Can, but Chadli should still have gobbled up the chance.
Instead he missed his kick and Liverpool almost broke away and scored.
Firmino crossed for Coutinho, who sent a difficult shot wide at the far-post. Coutinho then tried another long-range shot but it never troubled Foster.
And Liverpool’s defensive vulnerability was exposed again when Robson-Kanu raced onto a simple ball over the top but he snatched at his shot and Simon Mignolet made a comfortable save.
After struggling to break down West Brom’s resistance, Liverpool went ahead through a set-piece on the stroke of half-time.
Chris Brunt was penalised for a foul on Divock Origi, and from James Milner’s free-kick the visitors took the lead.
It was flicked on by Lucas to Firmino, who nodded home after reacting quicker than Craig Dawson.
Origi could have doubled the visitors’ lead early in the second half when he cut in from the left and curled a right-footed shot just beyond the far post.
Milner should have scored moments later when he arrived late to meet a cross by Firmino, only to side-foot a volley over the crossbar.
West Brom introduced three substitutes in an effort to change the pattern of the game but they were met with stubborn resistance from the visitors.
In fact they almost fell further behind when a Coutinho free-kick took a double deflection on its way for a Liverpool corner.
A rare chance for Pulis’s side came with 12 minutes remaining as Jake Livermore dragged a shot well wide of Mignolet’s goal.
But two minutes later they should have been level after Liverpool gifted possession to Salomon Rondon, who moved towards goal before feeding Phillips.
The winger connected well with his shot but it was smothered low down by Mignolet.
Liverpool substitute Alberto Moreno angered Klopp in stoppage-time when, with Foster forward for a corner, he led a Liverpool counter-attack but opted to shoot from distance at an open goal and missed, with team-mates screaming for a pass.
On Saturday, Vincent Kompany marked his return to the Manchester City line-up with a rare goal to give his side a 3-0 win at Southampton.
Pep Guardiola’s team were in control for long periods at St Mary’s, but it wasn’t until the 55th minute that City captain Kompany put them ahead with his first goal since August 2015.
Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero made sure of the three points with further goals in the 77th and 80th minutes respectively.
It was an especially cathartic moment for Kompany, who was making only his fourth league start in yet another injury-plagued campaign for the Belgium defender.
Ten minutes into the second half, City made the breakthrough.
It might have come from Navas’s rising shot from 25 yards that forced Forster to touch the ball over the bar, but instead it came from the resulting corner.
Gabbiadini missed Silva’s kick from the left and Kompany, making only his third appearance of 2017, muscled his way past Ryan Bertrand and headed past Forster from six yards before celebrating wildly.
City doubled the lead in the 77th minute with a goal of devastating simplicity but clinical execution.
Kevin De Bruyne exchanged passes with Silva just inside his own half and ran clear before sliding the ball to his left for Sane to finish.
Three minutes later and the scoreline more fairly reflected City’s dominance.
De Bruyne collected Navas’ pass on the right and chipped the ball across for Aguero to head in.