Livermore keeps West Brom clinging on to survival lifeline
WEST BROM prolonged their hopes of staging a sensational late escape from relegation thanks to Jake Livermore’s scrambled winning goal in stoppage time against Tottenham, but as they were cheered off the Hawthorns pitch, Darren Moore’s side could believe, at least fleetingly, that they could spring clear of the bottom three by winning at Crystal Palace next weekend.
For a team that has long seemed doomed, that is remarkable. And if they show the spirit and solidity that they demonstrated here, Moore’s men could yet complete an extraordinary turnaround.
As the clock ticked past 90 minutes West Brom seemed set to extend Moore’s unbeaten record as manager to five matches but even that improvement would have amounted to too little, too late: nothing less than a win would have fended off relegation for at least another week.
Livermore set up that scenario by tapping into the net from inches out amid a wild finish. The scramble came from a corner by Matt Philipps and the goal provoked an altogether more joyous scramble, as Albion players and fans milled around in incredulous celebration.
Moore, in temporary charge since replacing Alan Pardew in April, is the fourth man to send out a West Brom team this season and has exceeded all expectations by seemingly repairing much of the rot that set in under his predecessors. He has introduced a method that suits his players and generated a formidable spirit. He named the same line-up here that he deployed for the previous week’s win at Newcastle. They spent most of the early exchanges here entrenched in their own box but never abandoned hope of eking out a victory.
Spurs, aiming to consolidate their place in the top four and maintain their notional chance of leapfrogging Manchester United into second place, began as if their victory was as ineluctable as the hosts’ demotion was presumed to be. They set up camp in West Brom’s half and waited for an opening to present itself, hogging possession but ponderous with it. Unable to create early on, Spurs seemed in need of unwitting assistance from their opponents. But, unlike during most of the season, West Brom did not oblige. They defended steadfastly.
Not until the 24th minute did Mauricio Pochettino’s side even attempt a shot. It was a good one, Victor Wanyama’s curling effort from 20 yards forcing Ben Foster to tip over the bar.
Kieran Trippier produced the first really incisive pass of the game, sliding in Harry Kane on the half hour. Foster, who has vowed to stay at West Brom even if they go down, rushed off his line and diverted the striker’s shot from eight yards behind for a corner. From the setpiece Spurs worked the ball to Christian Eriksen, whose cross from the left found Kane. But the striker could not steer a header on target.
If West Brom were willingly enacting a rope-a-dope strategy, their plan nearly paid off before the break. Chris Brunt’s long free-kick into the box in the 41st minute ran all the way to Jay Rodriguez, who dabbed the ball across the face of goal. Toby Alderweireld headed it out for a corner before any home player could pounce. But three minutes later West Brom almost took the lead from another corner, only for Ahmed Hegazi to nod wide from six yards.
Pochettino surely demanded more urgency from his players during the interval. Yet they were nearly caught out within moments of the resumption, as Philipps glided down the right and crossed for Salomón Rondón. Luckily for Spurs, and symptomatic of the West Brom’s haplessness in front of goal this season, he miskicked from close range.
Foster made another impressive stop just after the hour, diving to his right to push away a long-range free-kick by Eriksen. Then tempers became enflamed in the 64 th minute when Danny Rose was booked for flicking a hand in the face of Allan Nyom, who, in turn, was cautioned for a perceived over-reaction. Evidence of Spurs’ discomfort was fuel to the West Brom, who began to apply more pressure. Kane was so spooked when the ball was lobbed into Spurs box in the 73rd minute that he almost sliced the ball into his own net. Hugo Lloris had to make a brilliant save to prevent the England striker from being credited with a goal that he would rather not have claimed.
As West Brom pursued the goal that would have kept them afloat, Moore threw on Daniel Sturridge and Nacer Chadli, forwards whose unavailability for much of the season has been among the factors for West Brom’s struggles. Pochettino, too, made changes in search of a win but West Brom fought harder and were rewarded when Livermore forced the ball over the line after Lloris parried a close-range header by Craig Dawson.
West Bromwich Albion’s Jake Livermore scrambles the ball over the line to score an injury-time winner against Spurs at The Hawthorns yesterday