Liver­more keeps West Brom cling­ing on to sur­vival life­line

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - PAUL DOYLE

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

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