Beauty and the Beast: Roberto Firmino assumes leading role as Liverpool win ugly again

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HD Roberto Firmino celebrates
The 25-year-old was involved in much more than the game's decisive moment at the Hawthorns, turning in an all-round masterclass in the 1-0 win


His 12th goal of the season did not part lips in wonderment nor spark mass extolment on social media like his previous one, but Roberto Firmino’s header at West Bromwich Albion was as emphatic as his 25-yard stunner away to Stoke.

West Brom 0-1 Liverpool 

It strengthened Liverpool’s push for a Champions League place and furthered their credentials in conquering these sort of unpleasant encounters - the kind that have too often proved to be their undoing in 2016-17.

HD Roberto Firmino Liverpool celebrates

On Easter Sunday, the Reds refused to allow that to be the case again and finally overcame a Tony Pulis team on their travels in the league. 

As per Jurgen Klopp’s judgement of their run-in after the Merseyside derby and the season-ending knee injury to Sadio Mane, his charges had to forget about rolling over teams and roll up their sleeves in the battle to consolidate their top-four ambitions. 

The Hawthorns was always going to provide an examination of just how well Liverpool could deal with menace and they succeeded in not just getting stuck in, but seeing an uneasy match out. 

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"It is one of the most difficult places to come because in no game can you feel comfortable," Klopp said.

HD Jurgen Klopp celebrates

"Somebody asked me which result would have kept me a little bit calmer in the last few minutes and I said only 4-0 after 86 minutes! Maybe then I would have felt OK, but now it’s done.

"It was very, very important because showing this concentration level until the end didn’t work each week in the last few months – but today, it was really good and I am happy about this."

Firmino was at the heart of their attacking verve and defensive diligence. No player created more chances than the 25-year-old and none topped him for ball recoveries. He led the way in take-ons and won 64% of his duels.

GFX Roberto Firmino v West Brom

The forward's decisiveness did not just materialise in the opposition's box, but Liverpool's too as his vital touch prevented Nacer Chadli from converting for the Baggies.

Klopp has described his focal point as “unbelievable” on several occasions, not simply due to his obvious excellence on the ball but his tirelessness out of possession.

The 1-0 victory offered the perfect snapshot of how intelligently Firmino applies his attributes for Liverpool.

HD Roberto Firmino Emre Can Liverpool celebrate

The result provided the visitors with their first clean sheet since the 2-0 victory over Tottenham on February 11 and, given there had been so much focus on West Brom’s lethalness in the air and from set-pieces, it made the manner of the decisive goal all the more enjoyable for the Reds.   

James Milner’s free-kick from the left was flicked on by Lucas and Firmino, who’d already been in the thick of the game's best moments, broke free at the far post to head Liverpool in front. 

Simon Mignolet once again turned in a steely performance between the sticks to ensure it stayed that way, denying Matt Phillips with his legs in the final 10 minutes.

"He made an important save and in the end, it doesn’t look that spectacular, but he was really present around the set-pieces," Klopp noted.

HD Simon Mignolet Liverpool celebrate

"I think three, four, five fists away, which was really good, I have to say. He was really lively, front-footed, all that stuff. Very important again."

Emre Can, meanwhile, continued his assertiveness in the centre of the park. The midfielder has contributed massively to his club's seven-game unbeaten run, helping to negate the absence of Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana.

"I really thought that the boys were in a really difficult game in not the easiest situation, but they did really well," Klopp offered.

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"You can always do better, but we learned in the game and I liked it a lot that the second half looked better tuned than the first.

"We knew what to do, but in the first half it looked a little bit static in a few moments and in the second half it looked much better. I am really happy about the performance."

There were many other noteworthy shifts on Sunday, but it was the man from the east coast of Brazil who led Liverpool closer to their return to Europe’s elite.