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Liverpool's failings ruin Ings' big day at West Brom - but Roma will be a different story

10:04 PM SGT 21/4/18
Jurgen Klopp
Jurgen Klopp was left frustrated by the Reds' 2-2 draw at West Bromwich Albion - now all eyes turn to the Champions League

It should have been a day for comfort.

It should have been the day Liverpool all-but-secured their Champions League place for next season, a day for Danny Ings, Mo Salah and songs in the sunshine - or the rain. It should have been a big start to a huge week.

It wasn’t.

Jurgen Klopp and his side may have bigger fish to fry than West Bromwich Albion, but their sloppiness at The Hawthorns was an unwelcome reminder of what can happen when the Reds take their eye off the ball.

Ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final with Roma, this 2-2 draw may serve as a useful warning.

Having led 2-0 with just 11 minutes to go, Klopp will wonder how his side managed to squander two points. Two scruffy goals from set-pieces cost Liverpool, who had been in control without ever being at their best. "A useless comeback," Klopp called it. West Brom are going down, but Liverpool have not beaten them in three attempts this season.

They should have beaten them here, and with ease. Ings’ early goal – his first for 930 days  – had them on top. Salah’s latest masterpiece, a beautiful dinked finish for his 41st of the campaign, had them home and dry. 

Jake Livermore and Salomon Rondon changed things. We haven’t talked about Liverpool’s defensive issues for a while, but there they were. At the final whistle, Klopp made straight for Ragnar Klavan, engaging the centre-back in an animated chat. He was not happy, understandably so.

In fairness, Klavan is unlikely to play against Roma. Nor is Alberto Moreno, who endured a torrid afternoon on his first Premier League start since November. Dejan Lovren and Andy Robertson will come in, while Trent Alexander-Arnold should return at right back.

Liverpool will be a lot better for those changes, and for the presence of Roberto Firmino and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who started on the bench here. This was a side which showed five changes from last weekend, and there were clear signs of rustiness from those in red. "The boys came in and can play better, but they don't have rhythm," Klopp admitted.

The manger had said pre-match that there was no chance of Liverpool taking it easy. Not with a top-four place up for grabs, he reasoned. The Reds would have needed just two points from their last three games had they won here; now they must stay wary of Chelsea, and they visit Stamford Bridge in a fortnight. They should still get the job done.

Credit should go to West Brom, whose battling qualities belied their awful league record. The Baggies have found something extra under caretaker boss Darren Moore, but they should never have been allowed to take anything from this game. This result was about Liverpool.

A shame, because it should have been about Ings and his big moment. The striker must have wondered if this day would ever come, watching those weeks and months pass by, enduring those long, lonely afternoons in the Melwood gym. He deserved this. The celebrations which greeted his smart, left-footed finish say everything about the 25-year-old’s popularity at Anfield.

What happened afterwards, though, and particularly in the final 15 minutes, should ensure there is no hint of complacency come Tuesday night. Liverpool have had plenty of praise of late, but they are not infallible. Beyond the first XI, and even within it, there are still cracks.

"If there was a Premier League only for set-pieces," Klopp remarked afterwards, "then West Brom would not be going to the Championship!" The German cut a frustrated figure throughout his post-match press conference, complaining about the pitch and the referee. Both, in fairness, were awful. Liverpool should have had a penalty, and Ahmed Hegazi should have been sent off for a dig to Ings' ribs. The free-kick for Rondon's goal was questionable at best.

But Roma, you can bet, will have noted the trouble West Brom caused with crosses and long balls. Liverpool have defended superbly in recent weeks, keeping nine clean sheets in 14 games prior to this but - the regal Virgil van Dijk aside - they looked shaky when put under pressure. Edin Dzeko, you can bet, will be ready.

Liverpool will be too, though. Tuesday will be different. It has to be. The Champions League does something to Anfield, and to the Reds. Standards will be raised, no question. They need to be.

"In the moment I am not happy," Klopp said of his team now. "But on Tuesday, I will be."

His confidence is well-placed. Liverpool have come too far to let their old insecurities halt them now. All roads lead to Roma. Don't miss it, whatever you do.