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Coutinho-inspired Liverpool gets the better of West Brom and its title rivals

For all the pre-match talk of templates to thwart Liverpool and West Brom’s ability to leave Jurgen Klopp’s side battered, it was the visitors who departed Anfield vanquished as the cold took hold on Saturday night.

Mane and Coutinho send Liverpool second

Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton had all dropped points in the earlier kickoffs but there was no such wobble from the Reds, who recorded a 2-1 win that leaves them level on points with the league-leading Gunners.

The scoreline may not suggest as much but this was no battle, no bruiser — it was one supremely talented and tireless side completely dominating another until one jammy corner late on.

Pulis had been tipped to make it an uncomfortable evening on Merseyside but it was he who looked perplexed by proceedings from his technical area this time. Liverpool didn’t allow itself to be bullied or West Brom to settle in and stifle the match. It took 69 minutes for the away side to win its first corner and it was from its second one that Gareth McAuley scored and highlighted the Reds’ set-piece problems while denying them top spot on goal difference.

It was the only major annoyance of a clash Liverpool was coasting through. As early as the 18-minute mark, Klopp’s assistant Peter Krawietz was furiously tapping on his wrist as West Brom engaged in time-wasting to disrupt the home team’s tempo.

Liverpool, however, did not waste any time in showing its opponents such obstruction would not be tolerated. James Milner sent a pass towards Philippe Coutinho, but the Brazilian had spotted Emre Can’s movement behind. He drew in two markers with a dummy to open up space for the German midfielder, who burst forward centrally. His run attracted the attention of three defenders and Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane escaped to either side. Firmino delivered a superb ball towards the back post and Mane volleyed in. It was intelligent, visionary and executed marvelously.

Fifteen minutes later, Liverpool’s relentless pressing forced Ben Foster into a rushed kick that Mane gobbled up and passed to Coutinho. The 24-year-old cut inside to send Craig Dawson and McAuley back to the West Midlands with a feint before finding the inside of the near post.

Liverpool’s authority after the interval was only further cemented. As the Baggies chased long balls, Klopp’s charges countered at pace and should have really embarrassed their opponents. Foster pulled off an incredible save to thwart Dejan Lovren's header from a Coutinho free kick before Can saw a goal-bound shot blocked.

The Reds drove forward incessantly, with Firmino making many of his adversaries look daft with divine touches, while Adam Lallana was the charger for Liverpool’s attacking power.

Before and after McAuley’s effort, there was only ever one team in the encounter and if Klopp’s men want to continue their unbeaten spell in all competitions — stretching back to Aug. 23 — they must learn to be more ruthless and less charitable.

Make no mistake though, Liverpool has made it quite clear it's hard to beat and hard to better. It may still only be early days of the campaign, but there are countless reasons for optimism to warm the winter nights on the red half of Merseyside.