Jake Livermore’s late winner keeps alive West Brom hopes of staying up
A sensational last-gasp escape from relegation remains possible for West Brom thanks to Jake Livermore’s stoppage time winner. If other results go in their favour – they need Swansea and Southampton to draw on Tuesday for a start – then victory at Crystal Palace next Sunday could secure their survival.
That outcome seemed utterly implausible when Darren Moore stepped into the vacancy left by the dismissal of Alan Pardew last month but Moore has transformed the team’s fortunes, inspiring a run of three wins and two draws from his five matches at the helm. No wonder the crowd clamoured here for him to be appointed on a permanent basis.
As the clock ticked past 90 minutes West Brom were on course to prolong Moore’s unbeaten record but his team knew anything less than a win would lead to demotion on the spot. So there was an explosion of joy all around the Hawthorns when Livermore forced the ball over Spurs’ line from close range following an almighty scramble after a corner by Matt Phillips.
All around the ground except in the visiting dugout, that is, as Mauricio Pochettino was left to lament the “lack of ambition” shown by his team throughout a match from which they seemed to expect a comfortable win. No such criticism could be directed at Moore’s side.
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 inevitable as the hosts’ relegation was supposed to be. They set up camp in West Brom’s half and waited for an opening to present itself, hogged possession but were ponderous. Unable to create early on, Tottenham seemed in need of unwitting assistance from their opponents. But, unlike during most of the campaign, West Brom did not oblige. They defended steadfastly.
Not until the 24th minute did Spurs 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. Danny Rose tried something similar one minute later but sent the ball into the stands.
Kieran Trippier produced the first really incisive pass of the game, sliding in Harry Kane on the half-hour. Foster rushed off his line and diverted the striker’s shot from eight yards behind for a corner. From the set piece Spurs worked the ball to Christian Eriksen, whose cross from the left found Kane. But the striker could not steer a header on target.
West Brom’s rope-a-dope strategy 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.
Spurs were nearly caught out within moments of the resumption after half-time, as Phillips glided down the right and crossed for Salomón Rondón but the striker missed his kick from close range.
West Brom grew bolder as the finale drew closer. “We knew we had to contain them early on and the pendulum started to swing around the 60th minute,” said Moore. “We just had the trust and belief that we would get a goal.”
As West Brom applied more pressure Kane became so spooked that he almost slicked a cross 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 not have wanted to claim.
The one West Brom craved came in stoppage time, Livermore stabbing the ball into the net from inches out after Lloris parried a close-range header by Craig Dawson. When the final whistle went, players who have been booed off many times this season were acclaimed by the Hawthorns crowd. Fans made it clear they want Moore to remain at the helm for next season no matter the league they play in.
“There’s been some pride restored,” said Moore. “The feelgood factor is back around the community and club. I feel from the support that there is a real good energy in the club again and that’s all anybody would really want.”