Will the squandering of two points and two late goals come back to haunt Liverpool big time or merely prove an irritant in the successful pursuit of a top four finish? Either way, it was careless in the extreme from the Reds that they failed to close out what looked a routine win at West Brom on Saturday, irrespective of the far bigger match against Roma to come or the inexplicable refereeing decisions that went against them. The afternoon got off to the perfect start when Danny Ings swept home his first goal in two and a half years, delight etched on his face. The ex-Burnley man was then denied what looked the clearest of penalties early in the second half, but Stuart Atwell somehow believed no foul had been committed. It didn’t look like being a game-changing oversight from the referee once Mohamed Salah doubled Liverpool’s lead with his 41st goal of the season, but then came the latest two-part episode of the Reds’ set piece defending blooper reel, with West Brom profiting from this avenue just as they did at Anfield in the FA Cup three months ago. While the officials have plenty to answer for on a poor day for them, Liverpool cannot be absolved of their latest game management aberration.
Their next Premier League assignment is against a Stoke side who are increasingly in danger of having none of those on their schedule next season after letting a lead slip to end up with a draw for the second game in a row. When Badou Ndiaye’s deflected shot from outside the area ended up in the Burnley net in the 11th minute, the Potters looked like they could haul themselves much closer to top flight survival. However, just as they did against West Ham last week, Paul Lambert’s men relinquished a winning position, with Ashley Barnes squeezing home a scrappy goal midway through the second half to draw the Clarets level. Had Stoke held on to win their last two games, they would now be level with 17th-placed Swansea on 33 points. Instead, they lie four points from safety, which is a lot when they only have three games in which to earn that tally.
Fresh from being crowned champions last week, Manchester City were in full Harlem Globetrotters mode on Sunday when they treated their joyous fans to five goals against relegation-threatened Swansea. David Silva and Raheem Sterling had the champions two to the good inside 16 minutes and a thunderbolt from Kevin de Bruyne early in the second half ended any meagre hopes of a Swans comeback. Bernardo Silva added City’s fourth when reacting quickest to Gabriel Jesus’ penalty miss and the young Brazilian managed to find the net late on to wrap up a marvellous day for Pep Guardiola’s side. Incredibly, in this remarkably successful season for City, this was their first win at the Etihad in seven weeks after three successive home defeats.
Arsenal warmed up for Thursday’s Europa League semi-final against Atletico Madrid with a 4-1 victory over West Ham that was nowhere near as cosy as the final score would suggest. The Hammers had the best chances of a dull first half but fell behind to a Nacho Monreal volley on 51 minutes. Marko Arnautovic equalised for the visitors midway through the second half and it remained level going into the final 10 minutes. Once Aaron Ramsey’s intended cross went the whole way into West Ham’s net, though, the floodgates suddenly opened, with Alexandre Lacazette adding two more goals to give the departing Arsene Wenger an enjoyable victory in his penultimate home match as Arsenal manager.
Crystal Palace edged closer to a sixth successive season in the Premier League after a goalless draw at Watford in the only Saturday 3pm kick-off of the weekend. Chances were at a premium on a sunny afternoon at Vicarage Road, with the home side going closest early on when Stefano Okaka’s header came back off the crossbar. Palace were the better side after half-time and should have had a penalty when Wilfried Zaha appeared to have been fouled in the box. It was a game that few will care to remember, but both will be pleased to have another point on the board.
Despite Saturday’s switch-off at The Hawthorns, Liverpool are still in firm control of a place in the top four and if they can beat Stoke at Anfield next weekend, a draw at Stamford Bridge the following week would finish the job. However, that they will most likely still need a result at Chelsea is quite an irritant when they know they could so easily have eliminated any doubt this Saturday had they not blown it against a team set for relegation.