LONDON: A remarkable goal from goalkeeper Alisson Becker, in the fourth minute of stoppage time, kept alive Liverpool’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.
They still need to win at Burnley on Wednesday and home to Crystal Palace next Sunday but if they achieve their last remaining target then it will be the Brazil goalkeeper who will earn star status.
Becker’s header to a left-wing corner rescued a 2-1 victory over already-relegated West Brom and sparked ecstatic celebrations led by manager Jurgen Klopp, his staff and all the substitutes and reserves.
The goal was a wonderful prize for Alisson after a sad few months. His father had died in a drowning accident in February and Covid controls prevented the goalkeeper flying home for the funeral.
An emotional Alisson told Sky TV: ““I could not be more happy than I am now.
“I’m so emotional after these last months for everything that had happened with me and my family. I would have hoped for me my father to be here to see this but I’m sure he will be celebrating somewhere.
“Sometimes we are fighting for a result and things do not happen like this afternoon so in scoring this goal I am really happy because we have a strong goal to reach the Champions League because we have won it once and everything starts with qualification.”
Describing the goal he said: “I looked at the bench but nobody called me and then [goalkeeping coach] John Achterberg waved me forward. The cross was brilliant so I tried to put my head on the ball and I think it was one of the best goals I ever scored – the only goal I have scored.
“Sometimes in training we practise heading but just to have fun. You can’t explain those kind of things. I saw the ball coming and tried to be in a good position and nobody followed me so I was lucky and blessed.
“You can’t explain a lot of things in life so all I can say is that God put his hand on my head and I am really blessed.”
The early stages of the match had never hinted at such drama. Liverpool were dominant but pedestrian and struggled to create openings against hard-working West Brom.
Liverpool suffered an early setback when their weakened defence was caught wide open by Hal Robson-Kanu in the 15th minute. This was the first league goal the Wales striker had scored since November 2017.
Klopp’s men hit back in the 33rd minute. Firmino and Mane exchanged passes to set up Mo Salah for his 22nd goal of the Premier campaign. Moments later Liverpool could have been ahead but Firmino’s shot hit a post.
Sadio Mane was denied an equaliser by an offside flag early in the second half while VAR ruled out a second West Brom goal by Kyle Bartley. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Thiago Alcantara and Gini Wijnaldum all went close in the final minutes before Alisson raced forward to show his forwards how to do it.
Klopp said: “This was our season in a nutshell. You do a lot of good stuff, get hammered for the first mistake and have to work like crazy. Nobody got over the top, we had the best chances in last five or six minutes but we kept playing football and in the end we needed Ali to sort it.
“It was his decision, an unbelievable header. I never saw something like this. Insane. Good technique. You are in shock for a second. I turned around: ‘Did we score?’ Yes! It means a lot to us. We are still in the race. Wednesday will be the same fight.
“I know what it means to Ali. It’s touching. It’s only football but it means the world to us. Now, let’s keep going.”
Harry Kane led the way as Tottenham maintained their hopes of a Europa League place with a simple 2-0 home win over Wolves.
Midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg provided the assist for Kane just before the interval and scored Spurs’ second-half goal. England captain Kane also hit the posts twice. Man of the match was Dele Alli, recalled by interim manager Ryan Mason after being kept in the stands or on the substitutes’ bench by sacked Jose Mourinho.
** Leeds’ North Macedonia midfielder Ezgjan Alioski has been reported to the Football Association for a racist racist gesture to Dwight McNeil during their 4:0 win at Burnley.