Distracted Liverpool take a point against West Brom
Liverpool clearly had their minds on Wednesday's Europa League final but West Brom were still unable to end their Barclays Premier League campaign with a win as they drew 1-1 at The Hawthorns.
Jurgen Klopp perhaps gave an indication of what his starting line-up will be in Basle against Sevilla by making 11 changes, with star performers such as Dejan Lovren, Adam Lallana, James Milner, Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge not even on the bench.
A disjointed Liverpool team made a lacklustre start in the west Midlands and fell behind after 13 minutes. Joe Allen, perhaps the only man on duty on Sunday with any hopes of being involved in the forthcoming European showpiece, did his slim chances little good by giving the ball away midway inside his own half to Jonathan Leko.
The teenager weaved his way between three Liverpool defenders before slipping a pass down the right-hand side of the penalty area to Salomon Rondon who beat goalkeeper Adam Bogdan at his near post with a low shot.
For 17-year-old Leko, making only his third start for West Brom, a first Premier League assist represented the perfect moment, which incidentally was the name of Martine McCutcheon's song that was number one in the charts on the day he was born in April 1999.
It was a great individual run by Leko but an an even better solo effort from Jordon Ibe brought Liverpool level midway through the first half.
Ibe dummied the ball on the halfway line and embarked on a run down the right-hand touchline. In the absence of any meaningful challenge, he drifted infield, inside the penalty area and sent a left-foot shot into the far corner of the net.
The two goals were the only noteworthy attempts of a largely forgettable first half which had a typical end-of-season feel to it. Baggies goalkeeper Ben Foster made a straightforward save from a tame Sheyi Ojo shot while Allen and Kevin Stewart were way off target with long-range efforts.
The second half offered marginally more in the way of goalmouth action, mainly at the Liverpool end and primarily involving Rondon.
The Venezuela international striker almost restored West Brom's lead immediately after the break. His glancing header from Craig Gardner's free-kick struck the inside of a post and he put the rebound over the crossbar from a tight angle.
Either side of the hour mark Rondon then glanced another header wide, this time from a driven Craig Dawson cross, and then saw a shot, after initially mis-controlling the ball, diverted wide by the fingertips of Bogdan.
In between came a couple of notable moments for Liverpool as Danny Ings made his long-awaited return from the cruciate knee ligament injury he suffered in Klopp's first training session in October.
Jordan Henderson was also introduced from the bench, returning from the knee ligament problem he sustained last month, and possibly putting himself in the frame for inclusion in Basle on Wednesday evening.
West Brom applied some pressure late in the game but never really looked like making the breakthrough that would have ended their eight-game winless run and brought the three points which would have seen them surpass last season's points tally of 44.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Great to see @IngsDanny back on the field! He injured his knee last October, days after his #ThreeLions debut." - England's national team Twitter feed (@England) send a fitting message to Liverpool striker Danny Ings after he returned to action today.
Ben Foster: 6 (out of 10)
Craig Dawson: 6
Jonas Olsson: 6
Gareth McAuley: 6
Jonny Evans: 6
James McClean: 6
Claudio Yacob: 6
Darren Fletcher: 6
Craig Gardner: 6
Jonathan Leko: 7
Salomon Rondon: 7
James Chester: 6
Tyler Roberts: 6
Sam Field: 6
Adam Bogdan: 6
Jon Flanagan: 6
Martin Skrtel: 6
Lucas Leiva: 6
Brad Smith: 6
Kevin Stewart: 6
Joe Allen: 7
Cameron Brannagan: 6
Sheyi Ojo: 7
Christian Benteke: 6
Jordon Ibe: 7
Jordan Henderson: 6
Danny Ings: 6
Sergi Canos: 6
Salomon Rondon. The striker netted his 10th goal of the season to give the Baggies the lead and, on another day, could have scored a hat-trick. Adam Bogdan denied him with a smart second-half save while the Venezuela forward also hit a post and fired wide. He gave Liverpool a headache and, after a debut season in England, will be a better player next year.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Jordon Ibe scored his first ever league goal for Liverpool as he left the Baggies defence for dead to level for the visitors. The winger's goal was out of keeping with a pedestrian half but lit up The Hawthorns and forced himself into contention ahead of Wednesday's Europa League final with Sevilla. He left Jonny Evans on his backside with a lovely dummy on halfway and raced towards goal and, when the Baggies failed to challenge him, neatly passed into the corner from 17 yards.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
The game was played at a testimonial pace with little riding on it for West Brom and Liverpool more concerned with their Europa League destiny. Referee Robert Madley could have ended the game at half-time and given the flat crowd at The Hawthorns the chance to go home early. Christian Benteke summed up the second half when he blew a golden chance to find an unmarked Jordan Henderson by running straight into Gareth McAuley.
VIEW FROM THE DUGOUT
Jurgen Klopp made 11 changes to his side with Wednesday's Europa League final against Sevilla taking priority. Jordon Ibe made his case and the boss would have been pleased to avoid any injuries as they chase a route into the Champions League. West Brom missed out on beating last season's points total, which will disappoint boss Tony Pulis, but he is expected to be at the Baggies next term.