West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Liverpool: Reds miss out on Europa League qualification
By Richard Morgan
Last Updated: 16/05/16 7:29am
A much-changed Liverpool missed out on a place in next season's Europa League after being held 1-1 by West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns on Sunday afternoon.
Salomon Rondon gave the Baggies an early lead after being set up by youngster Jonathan Leko, only for the Reds to equalise through Jordan Ibe's brilliant solo goal.
However, the draw was not enough to see eighth-placed Liverpool qualify for Europe's second-tier competition, although they can still progress to the Champions League group stages if they beat Sevilla in Wednesday's Europa League final.
West Brom, meanwhile, ended the campaign in 14th - but will slip down a position if Bournemouth beat Manchester United in their rearranged final match - after failing to win any of their last nine Premier League games.
Not surprisingly, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp made 11 changes from the side that drew 1-1 with Chelsea at Anfield in midweek with Wednesday's Europa League final occupying the German's mind.
The visitors were also able to welcome back long-term absentees Danny Ings, who has been out with a knee ligament injury since mid-October, and captain Jordan Henderson, who has missed the last five weeks also with a knee problem.
However, Belgian striker Divock Origi had not recovered in time from an ankle injury to join that duo on the substitutes' bench and must now be a doubt to face Sevilla.
The Baggies, though, were more interested in finishing the season with a morale-boosting victory having suffered three straight home defeats.
And Tony Pulis, who kept the same team for a third match in a row, would have been pleased with how his players began the encounter, and none more so than young forward Leko.
The England U17 international created the opening goal after just 13 minutes with some neat footwork which saw him evade the close attentions of three Liverpool players, before sliding Rondon through on goal.
And the Venezuelan kept his cool to easily beat Adam Bogdan - making his first appearance in goal for the Reds since December's 3-0 loss at Watford - at his near post for his ninth Premier League goal of the campaign.
If that piece of skill was impressive, though, then that which brought about Liverpool's equaliser from Ibe 10 minutes later was even better.
The England U21 international turned Jonny Evans on the right-hand touchline, before embarking on a jinking solo run that started on the halfway line and ended with a well-placed side-footed finish past Ben Foster.
West Brom were unfortunate not to score a second goal thereafter, but a mixture of bad luck and poor finishing denied them a deserved winner after half-time, in particular Rondon.
The Venezuela international saw a clever cushioned header from Craig Gardner's free-kick strike the post two minutes into the second period, before he somehow missed the target from the rebound.
Rondon was even more unfortunate midway through the second period after Gardner's left-wing corner fell to his feet some six yards out.
But with the goal gaping, the 26-year-old saw his goalbound strike deflected behind by Martin Skrtel's outstretched foot.
Both sides rung the changes in the closing stages of the contest, with Klopp giving both Henderson and Ings a useful run-out in the final quarter of the match with Wednesday's season finale against Sevilla in mind.
Barcelona academy product Sergi Canos, 19, also made his debut for the Reds with nine minutes remaining, while Pulis handed youngsters Tyler Roberts and Sam Field some valuable game time towards the end.
West Bromwich Albion: Foster (6), Olsson (6), Evans (6), McAuley (6), Dawson (7), Yacob (7), Gardner, (8) McClean (6), Fletcher (6), Leko (8), Rondon (9)
Used subs: Chester (7), Field (6), Roberts (6)
Liverpool: Bogdan (5), Lucas (6), Skrtel (6), Flanagan (6), Smith (7), Allen (6), Brannagan (6), Stewart (6), Benteke (6), Ibe (8), Ojo (7)
Used subs: Henderson (6), Canos (6), Ings (6)
Man of the match: Salomon Rondon