West Brom's survival hopes still alive as Livermore stun Spurs with late win
BIRMINGHAM, England -- Three points from West Brom's last-gasp 1-0 win over Tottenham, which keeps their hopes of the great escape alive.
1. Baggies leave it late but still have hope
At the end of a month of spirited, fairy-tale resistance, West Brom's hopes of completing the greatest of great escapes remain alive after a last-gasp 1-0 victory over Tottenham at the Hawthorns.
For 90 minutes, the stadium waited for the goal to come, and when it did, it could not have been more fitting. Not only was it the most West Brom goal you are likely to see -- a goalmouth scramble turned home amid a flurry of limbs -- but it was also scored by Jake Livermore, a former Tottenham player.
West Brom needed to win both of their remaining games to have any chance of survival, and Darren Moore's game plan was obvious: contain Spurs and hope to nick a goal from a set-piece. It looked like the manager had been too cautious and too passive on such a big occasion, but in the end, it worked perfectly. He can now add Tottenham and Mauricio Pochettino to his list of big victories, which already includes Manchester United's Jose Mourinho and Newcastle United's Rafa Benitez.
The roar at the end of this game was deafening, and there were men in tears. The Baggies' faithful and the players believe the escape is on, and if other results go their way and they win at Palace on the final day, Moore's will be one of the great stories in Premier League history.
Results elsewhere had given both teams hope ahead of kick-off. For West Brom, Stoke's defeat to Crystal Palace, which ended their 10-year stay in the Premier League, ensured the greatest of great escapes remained possible. For Spurs, Man United's loss at Brighton on Friday opened the door to another second-place finish.
While the Baggies were unchanged from the win at Newcastle, Pochettino named Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld, both of whom have uncertain futures at Spurs, in his starting XI and switched to a back three for the first time since October. Buoyed by the result at Stoke, the sun-drenched Hawthorns was jumping, but for a side needing a win, West Brom were ultraconservative in the first half, defending with two banks of four and allowing Spurs all the possession.
They had Ben Foster to thank for keeping Spurs at bay as he denied Victor Wanyama and Harry Kane before half-time. It took until the 40th minute for Albion to have a meaningful chance, and predictably it came from a set-piece, with Jay Rodriguez forcing Alderweireld into a desperate clearing header. The hosts at least finished the half with a mini-spell of pressure, and Ahmed Hegazi headed wide from a corner.
When the accelerator was finally applied, it was Spurs rather than West Brom in the driving seat. The hosts withdrew even deeper as Spurs laid siege to their goal. Erik Lamela should have finished the move of the match, fluffing his lines after fine play from Jan Vertonghen, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. Eriksen then extended Foster with a free kick. Nerves crept into the Hawthorns as Albion were restricted to the odd moment, notably when Kane's mis-kick forced Lloris to spectacularly palm over his bar.
It looked like that was as good as it was going to get for West Brom, but in the first minute of stoppage time, Livermore bundled the ball over the line to keep the dream alive.
2. Kane's Golden Boot hopes fade
As Spurs limp towards Champions League qualification, which is once again in doubt after this defeat, the only strong narrative remaining in their season is whether Kane can overhaul Liverpool's Mohamed Salah to win a third consecutive Golden Boot.
Only Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry have ever achieved that feat, but on this evidence, Kane will not be joining them this year. It said plenty that after forcing Foster into a fine first-half save, Kane's only chance came at the wrong end as his skewed clearance was tipped over the bar by his own goalkeeper.
The striker remains four goals behind Salah with two games remaining, and he will point out that he scored seven times in the final two matches of last season to overhaul Romelu Lukaku. But that was a Kane who looked sharp and was looking forward to a summer off. This is a Kane who has one eye on the World Cup and hasn't looked like himself since suffering an ankle injury last month.
Given Spurs face Leicester and Newcastle, two teams who appear to have given up, next week, there is still some hope for Kane in his quest for history, but it may be better for Spurs and England if he was given a rest. He still does not look himself.
3. Alderweireld reminds Spurs of his class
Alderweireld was making only his second Premier League start since October, and the centre-half reminded Spurs of what they have been missing with a typically classy and assured performance. It was not that Alderweireld shone defensively -- Spurs were rarely tested, and when they were, Salomon Rondon attached himself to Davinson Sanchez -- but he uses the ball as well as any defender in the country, and that is what Spurs will miss most if he leaves the club as expected this summer.
Within the first few minutes, Alderweireld had spread two diagonal balls to Rose on the left flank, and his raking passes became a feature of the match as Spurs looked for a way through West Brom's stubborn banks of four. The Belgium international adds an extra dimension to Spurs' attacking that they simply do not have when Sanchez partners Vertonghen in a back two, and it will be a huge challenge to replace him in the summer.
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.