Liverpool's slim Champions League hopes suffered a huge blow as they were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw at West Brom.

The Reds are fifth in the Barclays Premier League but only moved six points behind Manchester City before the champions' home game with Aston Villa.

Jordon Ibe hit the bar for the visitors and Boaz Myhill saved from Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson.

But they were left to rue a pedestrian performance with little goal threat from Mario Balotelli, who was hauled off in the second half.

Simon Mignolet saved from Albion's James Morrison as West Brom edged towards safety but are still only seven points above the relegation zone.

Balotelli started his first top flight game since November while Ibe and Glen Johnson also returned as Steven Gerrard made his 500th Barclays Premier League appearance for Liverpool.

West Brom were unchanged for the visit of the Reds following their 2-0 win over Crystal Palace with the Baggies on the brink of safety.

And that was exactly how the hosts looked in an instantly forgettable first half where both sides' one-paced approach left The Hawthorns asleep.

Liverpool, still smarting from their 2-1 FA Cup semi final defeat to Aston Villa, were expected to improve after a weak display at Wembley.

Yet Brendan Rodgers' side offered little attacking threat aside from two brief flash points which barely troubled the hosts.

First, Gerrard's free kick whistled over on 27 minutes before Balotelli's instinctive volley arrowed over eight minutes later.

Without the injured Daniel Sturridge, the Italy international was Liverpool's focal point but again let Rodgers' side down with a lifeless performance.

The second half at least brought some excitement within 10 minutes of the restart when the Baggies survived a triple scare.

Johnson's cross found Balotelli and his blocked shot fell to Coutinho, with Myhill saving his effort and then Henderson's follow-up.

A minute later Craig Gardner guided Chris Brunt's cross into the sidenetting for Albion with the second half instantly more enthralling than the first.

But Liverpool almost grabbed the lead on 62 minutes when Ibe swapped passes with Balotelli and darted into the area, only for his 10-yard effort to deflect off the bar.

Suddenly, the game had opened up and the Baggies nearly went ahead when Mignolet saved Morrison's header after Martin Skrtel made a hash of Callum McManaman's cross.

Liverpool looked the more likely to break the deadlock but it never came and Myhill calmly saved Gerrard's snapshot with 13 minutes left.

Mignolet had to ensure a point with two minutes left when he saved McManaman's effort at the near post.

But Dejan Lovren could have won it in injury time when he headed Gerrard's cross wide from eight yards.

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