Liverpool 0 West Brom 2
Liverpool’s erratic season shows no sign of ending after West Brom completed a league double over Brendan Rodgers’ side on a night of bitter frustration at Anfield.
The Reds carved out a string of chances but lacked a cutting edge in front of goal, missed a penalty in front of the Kop before allowing the visitors to score twice.
Gareth McAuley and Romelu Lukaku scored in the closing stages to secure a win that had seemed unlikely as West Brom keeper Ben Foster produced a spectacular performance to stop the Reds from scoring.
The result ensured the visitors climbed above Liverpool in the Premier League table, Rodgers’ side now down to ninth after a third game without a win.
“We needed that,” Foster said. “We have been on a poor run, but the performances have been decent.
“If you had said at this stage of the season we would be above Liverpool, we would have taken that.”
Manager Steve Clarke believes the penalty save was the turning point and his side gained confidence from Foster’s save.
“The players realised at 0-0, and with Ben saving the penalty, that we could go on and win the game,” he said. “It gave us a bit of positive momentum again.”
West Brom were supposed to be a team in disarray. They arrived on Mereyside without a win in 2013 and with striker Peter Odemwingie sat in the stand, the 31-year-old still paying the price for trying to engineer a move to Queens Park Rangers.
In addition they were without the suspended Goran Popov, who was sent off in last week’s defeat to Tottenham for spitting.
Yet in balmy conditions compared to the sub-zero temperatures awaiting them in Russia for Thursday’s Europa League tie with Zenit St Petersburg, the Reds failed to lift a subdued Anfield crowd during a first half littered with mis-placed passes and lacking in free-flowing action.
Liverpool did find the net when Foster parried Glen Johnson’s powerful shot into the path of Jonjo Shelvey who fired home from close range in the ninth minute only for an offside flag to curtail the celebrations. It was that kind of night.
Clarke, who served as Kenny Dalglish’s assistant at Anfield, had used his pre-match press conference to state that the signings drafted in during their Anfield reign were now starting to flourish.
As if to back up Clarke’s statement, Stewart Downing stung Foster’s hands with a powerful drive moments after delivering a corner which saw Daniel Agger force a finger-tip save from the Dane’s header.
Yet chances were few and far between as Albion’s defence stopped the Reds from scoring for the second time in the league this season.
Liverpool did come close to taking a 42nd-minute lead but that was down to Steven Reid’s botched clearance which only just cleared the Baggies’ bar.
The second half brought about an urgency in Liverpool’s play yet they could find no way past the impressive Foster.
Gerrard and Jordan Henderson forced terrific stops from the keeper before Luis Suarez went down under Jonas Olsson’s challenge, referee Jon Moss immediately pointing to the stop. Foster, as he had been all night, was equal to the challenge as he pushed away Gerrard’s 77th-minute spot kick before Philippe Coutinho was introduced.
Yet Liverpool’s new signing must have wondered what he had let himself in for. West Brom, having soaked up wave after wave of Reds pressure, secured the points with two goals in the last nine minutes.
In what was only their second attempt of the game, McAuley got the better of Agger to head home Chris Brunt’s corner from six yards. Then, chasing an equaliser, the home defence was left horribly exposed after James Morrison released Lukaku, the on-loan Chelsea striker finding the corner of the net.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers refused to be too downbeat after the defeat and praised his side’s showing.
“The players gave everything,” he said. “It was one of them games we couldn’t get the breakthrough.”
LIVERPOOL (4-5-1): Reina 6; Johnson 5, Carragher 5, Agger 4, Enrique 5; Downing 6 (Coutinho 78, 5), Gerrard 6, Lucas 5, Henderson 6 (Sterling 60, 4), Shelvey 4 (Borini 60, 5); Suarez 6.
WEST BROM (4-2-3-1): Foster 9; Reid 7, McAuley 8, Olsson 7, Ridgewell 7; Mulumbu 7, Yacob 7; Dorrans 7 (Lukaku 74, 7), Morrison 7, Brunt 7; Long 7 (Fortune 86, 5).
Referee: J Moss 6.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved