If Brendan Rodgers was under any illusions as to the task facing him at Liverpool, then they were eradicated in 90 painful minutes here.
Antrim’s Rodgers is a man for whom the glass is always half full, but this was a setback which will have punctured even his confidence as the Reds slumped to their heaviest opening day defeat in the top flight since 1937.
Admittedly, everything that could have gone awry for Liverpool did. Had Luis Suarez converted a headed chance which looked a formality then it could have been an altogether different story.
It is, however, a tale that Kenny Dalglish knows all too well. There is a reason why the Anfield club finished eighth last season and results such as this are as eye-popping as they once were.
Ifs and buts will not be tolerated on Merseyside — as Dalglish will once again testify — and for all the rhetoric from the club’s hierarchy about the Champions League — not to mention the vast riches that come with it — not being the be all and end all, Rodgers will know otherwise.
“It never is good enough when you’re a club of this status and this size,” Rodgers said. “It was always going to be a difficult game here.
“I knew the task was a big challenge, but obviously when you lose a game like we did here it’s difficult to take. I’ve known along the way it’s a big challenge and that’s something we need to make right.”
A quick glance at the fixture list will make for painful reading. Their next four Premier League matches see them pitted with home games against Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United, as well as a taxing trip to Sunderland.
“I’m not really concerned about the games we have coming up — you have to play them all at some time,” Rodgers added.
Having threatened via Luis Suarez on a trio of occasions — the last a header from close range which looked easier to score — the Reds found themselves behind via an early goal of the season contender.
Martin Skrtel’s clearance sat up nicely for Zoltan Gera, on the edge of the area and making his first appearance since a cruciate knee ligament injury last November, and he demonstrated textbook technique to unleash an unstoppable half-volley into the top-left corner.
Worse followed in the 60th minute when Shane Long scampered clean through, yet a tug on his shirt from Daniel Agger, the last man, proved sufficient for him to tumble. Phil Dowd, the referee, pointed to the penalty spot and brandished the red card.
Long dusted himself down but his offering from 12 yards lacked conviction and was comfortably saved.
Long’s effort got what it deserved but it was the only thing that went wrong for the Baggies all day.
Within three minutes they had a second penalty — Long atoning for his miss with typical industry as he harried Martin Skrtel in possession and was clumsily caught.
This time, Peter Odemwingie stepped up and lashed a shot inside the left corner.
Despite his penalty miss, Long was soon replaced to a standing ovation by The Hawthorns crowd with Lukaku brought on for his debut and the on-loan Chelsea striker added gloss with a back-post header on his debut.
Baggies boss Steve Clarke, assistant to Dalglish at Anfield last season, could have been forgiven for viewing this as revenge for his sacking this summer.
In truth, nothing will have given him more satisfaction than the result. With this, his first managerial post, the Baggies have been tipped for relegation by some pundits despite finishing 10th last season.
A similar position looks achievable, while the Scot insisted he had “no axe to grind” and even had words of support for his opposite number.
“If we’d lost this game I wouldn’t be castigating my players and saying it’s going to be a long season ahead for us,” he added. “There are another 37 games to go. You know the talent that Liverpool have got. I stand by that. They will challenge for a top four place.”
Whether Rodgers will be quite so sure, right now, is an entirely different matter.
WEST BROM (4-2-3-1): Foster 8; Reid 7, McAuley 7, Olsson 7, Ridgewell 7; Yacob 9, Mulumbu 8; Morrison 8 (Brunt 81), Gera 8 (Fortuné 68), Odemwingie 7; Long 7 (Lukaku 68, 7).
Subs not used: Myhill, El Ghanassy, Jara, Dawson.
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Reina 6; Kelly 5, Skrtel 4, Agger 4, Johnson 5; Lucas 5 (Cole 68, 4; Carroll, 79) Allen 7, Gerrard 5; Downing 5 (Carragher 60, 4), Borini 5, Suarez 6.
Subs not used: Jones, Adam, Henderson, Shelvey.
Referee: Phil Dowd.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved