The match report which follows could easily be mistaken for a broken record, but please read on.
After several bright starts at Anfield recently, Liverpool failed to acquire an early rhythm; as a result, the opening half was a rather scrappy affair.
The first noteworthy incident came when Glen Johnson’s 9th minute shot was saved by Ben Foster and the ball fell straight to Jonjo Shelvey to tap home. Unfortunately, the linesman ruled offside.
West Brom’s organisation coupled with Liverpool’s profligacy with the final ball resulted in few goalmouth incidents during the first half, but the home side still created a few decent chances to secure a lead.
On 23 minutes, Stewart Downing’s wicked in-swinging corner was met by a powerful Daniel Agger header, but Foster reacted well and tipped acrobatically over the bar.
Two minutes later, Downing himself let fly with a thunderous thirty-yard strike, again saved well by Foster.
Their final chance of the half fell on 40 minutes when Jonjo Shelvey’s low cross into the box looked destined for a simple clearance, however, Steven Reid miscued and the ball floated agonisingly over the crossbar.
Liverpool continued to press for a precious opener in the early stages of the second half. On 51 minutes, Glen Johnson’s pull back was met by a Jordan Henderson back-flick, but Foster was there again to produce a brilliant low save.
Just after the hour mark, substitute Fabio Borini forced another superb stop. The ball fell to the Italian just inside the box and his left-footed half volley looked destined for the corner, but Foster had other ideas.
Foster has already been mentioned numerous times, and he began to reach the peak of his powers on 70 minutes.
Raheem Sterling pulled back for Steven Gerrard to aim a first time shot towards Foster’s right; the Baggies keeper was actually moving to his left, but managed to adjust himself fantastically to parry towards Borini, who could only stab the rebound just wide.
It definitely felt like one of those games. However, on 75 minutes, Liverpool were awarded a penalty. Jonas Olsson was adjudged to have nudged Luis Suarez in the back, and as promised, the Kop had a bit of a party.
Ben Foster certainly wasn’t invited, but it didn’t stop him from providing the real show stopper of the contest and his smart low save kept out Steven Gerrard’s slightly mishit penalty.
Some would say that justice was done given the harshness of the award, but Liverpool fans would point to the club’s distinct lack of penalties this season.
Following the penalty miss, not only was there a feeling that Liverpool were not going to secure a victory, there was also a sense that they would actually concede.
Kopites have a sixth sense on these matters, especially given the amount of times this scenario has played out at Anfield in the last couple of years.
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Right on cue, West Brom took a ‘shock’ lead. A shock it may have been to the neutral, but not shocking to the Anfield faithful.
On 81 minutes, Chris Brunt swung in a left footed corner and Gareth McAuley was on hand to fire in a powerful header into the roof of the net.
Not even Philippe Coutinho’s introduction could change things and West Brom hammered the final nail in Liverpool’s Premier League coffin on 90 minutes. Played in by James Morrison, substitute Romelu Lukaku flicked the ball past Daniel Agger and fired home.
A bitter pill to swallow for Liverpool fans. The club in its recent history have an uncanny knack of raising hopes to a level that suggests meaningful progress is afoot – particularly in the aftermath of encouraging displays against the Premier League’s elite.
But every time green shoots of recovery become visible, a cruel twist of fate awaits the club’s next turn against the league’s not so glamorous competitors.
Liverpool were not firing on all cylinders during this game, but they still done comfortably enough to secure victory. Not for the first time in the last couple of seasons however, they were met by an inspired goalkeeping performance.
After a bright start to his career, where the England number one spot seemed an eventual formality, Foster’s career declined slightly. But he made a name for himself last night.
There is no question that Liverpool need to be more ruthless, and quickly. But it would be hard to pick holes in many areas of their performance and their work rate in particular was unquestionable.
One notable exception to the above was the performance of their attacking full-backs, Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique.
They play such an important tactical role in Rodgers’ blueprint, but Johnson had an off-night (we can excuse him that after such a brilliant campaign), and Jose Enrique was back at his clumsy best. Or is that worst? He incessantly gave the ball away, halting the momentum of numerous Liverpool attacks.
Unless there are Reds out there who yearn for Europa League qualification, this league season is all but over. It hurts to say that, but 12 points off a Gareth Bale-inspired Tottenham is almost certainly a bridge too far.
How ironic that Liverpool’s curtain call should arrive after a dominant home display and a world class goalkeeping performance.
L4L Man of the Match: Ben Foster. That’s a joke of course. Stewart Downing. Dynamic, creative and looked the most likely to produce a killer pass.
Follow me on Twitter: @antonyjlfc
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