Liverpool left to rue Gerrard miss as West Brom rally
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard shows his disappointment after his penalty miss against West Brom at Anfield last night. photograph: phil noble/reuters
Liverpool 0 West Brom 2:This was life before Daniel Sturridge, revisited for Liverpool. They dominated at Anfield, lacked a cutting edge, encountered an opposition goalkeeper in commanding form, and fell to the inevitable late punch as West Bromwich Albion inflicted a second league defeat of the season on Brendan Rodgers.
Late goals from Gareth McAuley and the substitute Romelu Lukaku gave former Liverpool assistant manager Steve Clarke a victorious return to Anfield and Albion their first win of 2013 to leave Rodgers stunned.
Liverpool looked set to rue a penalty miss from Steven Gerrard, thwarted by the excellent Ben Foster, but take a point when McAuley rose unmarked to head home Chris Brunt’s corner with nine minutes remaining. In injury time Lukaku burst into the penalty area as Albion counter-attacked and finished low under Jose Reina.
Albion inflicted a sobering 3-0 defeat on Rodgers on his Premier League debut as Liverpool manager, but their respective fortunes have veered in opposite directions since the turn of the year. While Liverpool entered the match having won their three previous home ties – keeping a clean sheet in each and scoring 12 – the visitors had not tasted victory since St Stephen’s Day.
Clarke’s team made the more composed start, with available personnel having a major influence on the performances of the two sides. Injury and international duty had deprived Albion of Youssouf Mulumbu since January 1st, and his return alongside the fit-again Claudio Yacob brought much-needed resolve to their central midfield. Despite being allowed back into the fold since going for a drive around west London on transfer deadline day, Peter Odemwingie was not in the match-day squad as Shane Long led the line with Romelu Lukaku on the bench.
It was the absence of a Liverpool striker that had the greater bearing on the first half performance. Sturridge was out with the thigh injury he suffered at City, which had also forced him to miss England’s win over Brazil last week, and the Liverpool display was reminiscent of many that preceded his arrival from Chelsea. Rodgers’ team gradually took control and dominated possession without seriously testing Ben Foster in the Albion goal.
Sturridge’s replacement, Jonjo Shelvey, did have the ball in the net inside 10 minutes but was correctly adjudged offside. Steven Gerrard went close from distance, Stewart Downing hit the side-netting via a deflection off Chris Brunt, and Mulumbu scrambled clear when Luis Suarez flicked a low cross goalwards, but Albion appeared content to keep Liverpool at arm’s length. Their biggest scare arrived moments before the interval when Steven Reid made a hash of clearing Shelvey’s cross and sliced the ball inches over his crossbar.
Agger, who had headed over from a Downing corner, also had a good chance when picked out by the England midfielder, but just failed to connect when unmarked in front of goal.
Until their late rally the visitors rarely troubled a Liverpool defence containing Jamie Carragher for the first time since the announcement he will be retiring at the end of the season.
Albion spent most of the second half absorbing a Liverpool team that showed greater intent but, with Suarez given little space by Gareth McAuley or Jonas Olsson and Shelvey struggling, the end product remained absent.
On the hour Rodgers replaced Shelvey, rightly, and Henderson, surprisingly, in an attempt to stretch the defence through the energy of Raheem Sterling and Fabio Borini. The Italian forced Foster into another good save with a dipping shot from 20 yards but, as the Liverpool threat grew, so did the performance level of Foster. Twice he denied Gerrard with one-handed saves to leave the Liverpool captain, and Rodgers, shaking their heads in disbelief.