West Bromwich Albion punished Liverpool for an inefficient
display at Anfield on Monday, soaking up 80 minutes of pressure
before scoring two late goals for a 2-0 victory and its first
Premier League win since December.
Steven Gerrard looked set to finally provide the breakthrough
for a dominant Liverpool when the hosts were awarded a penalty in
the 77th minute, but goalkeeper Ben Foster dove to his left to palm
his spot kick away – one of several key saves that kept the
visitors in the game.
Minutes later, West Brom made sure the miss was costly.
Gareth McAuley headed home a corner in the 81st to give the
vistors an unlikely lead from their first effort on target. As the
disbelieving hosts looked for an equalizer, Romelu Lukaku put the
game away on a counterattack in injury time.
It was the Baggies’ first league win since Dec. 26, and lifted
them above Liverpool into eighth place.
”It’s a terrific win for us. Since the turn of the year, things
haven’t gone our way,” said West Brom manager Steve Clarke, whose
team has struggled after a surprisingly strong start to the season.
”We’ve always been just one result from kick-starting our season
again. Hopefully that result came tonight and we can start chasing
the teams above us.”
With West Brom having beaten Liverpool 3-0 at home on the first
day of the season, the Baggies completed their first league double
against the Reds since 1966-67.
It didn’t look likely as Liverpool dominated proceedings for
much of the game, and it only seemed a matter of time before the
first goal would come.
But Foster saved efforts from Jordan Henderson, Daniel Agger,
Stewart Downing and Fabio Borini to keep the game scoreless, and
again came up big to stop Gerrard’s spot kick.
The situation that led to the penalty is likely to renew the
debate about Luis Suarez and his perceived penchant for diving, as
the Uruguay forward collided with defender Jonas Olsson in the area
and fell to the ground dramatically, then immediately rolled around
with his hand up in the air looking toward referee Jon Moss, who
pointed to the spot.
Clarke called the decision ”a little bit worse than harsh,”
but Foster made sure it didn’t matter.
”Their goalkeeper made some fantastic saves tonight, he’s kept
them in the game,” Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said. ”We
just couldn’t make the breakthrough. … But I can’t fault the
players. I thought they gave everything today. It was just one of
those games where we needed the first goal.”
Instead, that goal came at the other end as Chris Brunt swung
over a right-wing corner and McAuley got away from his marker in
the area to power home a header.
With Liverpool chasing an equalizer they left themselves exposed
to counterattacks, and Lukaku took full advantage by breaking into
the area and calmly slotting home the second goal.