Goals from Charlie Adam and Andy Carroll gave Liverpool a comfortable 2-0 win at the Hawthorns.
This time last year, West Brom manager Roy Hodgson was in the middle of a torrid six month spell as Liverpool manager. Twelve months on, he and his new employers were on somewhat of a mini-run having beaten Midlands rivals Wolves and Aston Villa in the past two games. But his former employers showed that they too are in better shape, dominating proceedings from start to finish.
Before the game, there was mixed news for Hodgson’s successor as Liverpool boss, Kenny Dalglish, as he named his starting eleven. Star striker Luis Suarez recovered from a knock he sustained in his virtuoso performance at Stoke City in midweek, but Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher were both ruled out with knocks. In their places, Jordan Henderson continued in midfield, with Daniel Agger moving to the centre of defence.
After two successive league draws, the Reds started quickly. Suarez failed to control a Jose Enrique through-ball when he would have been clear, then Adam fired over from the edge of the box. On nine minutes, their positive start paid dividends.
When Suarez chased after a loose ball, West Brom midfielder Jerome Thomas’ attempts to get in front of Suarez saw the Uruguayan fall to the floor. Immediately the referee’s assistant flagged for a foul, with referee Lee Mason having no option but to point to the spot. It was a harsh decision for the home side, but in a week where Dalglish has asked referee’s to protect his star striker more, the Reds’ boss will view the decision as a sense of justice.
After missing their previous two spot-kicks this term through Suarez and Dirk Kuyt, Adam was the man asked to give the Reds. The penalty appeals meant the former Blackpool midfielder had to wait before the kick, but it didn’t affect him as he coolly gave Liverpool the lead, sending Ben Foster the wrong way.
As has been the case in recent games, Liverpool bossed the rest of the first-half, with Adam and Lucas dictating the play from central midfield. The lead should have been doubled when a corner saw Carroll head down for Martin Skrtel to tee up Suarez, who shot over the bar.
With the home defence sitting deep, Liverpool switched play with ease, wasting further opportunities, before they eventually doubled their lead on the stroke of half-time. When Jonas Olsson gave the ball away straight from a West Brom free-kick, Suarez quickly played in strike partner Carroll, who despite a heavy first touch, managed to roll the ball under the advancing Ben Foster, for his third goal of the season.
Having not threatened stand-in Reds’ skipper Pepe Reina in the first 45 minutes, the hosts finally threatened two minutes after the break, when Cameroonian striker Solomon Tchoyi turned well on the edge of the box before hitting a right-foot shot past Reina’s post.
But, it proved to be a flash in the pan, as the visitors’ dominated the second half. The constant movement of Suarez ran the home defence ragged, providing an outlet for Lucas, Adam and Henderson, whilst the Uruguayan also linked up well with Carroll in a partnership which is finally starting to show promise. The pair combined when Carroll teed up Suarez whose goalbound effort was brilliantly blocked by Olsson, then Suarez returned the favour with Carroll’s rasping left-foot striker well saved by Foster.
Jose Enrique was next to force Foster into a fine tip over the bar, before Stewart Downing struck the Baggies’ post as the game edged into injury time.
Liverpool now climb to fifth in the table and extend their unbeaten run to seven. Following Hodgson’s disastrous tenure at Anfield, they now look a totally different proposition under Dalglish. Oozing confidence and creating numerous chances, Dalglish will hope that the reds can now take the next step by converting their dominance into a run of victories.