He may have played down the personal meaning of the victory, but Roy Hodgson was highly delighted with a first ever Premier League victory for West Bromwich Albion over Liverpool, the club who dismissed him at the start of 2011.
The Baggies started the day just a point outside the drop-zone and with games running out, seemed hungrier for the spoils on offer than a Liverpool side going through the motions as a season of huge disappointment draws to a close. With European football beyond their grasp and the inevitability of Manchester United overhauling their record of league titles, the Reds looked for the majority of the game like a side just waiting for the chance to start again next season.
With James Morrison ruled out with a knee injury Simon Cox came into the West Brom side, lining up behind lone striker Peter Odemwinge in a five man midfield. With Chris Brunt and Jerome Thomas providing the attacking flair down the flanks, West Brom used two holding midfielders, Paul Scharner and Youssouf Mulumbu. Andy Carroll lined up for Liverpool in a front three alongside Dirk Kuyt and Luis Suarez, with Jay Spearing joining Lucas and Raul Meireles in the midfield.
Liverpool started brightly, but were forced into two defensive reshuffles due to injuries. Firstly Glenn Johnson pulled up with a hamstring strain and was replaced by Sotoris Kyrgiakos and then Daniel Agger was forced off bringing Danny Wilson into play.
With problems at the back, Liverpool, and in particular Carroll, were being frustrated up front. Receiving some rough treatment, the former Newcastle United striker’s temperament was sorely tested, and he received a yellow card for a late tackle on his chief tormenter Jonas Olsson. With Suarez providing his first really ineffective performance in a Liverpool shirt, Kenny Dalglish’s side struggled to make an impact.
However Liverpool took the lead at the start of the second-half, West Brom’s frailties at defending set-pieces exposed by a thundering header from Martin Skrtel. The Slovakian defender was left unchallenged by his marker, Scharner, to meet a Meireles corner.
In nine previous Premier League encounters, The Baggies had not even registered a goal against Liverpool. However as the game progressed, West Brom looked more and more likely to break that hoodoo, with Cox and Brunt both testing Pepe Reina in the Red’s goal.
The match would turn on one key personal battle with Baggies striker Odemwinge giving Kyrgiakos a torrid afternoon. First he turned the Greek centre back on the edge of the box, forcing him to lunge in for a tackle and bring down the Nigerian for a clear cut penalty. Brunt stepped up to smash home the spot-kick for the equaliser.
Then with the clock ticking down, Odemwinge produced a sublime piece of control to collect a huge punt from defence, putting Kyrgiakos on his back side, and as he rounded Reina, the Liverpool goalkeeper raised his leg to pull the Baggies striker down for another penalty.
Brunt again stepped up to unerringly drive the ball into the bottom corner, and despite a couple of scares in stoppage time, the Baggies hung on for a historic victory and a priceless three points.