-Adam (pen) 8, Carroll 45+1
Liverpool coasted to victory at the Hawthorns as they overcame a lacklustre West Bromwich Albion side, putting the match to bed with an impressive first-half display.
Roy Hodgson had overseen West Brom’s first victory over Liverpool in over 25 years last season, a small piece of revenge after his ill-fated spell in charge of the Anfield club, but whatever his master plan was on Saturday evening, it patently did not work.
The sides lined up in like for like 4-4-2 formations. The hosts retained Billy Jones at left-back, the former Crewe and Preston man keeping out the ex-England international Nicky Shorey. Chris Brunt was deployed on the left hand side of the four-man midfield, with Paul Scharner and Youssuf Mulumbu occupying the central area. With Shane Long out following the injury suffered at Villa Park last week, Somen Tchoyi was given the nod to partner Peter Odemwinge up front.
Liverpool were missing stalwarts Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard, with Daniel Agger stepping into the breach in central defence. Kenny Dalglish opted for Lucas and Charlie Adam in central midfield, with Jordan Henderson and Stuart Downing on the flanks. Up front, the Liverpool boss retained Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll from the midweek Carling Cup win over Stoke.
West Brom were placed on the back foot almost immediately when Liverpool were awarded an early penalty. Despite having a great view of Jerome Thomas’ tackle on Suarez on the right hand side of the Baggies penalty area, the referee left the decision to give the penalty to his assistant, which earned the wrath of the Hawthorns crowd. Despite some gamesmanship delaying the spot kick, Charlie Adam maintained his cool to slot home, sending Ben Foster the wrong way.
West Brom, rather than stepping up the pace, seemed to wilt, handing the iniative totally to the visitors. They sat off Liverpool’s rather lightweight midfield allowing the Reds to pass the ball at will. At no time did they put any pressure on Adam, allowing him to dictate the game. Liverpool on the other hand pressed all over the field, making progress difficult for the Baggies, every pass played and received under pressure.
One of the reasons Hodgson may have told his team to drop off was a fear of being picked off by Adam’s range of passing. The former Blackpool man looked to exploit the pace of Downing and Suarez by dropping the ball beyond the West Brom defence, forcing them to drop off into deep areas, allowing Liverpool more room in central areas.
The inevitable second came in first-half stoppage time, with one touch passes from Adam and Suarez setting Carroll free, the big man keeping his cool to slot under Foster, doubling Liverpool’s lead and making the second-half academic.
Hodgson did not seem to have much faith with what was available to him on his bench to change things around, the introduction of Morrison and Dorrans around the hour mark changing nothing. In fact it was Carroll who came closest to scoring in the second period, denied by a fine save by Foster, as the game petered out into the inevitable Liverpool win.
West Brom (4-4-2): Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Jones; Brunt, Scharner (Morrison 58), Mulumbu (Dorrans 63), Thomas; Tchoyi (Cox 71), Odemwinge
Liverpool (4-4-2): Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Luis Enrique; Henderson, Lucas, Adam, Downing; Carroll, Suarez (Bellamy 82)
Did you know…West Brom have not scored a goal in open play against Liverpool since Craig Madden netted in 1986.