Sunday, 17 May 2009

West Bromwich Albion 0 Liverpool 2

Here’s another great match report from The Main (Stand) Man. Alas he will not be reporting the Spurs game next week because he will be enjoying a much earned holiday!

Premiership Match report

So, in the aftermath of the result that everyone at Sky Sports had been hoping for, Liverpool travelled to the Hawthorns to face a team desperate to get at least a point to keep themselves in the hunt for survival. Rafa’s non-committal response when asked prior to the match whether he thought Manchester United had been the better team throughout the season was accompanied by a wry smile which could be roughly translated as “they haven’t won it, we’ve lost it”.

Choosing a strong side, although still without Alonso, Riera and Skrtel in the starting line-up, the intention was clear from the outset. Starts for Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva and Emiliano Insua were accompanied by the news that Torres and Gerrard would continue their strong recent partnership.

The atmosphere within the ground reflected the importance of the result to both sides, with Liverpool looking for their highest Premier League tally since the competitions inception.

West Brom came out of the traps fast, forcing corners in the first five minutes. From the first of these, a flick on at the near post found its way to an unmarked Greening at the back. His first effort was superbly saved by Reina on the goal-line, and the Liverpool keeper rose quickly to again block Greening’s second effort. The pressure continued with a series of crosses in the first ten minutes that caused Reina and the Liverpool back line some concern.

Liverpool soon began to exert some influence over proceedings however, using the full width of the pitch without really penetrating. West Brom continued to be dangerous, however, playing the style of fluent football that has at least won them some friends amongst the neutrals this season. All of this, though, brought about no real opportunities for either side until the 23rd minute, when Kuyt was fouled by Greening high up the right flank. Gerrard’s curled cross wasn’t cleared by the Baggies defence and could have gone anywhere, but when the ball broke for Torres beyond the far post, the angle was too tight for any kind of decisive attempt on goal. Greening was then booked for a two-footed lunge on Lucas, which in all honesty could quite easily have resulted in red had the West Bromwich man not got anything on the ball.

In the 28th minute, however, the reds were able to force a breakthrough, and it was our newly crowned Football Writer’s Player of the Year who harried a mistake out of Martis in the West Bromwich defence. Stealing the ball from the off-balance defender, Gerrard ran clear on goal and had the presence of mind to lift the ball delicately over the oncoming Dean Kiely.

Again, though, the following ten minutes followed the game’s overall pattern, with both looking to create without really penetrating. The best effort came with 4 minutes left before the break, Torres rose well to flick on from Insua’s cross, forcing Kiely into a one-handed push over the bar. When Torres was cynically blocked by Olsson moments later, the defender was given a yellow card. From the resulting free-kick, Gerrard nudged the ball to Agger whose shot was well saved by Kiely, and Benayoun was given offside as he attempted to reach the rebound.

The half time whistle resounded with West Bromwich fans unhappy with some of the refereeing decision which they perceived to have gone against them unfairly. The officials had, however, been correct in most of their decisions, and in fact Liverpool could have been awarded a penalty when Olsson barged Steven Gerrard off the ball in the area.

The second half began much as the first had, with both sides looking to go forward but the defences coming out on top. With just a few minutes gone, though, Liverpool were forced into a change when Mascherano was injured when stretching to take the ball off Menzegues, but with a ready made replacement in Alonso on the bench, Liverpool’s system was unaffected by the change.

With Torres beginning to look more dangerous as the West Bromwich defence began to afford him more and more time on the ball, it began to look as though Liverpool would get the second to put another nail in the relegation coffin for the home side. Tony Mowbray’s team, though, did continue to try and force an equalizer but without an end product, an issue symptomatic of their return to the top flight this season. Having carved open the Liverpool defence on the hour mark, Menzegues slid the ball into the path of Fortune only for Lucas, who had played them onside, to get across with a last ditch tackle to put the striker off.

Just three minutes later and the game was effectively killed off, along with the Albion supporters hopes off having something to play for on the last day of the season. An incisive ball from Gerrard found Kuyt in yards of space in the middle of the opposition half. Choosing not to feed the ball to Fernando Torres, Kuyt instead took the ball forward himself and drilled an unstoppable shot low to Kiely’s left.

Lucas Leiva could have extended the lead further just a minute later, when he went round two challenges but could only stab the ball just wide of the post. Mowbray’s response was to bring Luke Moore on to provide new attacking options, and Ryan Babel replaced an unhappy looking Torres at the same time. Yossi Benayoun was then substituted, with David Ngog coming on to try and convince Rafa Benitez further of his potential.

The Baggies continued to advance in search of a lifeline, and following some untidy defending by Liverpool, Moore was able to bring the ball down in the box and his shot on the turn rebounded off the foot of the post. Shortly after, Fortune missed an open goal with a header from three yards and then found space at the back post from another cross. Carragher and Arbeloa managed to snuff out the danger but the pair responded with a heated exchange of words which their Liverpool team-mates had to defuse. Again the home side came forward, and a deflection from Koren’s shot fell kindly to Fortune behind the Liverpool line. His first time shot rifled into the back of the net, only for the forward to turn and see the linesman’s flag ruling out his effort.

Liverpool’s next attempt came following a neat step-over by Alonso from Dirk Kuyt’s centre. The ball fell to Babel at the far post, and the Dutchman really should have done better but fired his effort wide of the post with only the keeper to beat. Kiely then had to beat away a Kuyt effort as West Brom began to abandon their defensive responsibilities given their situation. A succession of corners failed to produce a lifeline, though, and Liverpool continued to look dangerous on the break.

As the clock ran down, the Albion fans chanted in support of both their team and their manager, despite the certainty of relegation now facing them. The full time whistle went to confirm their fate, and Liverpool moved past their previous highest points total with a game to spare. Hopefully they can complete the job against Spurs next week and confirm the second place finish.

Match time and date: KO 13:30. 17 May 2009

Goals: Gerrard 28, Kuyt 63.

Yellow cards: West Brom: Greening ,Olsson

Referee: M Atkinson

Attendance: 26138

West Bromwich Albion: Kiely, Zuiverloon, Martis (Borja Valero,56 ), Olsson,Donk, Brunt, Mulumbu (Moore, 68 ), Greening, Koren, Menseguez, Fortune. Subs not used: Carson, Filipe Teixeira, Meite, Simpson, Wood

Liverpool: Reina, Arbeloa, Agger, Carragher, Insua, Lucas, Mascherano, (Alonso,51 ),Kuyt, Gerrard, Benayoun (Ngog,73 ),Torres (Babel,68). Subs not used: Cavalieri, Dossena, Riera, Skrtel.

No comments:

Post a Comment