Liverpool 0 - West Bromwich Albion 2
Albion got back to winning ways with a true "Smash and Grab" raid on Anfield. With the team pretty much back to its strongest early season lineup thanks to the return of the defensive midfield partnership of Claudio Yacon and Youssouf Mulumbu, they worked hard to keep their shape for most of the game at the expense of a worrying lack of shots on - or even off - target.
A combination of riding their luck and a Man of the Match performance from Ben Foster saw the scores level almost up to the 80 minute matk, when referee Jon Moss marked the end of a card-happy period by awarding the home side a penalty for the softest of contact between Jonas Olsson and Luis Suarez. Steven Gerrard stepped up to the spot, only to see his kick saved by Foster.
The save spurred Albion on, and Mulumbu recorded their first shot on target moments later; McAuley recorded their second when he headed home from the resulting corner.
On the stroke of full time, Romelu Lukaku made the points safe when he cooly fired past Pepe Reina after a good run by James Morrison. With neither physio being called into action and only five substitutions, quite where Moss found five minutes of extra time remains a mystery, but it passed without event as the only noise that could be heard was from the visiting supporters.
Albion leapfrog Liverpool into eighth place, just three points away from the magic forty.
97 minutes in.
Actually only 5 mins of time allowed for stoppages scheduled at the end of the second half but the clock nearly went to 96 and there was a minute's extra in the first - in case you are wondering about the 97.
Lovely co-incidence in that Agger, who missed two free headers for L'Pool, should lose McAuley for the Albion's first attempt on target from Brunt's well delivered corner.
To compound that, Agger was then "done like a kipper" by Lukaku who finished his second chance since coming on in some style, the first having not added to the "on target attempts" column, though not missing it by much, come to that, as he drove through the middle.
The penalty that Foster, easily MoM, saved was harsh, given the amount of contact but, if you go into the back of an opponent in the box and make contact, you're setting yourself up to be harshly treated, so no complaints because there was really no need to make any contact.
Liverpool have still not beaten a team in the top half yet, having gone two down, David Pleat was still talking about them as possibly in with a shout of a Champions-and-anyone-else League spot, although surprisingly, given that we had by then gone above them in the table, he was not talking about us. I think the reality is that neither side have much chance of the top four and that eighth or ninth in the best league in the world doesn't actually say all that much.
Not one for the purist but hope that we can build on the confidence of the win, as opposed to the manner of it - hold on, have the keeper save a penalty and score from a set piece with your first attempt on target.
Definitely smash and grab, but I'm not complaining! We are a diiferent team with Yacob and Mulumbu running midfield. Ben Foster was absolute class. After such a result it would be churlish to point to any negatives in the Albion team, so instead lets instead say Suaez - what a disgrace he is.
Steve Clarke had set the team up well and made sensible substitutions. Lets hope this is an end to the dark days of January and we can push on back up the table.
Eighty minutes in and no shots on the Liverpool goal. At the other end only brilliant goalkeeping and monumental efforts from McAuley, Olsson and others kept the 18 or so goal attempts out of our net. I topped up my wine glass and hunkered down for the last 15 agonizing minutes to see if we could desperately hang on for a point.
Cue a rare attacking foray by Mulumbu for our first shot of the game on target. The resulting corner produced a stunning header by McAuley, my joint MOM (with Foster), which ricocheted off the bar and into the net. Me - wild fist pumping and mad shrieks which startled the missus and spilled red wine all over the carpet, but who cares. Could we hang on for a one - nil win? Not bloody likely. Lukaku the super sub stepped up to make the last few minutes enjoyable for all (Baggies).
After the nightmare last couple of months, this was a very welcome return to the kind of defensive displays we had at the beginning of the season. The return of Mulumbu and Yacob and the return to form of Foster, McAuley and Olsson, not to mention the avoidance of any stupid late game lapses, all played a part. Also a positive word for SC who clearly prepared the team for a tough battle. This makes up for Reading, I would say.
This looked great from downunder! First match I've managed to see live since Boxing Day - thanks to the Coopers Arms in Newtown, Sydney, which opens at 7 am (shame no breakfast on offer, though).
Very gritty determined stuff in the face of a serious assault from Liverpool especially first 25 of second half leading up to the inevitable Suarez pen reward from the ref.
How good is Ben Foster? Best we've had in living memory, surely. Great to think there's no African nations next season- imagine Mulumbu and Jacob together for the whole season! Lukaku will of course be hard to replace but if we can keep Clarke and the rest of the squad, we could have a really terrific season next year. This one's already been memorable.
Philip Cole (RSABaggie):
If I'm honest I had a feeling that this would be the result, and so it didn't come as a 'shock' to me in the way the morning papers are proclaiming. The longer it went on the more likely we became to knick it with the following main reasons:
This was for me a very similar match to our win at Anfield last April - under the cosh for much of the match but looking increasingly likely to knick it as time went on. The only other point I'd like to make is that we really need to sort out our lack of width. Without Jerome Thomas and Peter Odemwingiewe have no strikers that can play wide well. This puts the fullbacks under pressure and Liverpool knew it. They were trying to get wide to get in crosses for much of the match and we won't have days like this all the time!
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