Liverpool 2 - West Bromwich Albion 1
Having denied Spurs top spot in the Premier League last week, Albion had the chance to do the same to Liverpool by ensuring they didn't win by two or more goals. With Jonny Evans suspended, Jonas Olsson earned a rare start at centre half in an otherwise unchanged team.
It took just 20 minutes for Liverpool to take the lead, a long diagonal cross going over the head of Allan Nyom and dalling for Sadio Mane to put away. Fifteen minutes later, Darren Fletcher gave the ball away just in front of the 18 yard area and Phillipe Coutinho took full advantage to double the lead.
After Claudio Yacob had talked himself into a first half booking, Tony Pulis removed him and brought on Chris Brunt instead, then later bringing on James Morrison for Matt Phillips and Hal Robson-Kanu for James McClean. The changes improved Albion a little and they pulled a goal back when Liverpool failed to clear a Brunt corner and the ball fell to Gareth McAuley to put away from 8 yards, but it was really only a blip in a dominant display by the home side.
Other results have pushed Albion down to 13th in the table while Liverpool rose to second place, just behind Arsenal on goal difference.
My first report for some time mainly due to the massive disappointment in our Summer Transfer Market dealings, or lack of them, which I still think we eventually come back to haunt us.
Despite this we have been doing pretty well so far for 2 main reasons:
However, this is starting to change. Today Evans was suspended.Next week Yacob. Mad McDirty soon to follow.
But today's second half also turned on a light which hopefully Pulis will spot.
Morrison and Brunt made us into a much more attacking and positive team. If TP can see that these stalwarts are now actually better options, and he has the guts to see that Fletcher is a spent force, then I think we can play much more threatening all the way to the next transfer window.
Not much to add to Mark Koppel's astute observations, except to reiterate his assertions that, one quarter of the way through the season, we have seen enough to know that Fletcher is a passenger and Brunt and Mozza are better options than Phillips and Nyom, even though Brunt is no left back. Anyway, what happened to Galloway? He wasn't awful.
Does Pulis have the courage to sit Fletcher?
Also will we discourage Leko and Field by giving them no playing time? I don't think I could go through another Berahino scenario.
As a showcase for goalkeeping talent and last ditch defending, you'll have to look long and hard to find a better club than Tony Pulis's Albion, and once again Ben Foster, albeit aided with a couple of flying blocks, that belied his years, from Olsson, was the major difference between abject capitualtion and attempts to claim that tactics that didn't see the Albion muster a shot, and that one not on target, until the 68th minute somehow give creedence to the notion that Albion might have deserved to nick a point instead of losing by the odd goal in three.
All the talk ahead of the game was about Albion's threat from set-pieces, and so it was no surprise to see our manager handle the suspension of centre-back Evans and return to fitness of left-fullbacks Galloway, and perhaps Brunt, by continuing with the right-footed height of Nyom at left-back, alongside the height of Olsson at the centre of his back six.
As we are being encouraged to accept of late, possession statistics mean little: it's all about what you do with the possession you have, though sadly for the apologists, attempts to point out that Liverpool only produced two shots on target in the first half from their 72% of the ball can be countered with the fact that both of those shots resulted in goals, whilst Albion's pass completion figure of 63% from a mere 28% of possession could be countered with fact that, according to the half time TV discussion anyway, it was our goalkeeper's 20 passes that represented the largest individual count by an Albion player. I think that's OK then?
Certainly Liverpool's movement, on and off the ball, for their first goal would have opened up far better sides than Pulis's pitiful Albion but the second was pure farce, first as Fletcher played a horrible ball back into his own penalty box only then to immediately turn away, no doubt in expectation of tracking yet another hoof upfield, but then having to defend his keeper's hacked, steepling clearance as it fell back to earth, more or less where Fletcher had been standing.
Sadly, for our ever-present skipper, the ball would only roll down his body and out to the right-hand side from where, once again, Liverpool would score, Coutinho's feint inducing two Albion players to head off in the direction of the corner flag as the striker turned inside, and then fired inside the near post before two more defenders could cover the shot.
Something clearly needed to change after half-time, although whether moving Chris Brunt through three different roles inside 20 minutes is a mark of tactical genius or mere flailing around in the hope that something might happen, is best left as a thought exercise for the reader, although for the record, Brunt got ten minutes attempting to be a better Yacob straight after the resumption, before getting another ten attempting to be a better Phillips whilst Morrison got the chance to imrove on both Yacob and Brunt, before Robson-Kanu came on to try and do a better job thah Phillips or Brunt, allowing Brunt to finally try and be a better McClean.
Whether by design or accident, this somewhat convoluted withdrawl of our two first-choice wide players would confuse Liverpool enough to allow Robson-Kanu to go to ground out on the right and so win the set-piece free-kick, taken by Brunt, that would lead to the set-piece corner from the left, also taken by Brunt, from which McAuley would emerge from a mass of players on the six-yard-line to find himself three-yards out with just Dawson to beat, and with the latter showing good awareness to get out of the way, the former would smash the ball home to prevent Liverpool from holding onto the two-goal margin that would have seen them top the table on goal-difference.
Albion, who ended their loss in this game by increasing their share of the possession at 33% drop to 13th place, level on points with Burnley, who beat Everton with 34% possession and West Ham, who beat Sunderland whilst having 36% of it, suggesting, that with 10 pts from 9 games now, we're not far away from where the manager wants us to be?
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