Arbeloa Carragher Agger Aurelio
Benayoun Gerrard Mascherano Riera
Keane 34’ 43’
Keane scored a brace, opening his Premier League account, Liverpool controlled proceedings for long stretches, Torres made his return, and Arbeloa added gloss with a spectacular finish in the third minute of added time. Three goals – all fairly sexy – and another clean sheet. That’ll do.
After a loss at Spurs and the draw with Atletico, it was imperative Liverpool got the right result today. While West Brom refreshingly looked to take the game to Liverpool at the start (thank you for coming to Anfield and not parking the bus in front of goal!), the home side quickly found their feet. Keane’s snap shot at Carson, after a nice throughball back in by Mascherano, set the tone for the rest of the half.
It took until the 34th minute to break the deadlock, but that was partly down to Peter Walton, who had a stinker of a game and denied a fairly clear penalty when Benayoun’s shot was partially blocked by Carson and Olsson’s hand prevented it from trickling through.
But in the space of nine minutes, Keane put the game to bed. First, he lifted Gerrard’s deliciously weighted ball over Carson and a defender with his left foot to break his league duck. In the 43rd, Liverpool broke from a West Brom corner, and Aurelio’s long ball was perfectly placed for Keane. The striker rounded Carson (who, for some reason, charged out of his area), and scored his second with his weaker foot. You could see how the first goal invigorated Keane, who threatened throughout with his pace and perception. Hopefully, that’ll open the floodgates. At this point in the game, players were queuing up to shoot, and it looked as if this could be like the past matches where Liverpool’s hammered the Baggies.
But the away side was more resilient in the second half, and Felipe Teixiera for Kim and Luke Moore for Bednar in the 56th minute helped as well. West Brom could have pulled one back in the 58th when both Carra and Agger left a long ball which fell to Ishmael Miller, only the striker was caught unaware and was unable to control in the pouring rain.
Babel came on for Riera in the 66th and Torres for Keane in the 72nd, but Liverpool still couldn’t punish the opposition as they did in the first half. Torres’ best chance came in the 79th, when he ran at two defenders and fiercely shot from the top of the box, only to shoot too close to Carson.
Another Albion sub, Chris Brunt, delivered a smashing free kick as soon as he came on in the 72nd, but just missed the near post. The Baggies earned a fair few corners in the final 15 minutes or so, but Liverpool never looked in jeopardy. And in the 93rd minute, Mascherano found Kuyt, who pushed it to Arbeloa on the right, with the fullback stepping in and unleashing a gorgeous left-footer that curled inside the far post. The perfect way to end the game.
With Liverpool dominant for most of the first half, I’m marginally disappointed they didn’t win by more. A ruthless demolition of the opposition is always good for morale. But it was a professional performance, and after Keane’s two goals, the result was never in doubt.
I thought Arbeloa was fantastic today, and if it weren’t for Keane’s strikes, the late goal would probably get him my man of the match. Both he and Aurelio were tireless and dangerous up and down the flanks. It’s a shame Arbeloa finally picked up the fifth yellow that will rule him out for a match, especially when it was a debatable foul Walton shouldn’t have given in the first place.
I also thought Kuyt, Benayoun, and Mascherano were excellent. Kuyt, along with Alonso, has been the player of the season so far, while Benayoun tried to make things happen on the right. And Mascherano was imperious in front of the back four, rarely giving West Brom a sniff at goal. Both Gerrard and Riera looked tired and weren’t at their best, but both should get a breather on Wednesday.
3-0, and rarely on top form will certainly do. That’s exactly the result Liverpool needed after the last two matches. Now, an incidental Carling Cup visit to Tottenham before back to business in the league against Bolton.