Şahin 17' 82'
So, Liverpool concede through a horrendous mistake in less than three minutes. One free kick after a Henderson mistake, one goalkeeper howler, one shot into an empty net. Another match, another opponent scoring with its first shot on target. Yep, it's gonna be another one of those nights.
I can't decide whether I'm more impressed with the comeback – that Liverpool's second-string and youngsters didn't let their heads drop and kept fighting get the result – or how quickly those players have learned and then abided by Rodgers' ethos, no matter the situation. Either development is encouraging, and incredibly welcomed.
It took Liverpool ten frightening minutes to settle; West Brom could have added a second in the sixth, when Carragher deflected Lukaku's shot narrowly wide, or the seventh, when Jones saved Rosenberg's effort. But Liverpool began playing its game: Wisdom and Robinson closed off West Brom on the flanks, Henderson and Şahin spent more time in possession dictating play, and Assaidi began running at defenders – a trend that would continue for the rest of the evening. It was the Moroccan who created Liverpool's first chance: a delicious cross that Yesil headed narrowly wide in the 10th minute.
Seven minutes later, Liverpool were level, partly thanks to a goalkeeping error from Ben Foster, but partly thanks to the viciousness of Nuri Şahin's shot. Liverpool had kept possession well prior to Wisdom's lay-off for Şahin, but the midfielder's blast from very, very long range looked likely to be saved. Until it fortunately dipped in front of Foster, squirming under the keeper. One goalkeeper error to one goalkeeping error. One to one on the scoreboard. And like West Brom, it was Liverpool's first shot on target.
Liverpool pressed, Liverpool kept possession, switching sides or going backwards rather than let West Brom rebuild momentum. Chances were few and far between; as cleverly said by the match commentator, Yesil was more of a nuisance than a threat, while Downing disappointed as Downing as is Downing's wont. Assaidi kept defenders on their toes but didn't present much danger in front of goal. Lukaku was menacing on the counter, but was limited to just one more tame shot at Jones late in the first half thanks to Liverpool's ball retention and improved defending.
The home side came out stronger in the second half, and it continued to be an enthralling (if sometimes frightening) game with chances at both ends. Foster nearly added a second farce when Yesil's fierce blast from the top of the box went through his legs, luckily bouncing over the crossbar. Pacheco hit the bar and forced another 'just-did-enough' save. Foster finally made an outstanding save, on Coates from Şahin's free kick. But Jones also had to make an excellent stop on Rosenberg's shot from distance, and was tested on a number of West Brom set plays, thankfully catching or punching whenever required. Still, the threat was there, and every back pass when West Brom forced Liverpool to regroup worried.
Then, finally, came Liverpool's substitutions. Suso for Pacheco, Jerome Sinclair – now the youngster Liverpool player to feature in a senior match – for the tiring Yesil. And then came the winner.
It can't be coincidence that Liverpool have scored within a minute of Suso coming off the bench in successive matches. Almost immediately after entering the fray, Suso had the chance to run at West Brom's back line. Sinclair occupied the defense with clever movement, Suso spread play wide to Assaidi after finally sucking in two defenders just inside the box, and the winger quickly crossed, perfectly placed for Şahin's late run into the box for a tap-in. Midfield runners getting to the penalty area remains crucial, and it was excellent to see Şahin do so to great effect. And it was only fitting that both of Liverpool's goals came from Liverpool's best player on the night.
The away side held on by fingernails for the final 10 minutes, dropping surprisingly deep, with Coates, Carragher, and Jones clearing their lines innumerable times – contrary to Rodgers' preference and allowing West Brom to come back at them immediately – but Liverpool did enough. Sure, it's not a league win, but it's a first win in domestic competition, and a win over a more-experienced foe which beat Liverpool little more than a month ago.
And it's a win from a starting XI with an average age of 23.6, which still included the 34-year-old Carragher, 30-year-old Jones, and 28-year old Downing. 22-year-old Peter Gulacsi was the old man on the bench; the other six were 20 or younger. Jamie Carragher has played 542 more Liverpool games than the other 12 players combined.
Şahin looks more comfortable in each of his three matches, controlling the midfield, running from box to box, and contributing two wildly different goals. As against Young Boys, he combined well with Henderson, who was typically tidy and efficient if unspectacular. Assaidi was a willing runner down the left; like Sterling, a player who provides something different, stretching play and willing to take on defenders on the flanks. Pacheco was far, far better in a more familiar role, if more impressive tracking back than linking play in attack (which is another sign of a player buying into the new system). The back four all played well, Yesil worked hard, both substitutions were effective. It's odd having little to nothing to complain about. But a very welcome kind of odd.
Finally, Liverpool reap some reward for the hard work and adaptation to the new system that's been evident in matches against Sunderland and United. It's even more impressive when it comes from Liverpool's second-string, an XI mostly lacking in first-team experience. No matter that West Brom were slightly weaker than the side which beat Liverpool on opening day, it's proof of the successful rebuilding of the youth system started by Benitez and further developed under Dalglish, and evidence that there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel. And maybe, just maybe, that Liverpool might just be deeper than we all feared.