17 May 2009

Liverpool 2-0 West Brom

Arbeloa Carragher Agger Insua
Lucas Mascherano
Kuyt Gerrard Benayoun

Gerrard 28’
Kuyt 63’

Football is not fair sometimes. Thankfully, this time it favored Liverpool.

Okay, so West Brom wasn’t content to sit back. Which is what makes Martis’ awful mistake in the 28th so harsh on them. In my defense, I didn’t expect Hull to take any points yesterday, and West Brom needed the win more than I thought they would, but still, very bright start and only the brilliance of Reina kept the home side from scoring in the first five minutes.

Having won an early corner, Greening forced an amazing double save from Reina at the back post from Brunt’s ball in after Torres inadvertently flicked on. Three minutes later, another corner led to a scramble in the penalty area. Living dangerously on set plays, as prone too.

It was never as nervy as those first ten minutes, but while Liverpool were growing into the game, they were struggling to test Kiely, and there was always the threat West Brom could nick one. As much as Albion were trying to attack through Brunt, Fortune, Koren, and Greening, their defense was sitting exceptionally deep and stifling Gerrard and Torres for the most part.

But in the 28th minute, Liverpool got an extraordinary gift. Martis dawdled on the ball after Liverpool gave it back, turned in towards Gerrard even though the right back was offering an option, and slipped. Liverpool’s captain didn’t need any additional impetus, striding through and sliding coolly under the keeper.

Unsurprisingly, the goal took the sting out of Albion, and Liverpool had more of the possession and chances for the rest of the half, and probably should have had a penalty in the 45th when Gerrard was barged over in the box. Olsson got in his face and claimed Gerrard dove, but I’m convinced the only reason Atkinson didn’t give the penalty was because the defender was already on a yellow and would have been off.

The start of the second half was more of the same – Liverpool were in front, but not by enough, while Alonso replaced Mascherano in the 50th with the Argentinean still suffering from a knock taken earlier (which didn’t look all that serious). But in the 59th, West Brom should have leveled – Koren was clearly offside but ruled on, and centered for what looked to be an open net for Fortuné. But Lucas got back to contest (never a penalty), and Fortuné didn’t even get off an attempt.

And four minutes later, it was done. Kuyt was given space to stride forward after a lovely pass from Ste, and buried it low and in the corner. Two minutes after, Lucas could have added a third when he wrong-sided two defenders on a lovely run, but the fingertips of Kiely managed to direct his shot just wide enough.

And from there, Liverpool was casualness personified. Babel came on for Torres, Ngog for Benayoun, and the away side strolled around with little care. And they should have been punished. The entrance of Moore for Mulumbu added more to Albion’s attack, and between the 77th and 80th minutes, West Brom had four outstanding chances.

First, Moore hit the frame after a corner was nonchalantly cleared. Somehow Fortuné headed over from four yards soon after when Liverpool couldn't clear. And moments after that, Fortuné threatened again, as Arbeloa allowed him space to chest down in the box before blocking the shot, which sent Carragher into an absolute rage – he started bollocking Arbeloa, who seemed to reply ‘fuck off’ as he got back up. Probably not the right decision. Carra looked like he was going to kill Arbeloa, Alonso had to pull him away, and the referee had words. Yeah, it was over the top, but Jamie does not like to concede goals, and that's why we love him. It'll be water under the bridge tomorrow. Oh, and a minute later, Fortuné had the ball in the net, only to be ruled offside.

The last ten minutes were much less eventful, with the lone fun coming in the 85th, when Babel should have scored Liverpool's third, which would have been the sixth straight league game with at least three goals, a first since the 19th century (or so the commentators told me). Alas.

It was a fairly typical late season match with little to play for, at least on Liverpool’s end. West Brom were certainly up for it. And credit to their fans, who were still singing in the 93rd minute, and applauded Martis off the pitch. That's support.

But as Liverpool players go, there was little to write home about. Pepe and Lucas were the most impressive; Lucas was very, very good in the middle (I forgot West Brom had a central midfield for long stretches) and made that goal-saving tackle, while Reina had to pull off some brilliant stops. Gerrard tallied a goal and an assist. And Kuyt was everywhere, as usual, in addition to tallying his 12th league goal of the season.

But both Torres and Benayoun were invisible for long stretches, and the fullbacks were shaky throughout. Even with West Brom’s good play and the fortune (ba dum ching) of the first goal, Liverpool should have won by a bigger margin.

But at the end of the day, it’s another win – Liverpool’s 9th in their last 10 league games, the lone draw coming against Arsenal. At 83 points, it’s Liverpool’s highest Premiership points total with a game left to play. And depending on Chelsea’s result in the 11am game, they may have all but sealed second place – even if Chelsea win their next two games and Liverpool lose next week, it’ll come down to goal difference, where Liverpool currently have a seven-goal advantage.

Keep finishing strong.


Anonymous said...

You get the feeling that Carra and Arbeloa have had something to say to each other for a while? I don't know if the guy whose two own goals this season have cost his team such precious points should protest too much. Arbeloa could be sharper though, and I hope next season either Darby or Degen (or Glen Johnson?) can regularly challenge for that spot.

Looks like Benayoun's rich vein of form has been pretty much tapped for the season, too. He's had a flat couple of games, I was even a little surprised to see him start today.

Ben Teague said...

Being our highest points total, shows definite progress, and if we can win next week against Spurs, 86 points will be a great return. I think we can better this season, but we need more strength in depth like the mancs. I look forward to the summer recruitment's.