West Bromwich stun Liverpool with 2-0 victory at Anfield
Steven Gerrard misses a penalty and Baggies run away with an extraordinary win
Liverpool 0 West Bromwich Albion 2. Two late goals from the visitors handed Liverpool their first home defeat in four games and ended their hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League. The Reds now lie in ninth spot, one place behind WBA, and 12 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham.
Liverpool would need a minor miracle to finish fourth but if they can't even score a penalty on their home patch what hope have they of overhauling Spurs, Arsenal and Everton between now and May?
Steven Gerrard was the man who missed from the spot last night, a 77th minute penalty which had it been converted would have given Liverpool the lead. But Ben Foster got down well to make the save and four minutes later the Baggies had the ball in the net when Gareth McAuley headed in Chris Brunt's corner.
Liverpool were stunned but the visitors weren't done yet, and on the stroke of full-time substitute Romelu Lukaku surged upfield, went past Daniel Agger as if he wasn't there and drilled the ball past Pepe Reina. It was WBA's first league victory since they beat QPR on Boxing Day, and manager Steve Clarke was cock-a-hoop.
"It's a terrific win for us," said Clarke. "Since the turn of the year things haven't gone our way. To come here and play a Liverpool team, probably playing as well as they have all season, I'm absolutely delighted for the players."
For Liverpool there was nothing but gloom on a bitterly cold night that exposed their team's failings up-front. Though they had 60 per cent of possession and nearly twice as many shots on goal as the Baggies (23 to 14) they couldn't find the back of the net.
"We weren't at our best but we were on the front foot for most of the game," reflected manager Brendan Rodgers. "I can't fault the players, though… I thought they gave everything tonight. We just needed that first goal."
If Rodgers can't fault the players, then who can he fault, other than himself?
It was a tame defeat for the Reds and, despite drawing with Manchester City and Arsenal in recent weeks, more worrying signs for the Liverpool faithful that the squad is not good enough to sustain a challenge for a top four finish. "Losing is a big disappointment but we'll be back in tomorrow and get going again," said Rodgers.
Hardly Churchillian but then even Winston would struggle to inspire this lacklustre Liverpool side. ·