“It’s not just been one of those days, it’s been like that seven or eight times here. After we won the Carling Cup, we came back and played Arsenal and we were brilliant. We got to the final last week after beating Everton and they came out today and were excellent again. The woodwork wasn’t our best friend.” Reds chief KENNY DALGLISH.
“I’m very pleased the Liverpool fans gave me a good reception and I thank them for that. We rode our luck a lot of times but it was a fantastic rearguard action.“ Baggies boss ROY HODGSON.
IT WAS just like the old days at Anfield yesterday.
Roy Hodgson sat in the dugout as Liverpool lurched towards an embarrassing defeat against mediocre opposition and the home supporters headed for an early exit.
But this time there was no face-rubbing from Hodgson, no frantic gesticulating in a desperate bid to change what was unfolding in front of him.
Instead the biggest challenge facing him was trying to keep a lid on his delight.
The glory belonged to Hodgson on his return to Merseyside as gallingly his West Brom side became the latest beneficiaries of Liverpool’s glaring deficiencies.
Following the warm welcome the former Reds boss was afforded when he walked out of the tunnel, three points came gift-wrapped.
From the ecstatic high of the FA Cup semi-final triumph over Everton, Kenny Dalglish’s men came crashing back down to earth.
The script was so painfully familiar. Another tale of woe to add to a league campaign packed full of them.
Chances missed, woodwork struck, penalty appeals turned down and a horrendous defensive blunder which put the ultimate smash and grab raid on a plate for the Baggies, who celebrated their first victory at Anfield for 45 years.
The doom and gloom merchants will cast a glance at the Premier League and ask exactly what has changed since Hodgson’s torrid 191-day reign was ended with his sacking in January 2011.
Liverpool were stranded in mid-table when his services were dispensed with and today they stand eighth.
They are a massive 37 points behind leaders Manchester United and 16 points adrift of the fourth place they set their sights on last August.
The statistic that they are closer to the relegation zone than Champions League qualification is tough to take considering since Dalglish was appointed they have made £113million worth of signings.
Yet there is good reason why yesterday’s final whistle was met with only a smattering of boos compared to the torrent of dissent which followed similar dismal defeats under Hodgson.
Some will argue it’s simply a case of blind loyalty to Dalglish but that’s rubbish.
The majority of supporters can see with their own eyes that progress has been made. Lifting the Carling Cup was testimony to that and so is the fact this Liverpool side will return to Wembley in 12 days’ time in a bid to complete a memorable domestic Cup double.
Aside from silverware, the fans have something else which didn’t exist during Hodgson’s sorry stint at Anfield – hope.
Under the previous regime, the Reds were rudderless.
They had a manager clearly out of his depth, who specialised in negative tactics and lowering expectations, while placing his trust in flops like Christian Poulsen and Paul Konchesky.
Of course everything isn’t rosy now but it’s a darn sight better.
Clearly there are problems which need addressing but most have faith in the boss’ ability to find solutions this summer.
They remember how low Liverpool had fallen and know that patience is required as Dalglish builds for the long term.
Take yesterday’s game. There was little wrong with the overall performance.
The hosts had 61% possession, 28 attempts on goal and 15 corners. For long periods it was total domination but in the final third once again they were found wanting.
You could hardly point the finger at a lack of desire, commitment or spirit. There was no post-Wembley hangover, no-one was guilty of coasting.
The reality is the lack of a ruthless streak which cost Liverpool during the opening day stalemate with Sunderland in the autumn remains a major issue in the spring.
It explains why the Reds have taken just 24 points out of 51 at Anfield and why they must now win their final two games against Fulham and Chelsea just to match the paltry tally of seven home league wins they managed in 1953/54 when they were relegated from the top flight.
West Brom became the 12th visiting team out of 17 to depart with something to show for their efforts – 45 years to the day since the Baggies’ last win at Anfield was secured by Jeff Astle.
How different the afternoon may have turned out had Dirk Kuyt not fired wastefully wide when teed up by Luis Suarez inside the opening 10 minutes.
It was a glorious opportunity but such was the Reds’ stranglehold on proceedings it didn’t look like it would matter.
They should have had a penalty when Maxi Rodriguez was clumsily tripped by Billy Jones but referee Neil Swarbrick waved away appeals for a spot-kick.
Suarez was a constant menace and after a neat interchange with Glen Johnson his fierce strike was parried by Ben Foster and Rodriguez lashed the rebound over.
Pepe Reina, who returned after serving his three-match ban, pulled off two fine saves to thwart Chris Brunt and Liam Ridgewell but the Reds were soon back in the ascendancy.
With Jordan Henderson much improved in his favoured central role and Jay Spearing a bundle of energy alongside him, the chances kept on coming.
Just before the break Foster diverted Daniel Agger’s effort past the post with his leg.
In the second half it was a similar story and the Reds lay siege to the Baggies’ penalty box.
Henderson went agonisingly close to ending his eight-month goal drought, latching on to Andy Carroll’s pass and lashing a shot against the underside of the bar. The ball struck the back of Foster but somehow stayed out.
Suarez fired over from a tight angle before Kuyt’s deflected effort left Foster beaten but cannoned back off the post. Remarkably, it was the 30th occasion in the Premier League this season that the Reds had been denied by the woodwork.
Carroll and Spearing both failed to capitalise during a goalmouth scramble and then Henderson blazed just wide.
Dalglish sought inspiration in the form of Craig Bellamy and Stewart Downing but it didn’t happen. With 15 minutes to go the Reds shot themselves in the foot. Johnson carelessly gifted the ball to Youssouf Mulumbu who set Peter Odemwingie clear on goal.
The Nigerian striker slotted past Reina and a shell-shocked Liverpool struggled to summon a response.
For the first time the chant “There’s only one Roy Hodgson” echoed around Anfield. It was a bitter pill to swallow but the Reds must pick themselves up.
With an FA Cup still to be won, this isn’t the time for inquests.
LIVERPOOL: Reina, Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique, Kuyt (Bellamy 68), Henderson, Spearing (Shelvey 83, Rodriguez (Downing 74), Suarez, Carroll. Not used: Doni, Coates, Carragher, Kelly.
WEST BROM: Foster, Jones, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell, Brunt, Dorrans (Cox 86), Mulumbu, Thomas (Andrews 69), Odemwingie (Scharner 83), Long. Not used: Fulop, Tchoyi, Shorey, Dawson.
GOALS: Odemwingie 75.
CARDS: Booked – Agger, Shelvey..
REFEREE: Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).